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Genocide in Xinjiang with silence from Canada

The Canadian government’s silence about ongoing genocide speaks volumes

In a mountainous region thousands of miles from the glittering lights of Beijing, a people face cultural extinction. Within the remote and sparsely populated region of Xinjiang, a tremendous evil is at hand while the world watches with an indifferent gaze. The inhabitants of the region, the Uyghur people, with a history spanning thousands of years, face a genocide of epic proportions.

The Uyghurs sit at the eastern edge of the Turkic world. Unlike other Turkic groups, the Uyghurs’ national aspirations suffered following the Qing Dynasty’s 18th-century conquest. Subjugated and deprived of a nation, the Uyghurs were left powerless over their collective future. In the subsequent decades, a series of clashes between various political groups culminated in the 1949 absorption of the Uyghurs into the People’s Republic of China.

Under the new regime, Beijing began a rapid assimilation program bent on enacting conformity across the budding communist nation. The Uyghur language, religion, and culture faced a ferocious onslaught as the Chinese government fought to maintain control over the northwestern region. In the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered the migration of thousands of Han Chinese — China’s largest ethnic group — in the first of many policies promoting assimilation. Consider a report released from Arizona State University indicating the Han population rose from 220,000 (6.9 per cent) in 1949 to 8.4 million (40 per cent) in 2008.

The demographic shift is no coincidence or product of the natural migration of peoples between areas. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to actively dilute the Uyghurs into a subservient people deprived of their national identity. Under the guise of economic development, Chinese organizations such as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), moved at least hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, dramatically shifting the region’s demographics.

In 2014, Xi Jinping, the CCP general secretary and president of China began interning Uyghurs in concentration camps with the “Strike Hard Against Violent Terrorism” campaign. Under the guise of “vocational training” and “re-education,” the Chinese government began the largest internment of people since the Second World War with as many as three million Uyghurs detained.

Today, the campaign is worsening with reports of torture, compulsory sterilization, rape and brainwashing. Forced to recite slogans in Mandarin pledging loyalty to the CCP, beaten for praying, and tortured at the whim of the Chinese authorities, the Uyghurs face individual bodily harm and collective cultural annihilation.

Concurrently, the world continues to grovel to the Chinese government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Canadian troops to a military parade where they saluted Xi Jinping. Furthermore, the Trudeau government, unlike the other Five Eyes, welcomed Huawei to build a 5G network, despite the company’s role in surveilling Uyghurs.

In the fading days of the Trump administration, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rightfully declared the situation in Xinjiang a genocide. Last week, Parliament unanimously passed a Conservative motion calling on the Liberal Government to recognize China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs as a genocide. Additionally, MPs also passed an amendment introduced by the Bloc Quebecois calling on a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games should the genocide continue.

However, hope of Canada following the United States in holding China accountable collapsed when Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau abstained on behalf of the “Government of Canada.” The abstention ought to shock Canadians as their government chose to ignore the will of Parliament. In doing so, Garneau revealed the dark underbelly of the Trudeau administration — one that claims to cherish and protect minorities while remaining silent in the face of their cultural destruction.

Regardless of the genocide’s progression, the Olympics and all economic activities benefiting China ought to cease. Doing business with a country that utilizes de facto slavery against its own people, imprisons political dissidents, and executes thousands annually is not only an act of complicity, but support.

The lights of the internment camps only remain illuminated because of the world’s economic relations with Beijing. However, concerned Canadians, organizations, universities, and governments can take action through reevaluating engagements with complicit Chinese institutions. In doing so, Canada can proudly defend human rights and perhaps change history. The alternative is a red Maple Leaf affixed to the death certificate of the Uyghur people.

 

 Graphic by Chloë Lalonde  @ihooqstudios

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Editorial: China’s censorship doesn’t have a place at Concordia

On March 26, Concordia University held a conference led by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), where Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, spoke. Isa is an Uighur activist who often speaks at conferences highlighting the ongoing human rights violations Uighur Muslims in China face.

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of MIGS, told The Concordian: “Before the event, we started to see reports in the media that showed [the] Chinese government and some Chinese students disrupting any events about human rights abuses involving the Uighur or the Tibetans. We were kind of concerned about that and thought our event would get cancelled.”

While the event wasn’t cancelled, a day before it took place, Matthews received an email from the Chinese consul general in Montreal. In the email, Matthews was asked for an urgent meeting to discuss the event and their point of view. Matthews ignored the email, but on the day of the event, he found out that the Chinese consul general was pressuring different people in Montreal to cancel the event.

Matthews decided to ignore the email, and the event still took place with two security officers present to ensure there were no disruptions. In an article by La Presse, the Chinese consul general admitted that he pressured Montreal to cancel the event, saying students shouldn’t be exposed to terrorism. “He made some very bizarre references to the Christchurch terrorism case in New Zealand,” said Matthews. “It didn’t make sense because our speaker wasn’t some member of the far right; he’s actually a Muslim Uighur minority from China.”

This idea of linking Uighur Muslims to terrorism isn’t new—in fact, China has claimed they are dealing with threats and violence from separatist Islamist groups in Xinjiang, but human rights groups argue differently. In 2009, riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, killed 200 people, most of whom were Han Chinese—numerous attacks have occurred since then, according to BBC News. Human rights groups argue that this violence erupted from China’s oppression of Uighur Muslims, and these violent events were used by the Chinese government to crack down on Uighur Muslims in February 2017, according to the same source.

Evidence highlights that more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in China are detained in what resembles a “massive internment camp,” according to BBC News. In these camps, detainees are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, renounce their Islamic faith, and swear loyalty to the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping, according to the same source.

At first, China ignored the camps’ existence—but in October 2018, Chinese officials legalized “education camps” with the goal of eradicating extremism, according to Vox. Instead of referring to these detainment centres for what they are, the Chinese government has called them “re-education” centres that are meant to fend off terrorism, according to BBC News. Millions of people have disappeared, and Uighur Muslims are under surveillance, according to Vox. Not only that, but officials say these “re-education” centres offer classes on topics such as Chinese history and culture, and have said that inmates are “happier” after their imprisonment, according to CNN. Yet, various camp survivors have said they were physically tortured for the purpose of brainwashing, were sleep deprived, isolated without food and water, and were subject to waterboarding, according to Vox.

It is difficult to know every detail of what Uighur Muslims are currently going through, as China’s lack of freedom of press hinders journalists’ ability to report freely. “What’s deeply troubling is that China is exporting its authoritarianism to Western countries,” said Matthews. “This is the third case of Chinese political interference in events happening at Canadian universities. One was at the University of Toronto, one was at McMaster, and now Concordia comes to number three.”

We at The Concordian believe this situation further highlights how urgent it is for us to discuss what is happening in Xinjiang. We’re proud of our university for offering its security services to ensure the conference took place. The ongoing violation of human rights for Uighur Muslims in China is an issue that must be continuously spoken about. Censorship has no place in Canada, or in Canadian universities—we at The Concordian hope to see this conversation continue and bring change.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

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