China’s catalog of oppression in Xinjiang – and why Taiwan could be next
The images that emerged from Xinjiang Province in China last week of Uighur women having their clothes forcibly cut from their bodies by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) law enforcement officers were deeply shocking.
But the tragic fact is that this abuse is relatively mild when compared to some of the litany of oppressive acts being carried out on the local population there by the Chinese Communist regime.
Xinjiang Province is a huge territory which sits in the north-west of China. It has a long and uneasy relationship with China stretching as far back as the Yuan Dynasty. Xinjiang twice declared independence during the Republic of China era (1912-1949) alone. But after the People’s Liberation Army seized the province, it has officially been the known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (新疆維吾爾自治區) of Communist China.
Being a long way from China’s principal economic hubs, Xinjiang has largely missed out of China’s economic growth in recent decades and this, combined with an increase in discrimination against the region, both on the grounds of ethnicity and religion, has created considerable resentment against the Communist regime.
This unrest has, inevitably, manifested itself in retaliation against CCP authority. In 2008, a plot to bomb a China Southern Airlines flight was thwarted and just four days before the start of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, an attack on Communist Party Police officers in the western city of Kashgar, saw 16 killed and many more injured. Communist party’s accounts of this attack stated that it was carried out by Uighur separatists, but foreign tourists who witnessed it questioned the official accounts.
Whatever the truth, that attack, happening as it did so close to the start of a major international propaganda event for the Chinese Communist Party seems to have been the final straw for the CCP. From that point on, the region has been targeted by Communist Party officials determined to bring it into line with the rest of the country.
The fact that Xinjiang is a majority Muslim population worked to the CCP’s advantage after the 9/11 attack, when they quickly began to describe the crackdown in the region as their contribution to the ‘War on Terror’. The CCP narrative swiftly began characterizing the Uighur Muslim population as extremists. Their oppression in the region has inevitably led to further attacks against CCP officials, and, of course, these have then been used to back up this narrative.
Before we detail some of the shocking methods used by the Chinese Communist Party in the region, we should address why Chinese oppression in Xinjiang should matter to Taiwan.
Let’s put aside the fact that Taiwan is a proud advocate of human rights and should stand up against such abuses wherever they take place, and instead examine the parallels between Xinjiang and Taiwan.
Because in the eyes of the CCP, there are many similarities between two places both considered to be wayward Chinese provinces. At the moment, the CCP does not control Taiwan, but they firmly believe that it is only a matter of time before they do. And should the worst happen, and Taiwan falls under their control, they would likely look upon Taiwan in much the same way as they do Xinjiang.
A conquered Taiwan would consist of a large population, the majority of whom do not consider themselves to be Chinese and who would be hostile towards Communist Party’s control. It is highly likely that there would be a significant resistance movement in Taiwan, which may well turn to guerilla warfare and even terrorist tactics to fight their invaders.
Taiwan is not a Muslim country but does have significant religious minorities. It is also a country which is inexorably wedded to a number of other beliefs which are alien in Communist China, including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the democratic right to elect leaders by popular vote.
A CCP-controlled Taiwan would have to face up to all of these challenges. And because asserting its own control and dominance over Taiwan would be the priority, it is quite likely that they would turn to similar tactics as the ones employed in Xinjiang to try and force local compliance and brainwash the population into following CCP orders.
So, what sort of things are the Chinese Communist Party doing to the people of Xinjiang Province? The clothes-cutting which we refer to earlier is part of a raft of measures commonly referred to as ‘forced assimilation’.
This is the policy whereby the CCP are trying to eradicate people’s Muslim beliefs by force. They have banned traditional modest Muslim dress in the region, so local women have taken to wearing long clothes to hide their modesty. This is now also deemed unacceptable, so CCP officials are now physically cutting such clothes with scissors when they encounter them.
Several media outlets also reported last month on the topic of ‘gene washing’. This horrific policy sees Uighur Muslims being forced to marry ethnic Han Chinese citizens against their will. The idea behind this policy is that the marriages will lead to ethic Chinese children and, in time, water down the native Uighur population in Xinjiang. Would the CCP employ such techniques to try and remove Taiwanese identity?
Then there is the incredibly sophisticated surveillance systems which are used across Xinjiang Province to track Uighur people and monitor everything they say, everything they do, where they go, who they meet, and even what they read. No one is free to do and say anything without CCP officials knowing about it. According to Human Rights Watch, the CCP even use predictive technology to identify individuals who might pose a threat to the Communist Party regime.
This technology is used in hand with an enormous law enforcement on the presence. Urban areas of Xinjiang, such as the principal city, Ürümqi, are thought to be among the most policed areas on earth. And those law enforcement officials are not afraid to use their powers.
What happens to Uighur Muslims who are deemed to be a potential threat? As is common across China, they disappear and often no-one, not even their closest family members, know if they are even alive or dead. In reality, they are (mostly) being placed in internment camps where they face a program of, what officials call ‘vocational training’, but is actually CCP brainwashing.
These camps are effectively jails, where people can be incarcerated for years. While there, they are forced to learn Mandarin and study topics such as ethnic unity, de-radicalization, patriotism. The idea is to remove their Muslim and Uighur identities and turn them into good Chinese citizens, with a healthy respect for the CCP.
Being confined to one of these camps is not a rare occurrence. According to Omer Kanat, executive committee chairman of the World Uighur Congress, “Every household, every family had three or four people taken away… In some villages, you can’t see men on the streets anymore, only women and children. All the men have been sent to the camps.”
To get out, people have to meet strict criteria including passing Mandarin language tests. This can prove difficult, even impossible, for many, especially elderly detainees and the very young.
It is an horrific situation, yet one which, to date, the international community has seen fit to turn a blind eye to. But as the crackdown intensifies, it is getting harder and harder for the CCP to justify its actions in the region, and for the international community to ignore it.
And if there is any government which should be making an effort to publicize Chinese atrocities in the Xinjiang region, it is the Taiwanese Government. Because China’s territorial ambitions towards Taiwan mean that it is far from inconceivable that CCP internment camps could be set up in Taiwan too at some point in the future. And that is something not even the most fervent Pro-Chinese KMT supporters could possibly justify.