China’s campaign of state terror against Muslims

By | December 30, 2018

Joanne Smith Finley writes:

In an old Silk Road oasis town on China’s western border, these days a thirsty traveller can knock back a cold beer in a local mosque. The former place of worship is now a bar for tourists. And it is with the customers’ views in mind—and, perhaps, the aspirations of China’s leaders—that the place is called “The Dream of Kashgar.”

For Kashgar’s Uighur residents, however, and for other Muslims across the Chinese region of Xinjiang, that dream is a nightmare. Last summer, when I traveled to Xinjiang, I witnessed the most abject sense of fear and trauma I have encountered in 27 years of researching identity and religion among its Uighur communities. Mosques were deserted and cloaked in razor wire, restaurants were stripped of their halal signage, and local people carefully avoided any expression of religious piety.

By the time I arrived in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi in the last week of June, foreign media reports were already widely circulating of a particularly heavy-handed campaign of religious and cultural repression in the region, which Chinese leaders have long sought to control. On top of an escalating series of bans on basic religious practice, Uighur language education, and cultural expression, authorities in Xinjiang were now detaining a million local people in detention camps they euphemistically calledtransformation through education centers” in the name of combating religious “extremification.” Xinjiang has long been a contested territory, but the most recent wave of Chinese government efforts to control the region, which has gathered force since a spate of interethnic violence between 2009 and 2015, also involves unprecedented levels of surveillance and government intrusion into daily life.

After months of flatly denying that the existence of its detention camps for Muslim Uighurs and Kazakhs in Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) recently changed course, moving to legalize the camps. At the same time, it launched a massive counter-propaganda effort against domestic and foreign critics, lauding its anti-halal campaign in Xinjiang, and wheeling out Shohrat Zakir, Chairman and Deputy Party Chief (number two to regional Party Secretary Chen Quanguo) of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, who announced that the internment camps have made Uighurs realize “that life can be so colorful.” [Continue reading…]

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