What’s behind the newfound indignation of the US and other governments over China’s repression of its Muslim minorities?
After decades of silence governments in Washington, Berlin, London, Ottawa and elsewhere have woken to the brutal repression against China’s ten million Uighur Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang. Wave after wave of Western diplomatic pressure has been applied to Beijing in recent months especially over reports – denied by Chinese dictatorship – of up to two million Uighurs interned in prison camps as part of a “de-radicalisation” campaign by the Chinese authorities.
Credible evidence that the camps exist on a truly mass scale has been provided by human rights groups and exile Uighur organisations. Officials from the Trump Administration (which infamously tried to ban Muslims from seven countries from traveling to the US) have recently threatened targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and the freezing of bank assets, against Chinese officials associated with the prison camp programme.
At the United Nations China also faces greater hostility over the Xinjiang issue from other governments including Turkey and other Muslim countries. In early March, the US organised a special meeting on the side-lines of the UN Human Rights Council to step up the pressure over Xinjiang, which despite the Chinese regime’s protests was backed by Britain, Germany and Canada among others.
US Vice President Mike Pence, who has emerged as the Trump administration’s foremost China-basher, has accused the Chinese regime of trying to “strangle Uighur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith” alongside other issues such as economic “cheating” and using “debt trap diplomacy” through its huge Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The latter items reveal more clearly US capitalism’s real agenda which is not about improving the conditions of the Uighurs or other oppressed peoples but to push back in every possible way against China’s growing economic and geopolitical muscle.
This pressure is clearly having an effect in Beijing against the background of Trump’s trade war and a parallel tech war aimed at excluding Chinese telecom giant Huawei from Western markets. At the recent twin sessions of China’s rubber stamp parliament the NPC and its advisory body the CPPCC, a senior Xinjiang official announced that the camps, described in Orwellian terms as “vocational schools”, would be phased out once they have outlived their usefulness. Few people believe this statement, which is just an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of media and foreign diplomats.
In another attempt to blunt the US-led Xinjiang offensive, China invited representatives of European governments based in Beijing to join an inspection tour of Xinjiang. US officials immediately blasted this offer and warned the tour would be “highly choreographed and chaperoned”.
Socialists condemn the Chinese regime’s large-scale repression in Xinjiang and support full democratic right for the Uighurs and other nationalities in respect of language, culture, religion and political freedoms. This in our opinion can only be won through mass struggle that links up with the working class throughout China and beyond its borders, aiming to overthrow capitalism and authoritarianism with a socialist alternative.
But we warn there can be no trust in or support for Western capitalist governments that have only recently taken up the plight of the Uighurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and other minorities under Chinese rule in order to recast themselves in a more favourable light in global public opinion and particularly to cover up their own Islamophobic policies. This is all so much political camouflage for an increasingly ruthless strategic struggle against the Chinese regime for economic and geopolitical advantage.
In the following report, ‘Xinjiang: China’s Apartheid State’, from Socialist magazine (published by the CWI in China), Adam N Lee documents the horrific discrimination and repression against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.