BLUNT BUTCHER / ANCHOR
JAMMU: On June 26, 2018 Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said that people in Kashmir are victims of crimes against humanity and killings. Nothing new in such accusations as Islamic Republic of Pakistan is portraying itself as champions of Muslims in this region of the world. However, when it comes to atrocities on Muslims in China, Islamabad goes in ‘silent mode’, forgetting that silence tantamount to endorsement. By remaining silent over growing humiliation of Muslims and number of detention or concentration camps for them in China, Pakistan is endorsing the atrocities being committed upon their co-religionists. According to a report by Chris Buckley and Amy Qin in New York Times of March 12, 2019, a senior Chinese official has described the internment or detention camps for minority Muslims like boarding schools. Foreign experts, citing satellite images and government documents, have estimated that the detention camps have held without trial as many as a million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims in a programme that tries to turn them into loyal, Chinese-speaking supporters of the party. Some international opinion leaders have said Xinjiang has concentration camps or re-education camps. Countering such voices, officials from China’s far west said that internment camps for Muslim minorities were like boarding schools. Adrian Zenz, a lecturer at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany whose research concluded that the indoctrination camps in Xinjiang could hold a million or more inmates. “In my view, it might well be as high as 1.5 million,” he said of the population held for indoctrination. “There is virtually no Uighur family without one or more members in such detention, and a rising number of Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are likewise affected.” The revelations made by inmates and documents suggest that hundreds of detention camps have expanded across Xinjiang since 2017. According to the UN, the inmates in these camps are forced to denounce the religion and pledge allegiance to the officially atheist ruling Communist Party. Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, and according to the Associated Press news agency, religious schools and Arabic classes have been banned and children barred from participating in Muslim activities. The crescent moon and star is a symbol carried on the flag of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist militant group accused by Beijing of advocating ethnic violence. China has been blaming it for a string of deadly terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in the mainland for several years. Recently, authorities in China’s Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, have closed three mosques established by the marginalised Hui Muslim ethnic minority, the South China Morning Post has reported. The turn against Islam is by far the most prominent-and potentially the nastiest-example of China’s clampdown on Islam. The Uighurs are Turkic people who share traditions and language traits with Islamic populations across Central Asia and Turkey. In February this year, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused China of the “reintroduction of concentration camps in the 21st century” and called policies in Xinjiang a violation of the “fundamental human rights” of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, kept up the criticism later in February. “While recognizing China’s right to combat terrorism, we think that a distinction should be made between terrorists and innocent people,” Cavusoglu said at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said she wanted independent access to investigate reports of “enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions,” especially in Xinjiang. Sam Brownback, the United States’ ambassador at large for international religious freedom, has been much blunter. “We need to call these camps what they are; they’re internment camps created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities,” Brownback told journalists in Hong Kong.
But in a possible sign of China’s influence, some activists abroad who have denounced the internments in Xinjiang have come under growing pressure.
Serikzhan Bilash, the founder of an organisation in Kazakhstan that helps ethnic Kazakhs who have fled neighbouring Xinjiang, was detained in Almaty.
He was placed under house arrest for two months in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and was being investigated on suspicion of “inciting ethnic hatred,” his lawyer, Aiman Umarova, said.
In Beijing, Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, remained mostly silent in the presence of reporters. He is the chief enforcer of tough policies in the region. The Xinjiang police often follow and restrict foreign journalists who visit the region.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper