A U.N. human rights panel gathered on Friday to discuss reports regarding 1 million ethnic Uyghurs that are being held in secret internment camps. Reported by the BBC news, the concerned panel discussed the ‘indoctrination’ that Muslim minorities were being subjected to. These reports came from multiple sources. One of those being the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an activist group. They argued that 21 percent of recorded arrests in China occur in the Xinjiang region.
Xinjiang, located on the border and is home to deserts and mountains has a reported population of over 20 million. Many ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs live there, forming a community of over 11 million.
A key member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Gay McDougall gave an alarming estimate that two million are in ‘political’ camps, located in Xinjiang. Conflicting these reports is China’s ambassador to the United Nations (Geneva), Yu Jianhua who claimed that China was working towards ‘solidarity’ among all ethnic groups. McDougall opposes these claims, believing the imprisoned are treated as ‘enemies of the state.’ The camps were described as a ‘no rights zone,’ alarming many in the international community about human rights in modern-day China.
As China’s government opts for denial and silence, it’s vital to remember that this is not the first time China has been criticised for its treatment of Uyghurs. In January, The Guardian mentions the camps and estimates the number of imprisoned is around 125,000. In a report published in 2014, Amnesty International claimed there was opposition to “peaceful expressions of cultural identity” by the Uyghurs. The tension between the Uyghurs and the Chinese government are well documented, with violent incidents occurring in the past and present.
The reports are alarming to peace and security, and China must answer to these claims. It is unacceptable to have indoctrination camps, due to it being an infringement on basic human rights. What’s also unethical is the lack of legal rights these prisoners have access to. There is a lack of information about legal access or any human rights protection. Information about these camps is currently scarce, and journalists should be encouraged to keep on researching about this situation. The world must know the crimes that have occurred against the Uyghur people so that change can occur.
Due to the influence, China wields in the world, they will get away with it. To protect ethnic groups such as the Uyghurs, there must be change on a global scale. Instead of condemning China in only U.N. circles, national governments should also. First world countries could offer aid to Uyghurs or even offer asylum. Instead of dismissing stories of ethnic minorities being sent to camps, it is crucial the international community advocates for the Uyghurs.
For now, the number of Uyghurs sent to internment camps will rise.