IMAGINE THIS: a facility in southern Xinjiang province in China, in a dusty village nestled among fields of barren walnut trees. It is surrounded by a tall brick wall, two layers of barbed wire, cameras on every corner, and a guard wearing a black helmet and protective vest with a metal detector at the entrance. This is a school?
The building, recently described in a New York Times article, is a clue to the eradication of a people’s culture and language taking place every day in concentration camps in western China. The building is in fact a boarding school and part of China’s attempt to wipe out the mind-set of the ethnic Uighur population and others, including Kazakhs. They are Turkic Muslims, and about 1.8 million of them are now incarcerated in camps that China calls “vocational education” facilities but look more like prisons.
As the Times article and other recently published research has revealed, China’s attempts to suppress Uighur traditions start with the youngest. Children are separated from their parents — who are hauled off to faraway camps — and the kids are then subjected to intensive indoctrination at places such as the boarding school. The goal is to erase from their minds the Uighur language and cultural ways and replace them with coerced respect for China’s ruling Communist Party and the traditions of its Han-majority population.
In the village with the barbed wire, government officials call the children “kindness students,” referring to the party’s supposed generosity in making special arrangements. But the glove bearing this generosity has a fist inside. As Adrian Zenz at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has documented, in some Uighur-majority regions in southern Xinjiang, preschool enrollment more than quadrupled in recent years, exceeding the average national enrollment growth rate by more than 12 times. Why? Because parents, and in some cases both parents, have disappeared into the camps. China is carrying out cultural genocide and social reengineering on young minds when they are most impressionable.
China has claimed the campaign is a response to extremism and violence in Xinjiang a decade ago, but these methods far exceed what would be needed for counterterrorism. The punishment of the Uighur Muslims appears to fit the definition of crimes against humanity. The annual report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, released Wednesday, says: “Security personnel at the camps subjected detainees to torture, including beatings; electric shocks; waterboarding; medical neglect; forced ingestion of medication; sleep deprivation; extended solitary confinement; and handcuffing or shackling for prolonged periods, as well as restricted access to toilet facilities; punishment for behavior deemed religious; forced labor; overcrowding; deprivation of food; and political indoctrination.”
That is some “kindness.” Congress should promptly finish with legislation that would pave the way for sanctions on those responsible for the repression. If this horror is not ended soon, the entire world must ask: Should China be allowed to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in one city while running concentration camps in another?