We’ve all heard about the severest human-rights crisis in the world, i.e. the arbitrary detention of millions or even more Uighur Muslims in straggling camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. BUT WHO CARES? After all, if it’s not happening to us or to those we love, it’s as if it isn’t happening at all…

We content our conscience with the government’s innuendos claiming the camps are merely “vocational training centers.” But then why do trove of leaked documents evidence something sinister? Why do they signal to them as re-education or brainwashing centers wherein innocents are being reprogrammed off their religion and language through unimaginable torture and brutality? Why aren’t their stories permitted by the country’s media outlets in the international arena? Where insipid news coverages from international media outside the country do highlight the Uighur plight, a greater awareness of the issue is integral so that awareness could be raised and the world fully unravels the haunting stories of tears, pain, and separation.


There are around 11 million Uighurs in the Xinjiang region in China. They are classified by their government as one of 55 ethnic regional minorities and not an indigenous population. Following an attack by some Uighur militants on a train station in 2014, the Chinese president demanded an inclusive ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism’ using the ‘organs of dictatorship’ and showing ‘absolutely no mercy.’ Human Rights Watch says Uighurs are subject to intense surveillance and are made to give DNA and biometric samples. Those with relatives in 26 “sensitive” countries were perfunctorily rounded-up, and up to a million detained. Rights groups say people in camps are made to learn Mandarin Chinese and criticize or renounce their faith.

The intelligence of instructions being sent in a memo format to those running the vocational training in these concentration centers have also surfaced, where the center managers are instructed to operate the cells like high-security prisons, instigating strict discipline and no escape opportunities, strict disciplinary punishments for any violations, promoting repentance and confession, enforcing remedial Mandarin studies, and full video surveillance of halls and classrooms. Rigidly regimented lives of the prisoners are also revealed with fixed bed positions, queues, and austere behavioral norms for eating, sleeping, studying, and even closing the door and so forth, in an attempt to reprogram them at large! This treatment by the Chinese government of the Uighurs is utterly reprehensible!

Documents have leaked explicating harrowing testimonies of former detainees of mass internment camps in Xinjiang, as well as from relatives of those missing. This was cruel enough. But new evidence has appeared that China has also imposed on the Uighurs a form of demographic genocide with compulsory sterilizations aimed at reducing the population. This new evidence denotes that the country is using pregnancy checks, forced intrauterine devices, sterilizations, and even abortion. Moreover, having many children is being punished by incarceration in camps! According to data obtained and corroborated, of all the camp detainees listed in a certain county in Xinjiang, over a third were there for having too many children, the most common reason for holding them. Detention in camps is printed rule in at least three camps for parents with too many children.

This is not all, there are strong indications that some 80,000 Uighurs have been forced to work in factories that form part of the supply chains of at least 83 global brands in China. According to a recent report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, between 2017 and 2019, the Chinese Government facilitated the transfer of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang to factories in various parts of China as forced labor in supply chains. They receive threats to their families back in Xinjiang if they resist any of these tortures. The government must realize that the products that are produced by suppliers must be ethical, not the product of modern-day slavery, produced in pain and blood of repressed Uighur people. The businesses that may flourish in supply chains based on forced labor must not receive the backing of anyone asserting to respect human rights.

All in all, there has been a long history of mistreatment and persecution of the Uighurs, including the eradication of culture and heritage, religious persecution, mass transfers of populations in and out of Xinjiang and political suppression, and there’s growing international criticism of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims but, as of yet, why has no country taken any action beyond issuing critical statements? We are left with the boggling question of why sufficient apathy is absent in the international arena at such an infringement of basic human rights. When will the international community vociferously condemn the atrocities against the Uighurs so that those guilty of the charges are held accountable? When will we as laymen commence asking the right questions about those being inhumanely prosecuted?

But perhaps… who cares?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.