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CHINA - A cultural genocide in front of our eyes

The systematic extermination of the Moslem Uighur culture by the Chinese

The title might already give it away, this is not a regular travel post…

Two months ago, at the end of September, we ended our 11-week trip through China in the Xinjang region, the far west of the country, home of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority thatsettled at this part of the world more than 4000 years ago. Like in all parts of China where there is a significant number of people from minority cultures, like Tibet or Inner Mongolia, China has been sending Han Chinese to settle in these regions in their millions, making the local population de facto a minority. We spent a few days in Kashgar, a vibrant city with a beautiful old town permeated with romantic little streets, old mud brick houses and small traditional shops. Children are playing on the street and old men are smiling at you. But whenvisiting Kashgar, one can´t ignore the obvious. Upon arrival at the train station, docents of Chinese policemen where checking rigorously everyone who was not looking Han Chinese, taking pictures of our passports and asking vehemently what the heck we are doing in Kashgar, where we are staying and for how long. We knew what to expect before traveling to this region of China, but experiencing the masssurveillance and harsh police control first hand makes it real. When entering the old city of Kashgar, everyone is going through a checkpoint, heavy armed Chinese police is ubiquitous and cameras – like everywhere in China – are placed on every corner.

The Chinese Cables

So what is happening there?! Just days ago secret documents have been leaked by The Chinese Cables about a well-known fact that the world has more or less ignored until now: The systematic suppression and extermination of the Uighur culture and its people with the means of so-called “re-education” camps by the Chinese government. The regime in Beijing has been working hard on spreading bad press about the Uighurs. In 2014, it launched the “Strike Hard CampaignAgainst Violent Terrorism” and by that justifying their ruthlesscourse of action against the Muslim minority. Yes, Xinjiang suffered several terrorist attacks. Yes, ever since the harsh suppression of the Uighurs, no more attack has occurred. But does that justify the internment and oppression of Millions of innocent people who just happen to have the same religion as the terrorists? Xi Xinping has a definite answer to that question – Yes.

Re-education sounds nice, doesn´t it?

The state of Xinjiang is home of around 11 Million Uighurs. 1 out of every 10 Uighurs has been sent to those camps, all in all over 1 Mio. people to this date! But re-education sounds nice, doesn´t it? What is actually happening in those camps has nothing to do with re-education whatsoever. The camps are prison-like detention camps, designed to brainwash a minority and change the identity of millions of people. You´re anUighur with a foreign citizenship? You´re being interned for “concentrated training”. You have an app on your phone that is not being tracked by the Chinese government? You go to the camp. You are practicing Islam in public (like going to the mosque or being abstinent during Ramadan)? You will be made to abandon your religious believes by force. Once in the camp, detainees are demanded strict discipline and are facing punishments if showing any sort of resistance – without any chance of escaping. Further, detainees are awarded points for their "ideological transformation, study and training, andcompliance with discipline", which more or less means speaking, acting, behaving and thinking like a proper Han Chinese. Once a week they are allowed to make a phone call to a family member. Detention is set to a minimum of 12 months. During this time they are forced to give up their cultural identity, their religion and their language. But that´s not all. In 2016 the hardliner Chen Quangua became Head of State, the same guy who as party secretary was rigorously“establishing order” in Tibet the previous five years. His job description in short: Suffocating protests, silencing dissent and covering up human rights abuses. Apparently he was considered successful by the Chinese leadership and was now put into power in Xinjiang to replicate what he had done in Tibet. Former detainees say there are no trials, they report on torture and physical and psychological abuse. Furthermore, there is prove that children from Muslim families are being separated systematically from their parents and sent to boarding schools. There, students are being communicated that their relatives are infected by the virus of radical Islamismand that they have to be put in quarantine in order to be cured. I think no more explanation is needed.

Is political extremism any better than religious extremism?

To comprehend why China is doing what they are doing, one has to understand the overarching strategy of the autocratic regime in Beijing. China is an atheist country; they feel threatened by all kinds of religions and work towards eradicating all religions within their sphere of influence. Further they scrupulously assimilate all cultures and ethnic groups to the party ideology. Since everyone needs to believe in something, China makes people believe in the party´s ideology and unquestionably imposes its values on every citizen. Any sign of resistance is choked down and punished. Is this form of political extremism any better than any form of religious extremism? You think I am exaggerating? I wish I were. I had a lot of prejudices about China, especially about the Communist regime. This was one of the reasons we traveled through China to get a first-hand impression about what´s happening there. In the end we spent almost 3 months in China witnessing and observing a lot of things and talking to a lot of people. The prejudices I had were not diminished; to the contrary they were reinforced.

Are we brave enough to stand up for what´s right?

What is happening in Xinjiang is nothing less than political indoctrination and a severe violation of human rights. And the worst part: It´s happening in front of all our eyes to see! In October, 23 countries condemned the suppression of the Uighurs at the UN Committee on Social, Humanitarian andCultural Affairs. China´s response: They gathered support of 54 countries supporting and praising the Communist party´s course of action in Xinjiang. Which countries you are wondering? The answer will strike you. The UAE, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine are among the countries that support China. And if you are wondering, yes these are all countries with Islam as the predominant religion. Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka are supporting China, just as several African and South American countries. For what reason you are wondering? Well you probably already guessed: MONEY! It is no secret that China is investing heavily in countries thatdesperately long for development and growth. China lends these countries money, which they eventually can´t pay back and by that makes them depended on China and their governments are under their whip. There exist numerous examples for that. But what is our answer to the largest internment of ethnic-religious minorities since WWII? What are we, the EU, doing about it? We all know we can´t count on the US for nothing anymore. What is Germany´s answer? China has become Germany´s most important trading partner.Are we also caving in? Are we allowing economic interests to dictate our actions or are we brave enough to stand up for human rights? What do we put first? Do we really want to live in a world that is dictated by Chinese rules and conduct? Angela Merkel´s sheepish reaction to the leakages of China Cables leaves one doubtful. As usual her reaction was canny and cloudy, stating that these revelations are rather worrying. Really?! To the contrary Germany is allowing Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, to be part of the 5G infrastructure and are actually considering giving them the lead in building the next-generation 5G infrastructure. Merkel´s snippy response to this critic: “I would also prefer if we were able to do it by ourselves.” As of today we still have power, we still have leverage. Isn´t it about time that we, as the European Union, stand up together as one and defend our hard-fought values based on humanity and solidarity? If it´s not us then who will? Do we want our grandchildren to enjoy the same freedom and privileges as we do? And if the answer is yes, don´t we have to assume some sort of global responsibility in return? Politics are not black and white, of course. But I can´t hear the term “realpolitik” anymore. It´s a German word, which defines a system of politics or principles based on practical rather thanmoral or ideological considerations. Is this what we want for our planet? Sometimes it´s just about doing the right thing,because the alternative is betraying everything you stand for. And then maybe, just maybe everything else will fall into place.

If you read this article till the end, then I assume you care. I think we need to collectively open our eyes to many of the shortcomings in our world. I for my part have closed my eyes for too long. The oppression of ethnic-religious minorities is one of them. You´re invited to share the article and help to create awareness.

Some information and facts are drawn from the links below:

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