Xi Jinping's China trying to systematically dehumanise Uighurs as the world looks away

New DelhiEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: May 10, 2021, 11:25 AM IST

Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang (file photo) Photograph:(AFP)

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Xi Jinping has become the chief architect of the biggest extermination campaign of the 21st century - the Uighur genocide in Xinjiang

History is repeating itself in China. The state is murdering its own people and the world is looking the other way.

For China, it is nothing new. Every Chinese leader has presided over extermination campaigns - Mao Zedong presided over the great leap forward and the cultural revolution in which tens of millions were killed but it was justified as a necessary upheaval.

Decades later, Deng Xiaoping ordered tanks into Tiananmen Square. Several thousand protesters were killed in a single day. Deng would later say Tiananmen was painful, but it achieved common good.

Xi Jinping has become the chief architect of the biggest extermination campaign of the 21st century - the Uighur genocide in Xinjiang.

Like his predecessors, President Xi also has an excuse. He claims to be fighting Islamist radicalism. However, the world has gathered enough proof to the contrary.

According to interviews and raw data, China wants to end the Uighur people. There are nearly a million of them in forced labour camps but this is just the start, if the world keeps ignoring the threat China will turn these labour camps into death camps.

The world needs to keep up the pressure. 

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained twice by the Chinese. Her second stint lasted nearly 10 months. On Thursday, she testified at the US Capitol.

"I was taken on March 8, 2018, and kept there for more than 10 months. Buses would arrive every day with more detainees. It was very overcrowded. There was a bucket in the corner for a toilet and cameras watching us inside the cell," Ziyawudun said.

"We were always hungry. Each meal was a watery soup and a bun. We were given injections of unknown medications. Every day we had to endlessly swear loyalty to the Chinese government and reject our faith. We had to watch endless videos about Xi Jinping," she said.

The testimony is a long list of human rights violations, forced detention, overcrowded cells, surveillance cameras, scientific experimentation and brainwashing.

"Girls would be taken away and only be brought back days later. I saw girls lose their sanity because of it and then I myself was taken, along with another woman. I was tortured with an electric stick pushed inside my genital tract. I could hear the other woman's screams in the next room," Ziyawudun said.

"I knew the guards were raping her. After that, she never stopped crying. One time an order came, all the women had to be sterilised or fitted with an IUD [intrauterine device, a contraceptive]. Many young women were crying, screaming when they were told they would be sterilised and could never have children. I left the camp in December 2018. Before my release, the officials warned me, if I spoke about my experience, there would be heavy consequences," she added.

"I still did not feel free. One day I saw a former cellmate. She had survived but she was dead inside, completely finished by the rapes. The government's goal is to destroy everyone."

What Ziyawudun described is the worst of humanity. Rape and sexual violence is the norm inside these camps. They are used as tools of torture. All of it sanctioned and carried out by the Chinese government. Ziyawudun's last words are quite striking, she says her cellmate was dead inside.

That's exactly what China is trying to do. China is trying to systematically dehumanise Uighurs, remove their culture and identity and replace it with the Han culture and the world has been a spectacular failure on this issue.

This week, the New Zealand parliament was debating the Uighur crackdown and they removed the word genocide from the final statement.

The US has piled up a mountain of evidence against China but when will the prosecution begin? Former President Trump privately supported the crackdown, his successor doesn't want conflict, he wants competition.

The United Nations is a sitting duck for Chinese influence. The secretary-general is yet to appoint a special envoy for Uighurs. There are envoys for climate change, financing Yemen, even the recent coup in Myanmar, but none for Uighurs.

Unlike trade or the South China Sea, there is no strategy, there is only right and wrong. The West has already tried sanctions both on Chinese officials and goods produced in the Xinjiang province but a country preparing for genocide doesn't care about sanctions.

It is a defining moment in history. The world has been here before: a ruthless regime exterminating an ethnic group in death camps. Back then, we reacted late and the cost was millions of lives.