The U.S. government recently took measures against several Chinese government officials, and China retaliated by announcing sanctions against Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). What’s going on? These three Republicans have condemned China for the way the Uighurs of the Xinjiang region are being treated.
Who are the Uighurs?
The Uighurs are one of China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities. They come from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the northwestern part of China. We don’t know exactly how many Uighurs there are, but many believe there are about 12 million. They’re Muslim and identify as being culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
The Chinese government has been accused of abusing this group. For years, Uighurs have been sent to prison or accused of terrorism. The Uighurs say the government is suppressing their business, cultural, and religious activities. The government says the Uighurs want their own independent country and will do anything to make it happen.
Is Xinjiang a Strategic Location?
Xinjiang has been under Chinese control since 1949, but most of the Uighur population continue to call the region East Turkestan. Xinjiang is a strategic economic location for the government because of its natural gas reserves. It is also an important part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (RBI), a massive project to connect Eastern Europe, Africa, and other Asian countries to China through railway, seaports, and highways, for trade. In 2013, Xinjiang was officially labeled a “special economic zone.”
Are the Uighurs in Danger?
Since 2017, about one million Uighurs have been arrested and sent to one of 85 identified detention camps within Xinjiang. China had denied that these camps existed, but eventually admitted to their existence after satellite footage showed they were real. Officials labeled them as “re-education centers.” Many Muslims who were imprisoned say they were interrogated and beaten because of their religion.
New footage revealed dozens of Uighur prisoners and blindfolded, being transferred to a train. The U.S. has condemned these camps, along with 30 other countries.
A Defining Issue?
Is the world seeing a new holocaust? Many think so after seeing footage of prisoners being loaded on to trains and reading reports about re-education centers. We don’t know what will happen to the Uighurs, but things do seem to be getting worse. If it were not for the Coronavirus pandemic, this might have been a defining issue for the international community.