More than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in Xinjiang by the Chinese Government in what they call “re-education camps”.
This mass detention of Uyghurs against their will in internment camps is a total abuse of human rights. This systemic oppression includes the erosion of the ethnic identity of the Uyghur people, imposition of religious restrictions and a region that has been transformed into a surveillance state.
The world knows what’s happening, but there has been a deathly lack of meaningful action on this issue from the highest levels of Government in Australia and around the world.
Torn from their families, imprisoned for years, and suffering in the shadows of secrecy – these people have nowhere to turn. The United Nations has called these camps a “no rights zone” and the world isn’t batting an eyelid.
A recent ground-breaking investigation by the ABC’s Four Corners program led by the excellent Sophie Mcneill, told the heartbreaking stories of the Australian-Uyghur community whose families have been separated and who have partners, brothers, sisters, children and parents being held in forced detention in Xinjiang.
The Four Corners program also unveiled evidence of detainees in these ‘re-education’ camps being forced into labour. The investigation named retailers Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Ikea, Dangerfield and H&M as sourcing cotton for their products from the area. For these companies to claim they don’t not know if their supply chain is involved in human slavery simply isn’t good enough.
Reports of links between Australian universities and the development of Chinese government technology used in the oppression and human rights violations of Uyghurs are equally disturbing. Suggestions that Australian research may have contributed to racially profile Uyghars are very distressing. Universities must urgently review their existing partnerships and their research ethics process to ensure their work does not contribute to global oppression and abuses of human rights.
Analysis of satellite imagery has shown that, in the past year alone, these camps have expanded at an exponential rate. Former detainees have told of torture including being shackled to chairs, deprived of food and sleep and placed in solitary confinement.
The Uyghurs and other Muslims in China have suffered economic marginalisation, cultural genocide and political oppression for decades. A pervasive, technologically advanced surveillance apparatus is in place in all of Xinjiang. The United Nations Human Rights Chief is still awaiting clearance from the Chinese Government after having repeatedly asked China to grant the UN access to Xinjiang.
The Australian Government must become much bolder in defending the rights of China’s minorities. The horrific human rights abuses against China’s Turkic Muslim minorities can no longer be ignored.