Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday, 30 September 2020


 China’s Xi is doubling down on genocide

A guard tower and barbed wire fences are seen around a facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in western China's Xinjiang region in 2018. (Ng Han Guan/AP)
Opinion by the Editorial Board
September 30 at 4:25 am AET
FOR THE past three years, China’s Communist regime has waged a campaign of cultural genocide in the sprawling western region of Xinjiang. It has confined more than 1 million ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs to detention centers and sought to eradicate their allegiance to Islam. Detainees have been forced to eat pork and memorize Chinese songs; women have been sterilized, and children separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools. An Orwellian system of electronic surveillance has been established to monitor the rest of the population, using technologies such as facial recognition.
Slowly, the United States and other Western governments have begun to react to this extraordinary crime. Though President Trump reportedly signed off twice on the repression in meetings with Chinese ruler Xi Jinping, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on officials responsible for carrying out the crackdown and imposed some restrictions on imports from the region. Last week, the House passed a bill that would bar imports from Xinjiang that were not proved to be untainted by forced labor.
Mr. Xi, however, is unfazed. At a conference of Xinjiang and party officials last weekend, he declared that “practice has proven that the party’s strategy for governing Xinjiang in the new era is completely correct.” He ordered more measures to “make a shared awareness of Chinese nationhood take root deep in the soul” of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. Mr. Xi is doubling down on genocide.
Two new studies released last week showed his words were more than bluster. The Xinjiang Data Project of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that the regime is building scores of new prison-like compounds where Uighurs are held. Satellite imagery showed 380 suspected detention sites created or expanded since 2017, including 61 since July 2019.
The Post’s Anna Fifield provided a rare eyewitness account of one of the new facilities near the city of Kashgar. Encompassing more than 60 acres and surrounded by 45-foot walls and guard towers, it has 13 five-story residential buildings that can hold more than 10,000 people, she reported. Barbed-wire fences and floodlights belie the regime’s propaganda claims that these are vocational training centers and that most people once in them have been released. On the contrary, many Uighurs who were at first confined to lower-security camps have since been transferred to the new prisons, while others have been enlisted in forced labor.
A second report by the Xinjiang Data Project, also based on satellite imagery, found that some 8,500 mosques in the region had been destroyed since 2017, and an additional 7,500 had been damaged. That represents two-thirds of Xinjiang’s mosques — and again demonstrates that Chinese official claims to be protecting mosques are lies.
Mr. Xi has clearly signaled his intent to continue these criminal acts. Yet the international response remains weak. The European Union, for example, has confined itself to feckless requests to send observers to the region. What’s needed is a concerted and unified response by Western democracies that imposes much higher costs on Beijing. That’s not likely to happen unless Mr. Trump, who according to former national security adviser John Bolton believed that Mr. Xi’s attack on the Uighurs was “exactly the right thing to do,” is voted out in November.

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