NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

The ongoing genocide in China

In the Xinjiang province in the People’s Republic of China there is genocide going on and its being perpetrated by the government. The target of this ongoing crime against humanity is the Uighurs who are a Turkic ethnic minority that live in the province which is located in the Northwestern part of the People’s Republic of China.

The province borders with Mongolia, Kazakistan, Kyrgstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The seeds of the genocide were planted in the shadow in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. China stated that they too were victims of terrorist attacks but the Communist Party of China (CCP) which is the ruling government body of the country stated that the attacks were happening in the province of Xinjiang but in reality they wanted to remain control of that region which was by reported by China’s state media groups like Xinhua news and China Central television.

The Party’s rational behind this was to crack down on people who were against the party but do it under the guise of national security. Tensions against the Uighurs began in June, 2009, when a rumor began to float around that a woman who was Han Chinese worked in a toy factory was sexual assaulted by six Uighur migrant workers. The incident was reported by the Voice of America which investigated the claim and found out the story was concocted by a disgruntled worker who quit from his job at the factory. As a result of the rumor several Uighur workers were attacked by other workers and when the dust settled two Uighur workers died as a result.

The story of the violent attack went viral and on July. 5 2009 Uighur students staged a protest over the incident which was held in the city of Urumqi which is located Xinjiang. The protest ended with the police using live rounds of ammunition against the students which started a riot. It was reported in the state media that 197 people were killed in the riots and most of them were Han Chinese. This sparked more violence in the days after in where more Uighurs got attacked by violently armed mob who were armed with melee weapons like hammers, bats and hypodermic needles. The attacks on the Uighurs were all captured on cell phone video which was leaked online and the British newspaper known as The Times picked up on the footage which shocked the world. The final death toll of the July 5 violence is unknown and its highly disputed since the Uighurs who were there claimed that toll was in the thousands whereas the Chinese state media reported that the death toll was much lower.

In the aftermath of the riots the domestic security budget of the province was tripled in order to stop any violence from happening again which was unheard since the other provinces got same amount of security from the exact same budget. The budget for Xinjiang increased by 57 percent and security budget for the rest of the country got 34 percent according to the American think tank group, Jamestown Foundation.

The seeds began to grow with a series of high profile terrorist attacks from 2010 to 2014 which all culminated on March, 1, 2014 in a mass stabbing that happened in a train station which resulted in 31 people killed and the government blamed the attack on Uighers of Xinjiang only escalating the situation. The stabbing attack was reported by western media outlets like the BBC but state outlets decided frame the attack as anyone who is a Uighur is a terrorist. In 2016 relations reached a critical point when Chen Quango, who was previously the party secretary of Tibet was appointed by General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Winnie the Pooh clone, Xi Jingping, appointed him to be head of the province.

Under Chen’s rule of the region the early stages of the genocide began to start when the mosques that Uighurs go for worship started to be closed by the government. The language of the Uighurs, books about their heritage and history to the more mundane things like growing a beard and abandoning alcohol are outlawed and deemed illegal. In the eyes of the Chinese Communist party they considered these things as promoting extremism and deemed illegal by the state and if anyone was caught doing one of these thing they would be subjugated with force.

These acts being perpetrated were being reported by overseas media like Voice of America. Other times the CCP encouraged the Han Chinese to move into Xinjiang to increase the population and to out populate the Uighurs. This tactic has been used before in the past the first time 1950’s when the Communist party took over with Chairman Mao Zedong as the country’s leader and agains in the 1970’s during the height of the Cultural Revolution.

The CCP started to build the camps in 2017 with internal reports being leaked to western press outlets such as the New York Times. The documents showed that CCP had imprisoned over one million people in concentration camps which are called by the government “job training centers.”

The people in these camps consisted mostly Uighur Muslims but some are not Uighurs they are Kazakhs who are also Muslim who came from the neighboring country of Kazakistan, even Christians and other religions are being targeted by the CCP.

The goal of these camps are to indoctrinate them with propaganda to break them and mold their minds into loyal members of the state. Some of the people in these camps have kids outside the walls of the camps who are lied to by government authorities and their teachers.

The documents showed the orders that were given out to arrest them for any reason. In 2017 and 2019 at least 80,000 Uighurs were forced into slave labor in factories that are owned by major western companies like Amazon, Nintendo, Nike, Google and Apple.

This revelation about the slave labor was revealed in February, 2020 when Forbes magazine did an article on the report which was put out by the Australian think tank group, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Forbes went on to report the working conditions of the factories which labeled them as “Abusive working conditions, such as political indoctrinations, police guard posts in factories…ban on religious practices.” and the living conditions were labeled as “Isolation such as living in segregated dormitories and being transported in dedicated trains.”

Other reports from people who were in the camps told accounts of organ harvesting and hair being shaved off of the people who are being held in the camps.

In 2020 two major events would happen that would bring the world’s attention to Genocide first one was drone footage that was leaked online in January of that year that showed Uighur muslims in blue garments being held on a train platform being guarded by soldiers. People saw the footage they draw parallel’s to Hitler’s Holocaust during World War II and a journalist for the BBC confronted the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom. During the confrontation the ambassador outright denied the footage and the ongoing  atrocity.

The second big controversy was Disney released its live action remake of its 1998 film, Mulan, which released on Disney plus due to the COVID-19 outbreak closing the movie theaters. The 2020 remake of the film was filmed in Xinjiang and at the end credits of the film they thanked the governmental organization that was running the camps.

Some students at NECC recently gave their thoughts about the events in the People’s Republic of China.

Andrew Vendetti, Journalism and Communications major, stated the following “I think the “re-education camps” for the Uighur population in China is nothing short of shameful…. I certainly don’t want war, but we also can’t stand idly as people are tortured and raped in government camps.”

Jocelyn Avila-Frias another student of NECC stated similar thoughts  “I think the genocide is tragic and we should bring more awareness to it. I also think the film Mulan could’ve done a better job listening to their audience and being an active activist in focusing on the horrors of the genocide and how they can overcome it. To say that Mulan’s filming near Uighur camps was tone deaf would be an understatement.”

However unfortunately some people have been defending the actions of the CCP these people consisted of either mostly genocide and atrocity denialists who think the CCP is in the right in rounding up people based on their race or religion is ok and other times they use evidence that is put by the Party and its propagandists which have since been debunked.

These people have been strongly condemned by historians and activists alike since they no different than Holocaust deniers. One British activist named Majid Narwaz staged a hunger strike on July, 2020 to raise awareness of the genocide in UK parliament and the strike was announced on his Twitter page. In less than a week his strike gained attention which in turn created a petition that gained over 100,000 signatures.

After his strike was over he went his podcast on Leading Britain’s Conversation (LBH) in which he stated that “Genocide is a zero sum game it leaves no room for neutrality….there is no choice you can take here other than opposing the genocide.” He went even further arguing that if people don’t speak out against the genocide they are complicit in their silence.

zThe Trump administration was the first one to denounce the genocide and the Biden administration following after. The ongoing genocide has no end in sight with a grim and dark future for the Uighurs. Some people speculate on what will happen next if the CCP will finish the genocide with the worst case scenario being a war with People’s Republic of China that could escalate into a nuclear war that could start over Taiwan. The activists suggest the best outcome for the genocide to end is either to raise awareness about it and to call out or boycott the people and the companies who are taking part in this crime against humanity.

History and time will only tell on how this saga of the People’s Republic of China’s crime against humanity and the genocide will end.  Who are they that they don’t know their history ?