Tue Jan 8, 2019, 12:29 AM

CHINA: Cultural Extermination Campaign Against Muslims...

By Editorial Board January 7 at 5:19 PM

IN AN attempt to defend the gulag in which it has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region, China has tried to rebrand concentration camps as centers for “vocational training.” The goal, as a state television broadcast put it, is to “rescue ignorant, backward and poor rural minorities.” That description encapsulates the gross bigotry with which Chinese authorities view the Uighurs, against whom they have launched a massive campaign of cultural extermination.

But accept for a moment Beijing’s description of the camps’ purpose. How, then, to explain the fact that not just “ignorant” peasants but also scores of the most prominent Uighur intellectuals have been sent to them? Are poets, professors, scientists and journalists living in Xinjiang also in need of vocational training?

According to a report in the New York Times, Uighur exiles have compiled a list of 159 intellectuals who have been detained over the past year. They are the propagators, curators and defenders of a culture that the regime of Xi Jinping appears determined to eradicate. “Break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins,” concluded a state news commentary cited by the Times. It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.

Chinese spokesmen sometimes describe Uighur detainees as actual or potential terrorists. But the intellectuals the Chinese government has swept up include figures who openly supported the communist regime, such as Abdulqadir Jalaleddin, an expert on medieval poetry at Xinjiang Normal University. Like other scholars, he wrote an open letter declaring his loyalty to the state but was detained anyway.

Up to 1.1 million people, or 11.5 percent of the Uighur population between the ages of 20 and 79, are believed to be held in the camps. There they are forced to renounce the Muslim religion and Uighur language, and memorize and recite Chinese characters and propaganda songs. The “vocational training” is actually forced labor. Torture and deaths are common. Thousands of children have been separated from their parents and placed in a separate network of orphanages.


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