The days in
which many Westerners celebrated what many thought was mainland China’s
inevitable march towards freedom as a consequence of its limited opening to
global trade are now well and truly over. The present battle over Hong Kong,
one of the world’s most economically-free regions, is plainly a proxy for a
wider fight about China’s future—a future in which Beijing has made clear does
not include much room for political freedom and rule of law.
is the regime’s ongoing suppression of religious freedom throughout China.
Churches are burnt, pastors and priests who don’t toe the line are harassed and
imprisoned, and anyone who think that there are some things about which Caesar
has nothing to say about quickly learns that their career prospects are
limited. But perhaps the most shocking sign of Beijing’s steady march even
further down its already well-worn authoritarian path is the regime’s treatment
of its Muslim Uyghur citizens.
was an ethically Turkish group who number just over 11 million people. They
live mostly in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in North-West China. The vast majority
of Uyghurs are Muslims, more specifically Sunni Muslims.
For a long
time, a separatist Uyghur movement has been seeking independence for Xinjiang
province. Beijing has made it very clear that China will never countenance
this. And one way in which the regime is trying to suppress this movement is by
directly attacking expressions of Muslim faith among the Uyghur, presumably on
the basis that Islam forms a major component of Uyghur culture and identity.
People such as the Cato Institute’s Mustafa Akyol have been sounding the alarm
about this for some time and haven’t hesitated to compare what it is going on
to Stalin’s Gulags.
It has been
estimated that over one million Muslim Uyghurs—almost 10 percent of the Uyghur
population in China—are imprisoned in what amount to concentration camps. Among
other things, they are subject on a daily basis to relentless “re-education.”
Recently linked Chinese government documents have revealed that the objective
of the exercise is to destroy the detainees’ sense of cultural distinctiveness.
That means seeking to systematically eradicate their connection to the Islamic
religious beliefs, practices, and culture that have been part of everyday
Uyghur life since the sixteenth century.
things happen in the twenty-first century is mind-boggling—until you realize
that simply assuming that humanity is inexorably marching towards a freer world
is an illusion. There’s no reason to assume that free societies are inevitable.
The Chinese government will go a long way, and do many things considered
unthinkable by civilized people of all faiths and none, to maintain an iron
grip on society. China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghurs is just one of the
most shocking signs of how far it is prepared to go.
Headline: Spare a thought for China’s Muslim Uyghurs
Source: Action Institute, Power Blog