China’s Perspective on Ethnic Detention: The Ends Justifies the Means

Source: BBC (Dabancheng, April 2018)

While not broadly reported, the detention of Uighur Muslims in China has developed into what BBC reporter John Sudworth Calls “one of the most pressing human rights concerns of our age”. Reports emerged in 2017 that China was operating a system of internment camps for Muslims in Xinjiang. This began after the adoption of “Regulations on De-extremification”, which banned the following: growing an “abnormal” beard, wearing a veil or headscarf, regular prayer, fasting or avoidance of alcohol, or possessing books or articles about Islam or Uighur culture. Since then it has been estimated that at least one million Uighurs (as well as some other foreign citizens) into what China has labelled as “vocational education” camps, where they are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese and Communist party rhetoric. Those sent to the camps have no legal right; they have no access to lawyers are not subject to a trial.

After growing criticism of these detention camps, China is presenting the detention of Muslim citizens as a contribution in the fight against terrorism internationally. The topic came up recently when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday. The Chinese foreign ministry published the following in part of its account of the meeting: “China has the right to take antiterrorism and de-extremisation measures for safeguarding national security. The Saudi side respects and supports that and is willing to strengthen cooperation with China.”

The fear based tactic of detaining individuals specifically due to ethnicity has led to countless atrocities throughout history. There has been growing international criticism of the camps, specifically from UN panels, Turkish and Malaysian politicians, and Muslim civic groups. Despite this, there is evidence that these camps are steadily growing in population. It is unlikely that this issue will be resolved any time soon.

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