The Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Uyghur people is appalling. More than one million are reported to have been interned in concentration camps where electrocution, strip-searching, beatings and murder are commonplace.
Xinjiang province – known as East Turkestan to Uyghur separatists – has been occupied by China since 1949. Political opposition has been repressed for decades in the region, which is central to the state’s “belt and road” program. China justifies this tyranny in the internationally accepted language of Islamophobia, calling the “political re-education camps” an initiative to “prevent terrorism”.
Suspicion of being Muslim is enough to get you locked up, whether elderly or sick. The state targets Uyghur’s with intrusive electronic surveillance, such as facial recognition in CCTV cameras. Hyper-militarised police are empowered to collect blood samples at road-side checkpoints. Uyghur intellectuals and political dissidents are targeted.
Satellite footage acquired by the ABC showed that between 2017 and 2018, the camps had expanded by more than 2 million square metres.
The Communist Party has faced sustained international condemnation since the Western press revealed the scale and purpose of these internment camps in late 2018. Some unlikely allies of human rights have joined the chorus, such as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who described China’s treatment of Uyghurs as “the stain of the century”.
But is the US invasion of Iraq, with one million dead and counting, not a contender for the title? Or the conduct of US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, photographed brimming with mirth while torturing hooded, naked Iraqis?
Why is Pompeo calling for sanctions against China, but not Saudi Arabia for starving Yemenis? Or Israel for its ongoing war against Palestinians? Or India, for overseeing the world’s deadliest military occupation in Muslim-majority Kashmir?
Pompeo sees no hypocrisy in condemning concentration camps in China, while on the US-Mexico border asylum seeker children sleep on the floor of cages, wrapped in garbage bags.
That’s because his condemnations are less about the plight of Uyghurs and more about imperialism.
Increasingly, global politics is shaped by hot and cold tensions between the United States and China. This is taking the form of trade wars, but open military conflict is a real and terrifying prospect. By painting the Chinese Communist Party as dastardly and evil, the United States is shoring up support for its side in a contest that, whatever the outcome, will only hurt working people and the poor in both countries.
The Chinese Communist Party is plumbing the depths of depravity in its oppression of Uyghurs. Perhaps it has learnt a thing or two from the United States, the greatest exporter of misery in history.
While the Uyghur struggle for democracy and political rights demands international solidarity, justice will never come through Western sanctions or missiles.