Saturday, May 15, 2021

Uyghurs - Pawns in the Great Powers Game

The  evidence of the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims is abundant yet many "anti-imperialists" are in denial, preferring the enemy of my enemy is my friend maxim and offer support for China.

According to this article, the Uighurs are wronged four times over: by China’s oppression, by American imperialist cooptation, by left-wing denialism, and by Muslim leaders’ dereliction.

Not only do we have the United States and its allies decrying China’s human rights violations, and China and its allies denying such violations, and reminding the West of its own abuses of human rights, we now have a group of Western “anti-imperialists” siding with China simply because they feel whatever the US says is suspect, and therefore what China claims is not. World leaders usually regarded as advocates for oppressed Muslims, such as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, have also signed on to what might be called the “Uighur Exception,” in order to avoid offending the Chinese government and jeopardising the development dollars on which they depend.

For many, the Uighur’s plight is yet another card to play in its China-bashing, along with Hong Kong and COVID-19. In a remarkable reversal, Trump went from lauding mass Uighur internment as the “right thing to do” to labelling it as genocide – all while implementing a Muslim ban and incarcerating thousands of migrants in a vast “concentration camp” system of the US’s own. Biden has maintained the bipartisan consensus in accusing China of genocide – having previously served as vice president in the Obama administration, a pioneer in the preemptive collective criminalisation of Muslim communities in the name of counter-radicalisation. Even one-time anti-Uighur agitators like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have joined the bandwagon of performative allyship with the Uighurs against China’s “modern genocide.” What a change in tune from 2009, when Gingrich denigrated the Uighurs as misogynists, “trained mass killers,” and “terrorists,” justifying their wrongful capture and torture by the US at Guantanamo Bay.

Human rights organisations have long been consistent in exposing and opposing China’s persecutory policies against the Uighurs, even when conflicting with the American empire’s realpolitik.

Amnesty International’s first report (PDF) on atrocities against the Uighurs is from 1992, documenting a “pattern of human rights violations [that] appears to have emerged in Xinjiang since 1989,” including secret detentions, extrajudicial executions, and suppression of religious expression.

Human Rights Watch has been calling on the US government to press China on its treatment of the Uighurs since 1998, in the face of then-President Bill Clinton’s reticence for the sake of augmenting US-China trade.

 In 2004, Georgetown University Xinjiang specialist James Millward authoritatively deconstructed China’s sensationalist and unsubstantiated projections of the Uighur “terrorist” threat – the basis of the US’s designation of the Uighur group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist organisation in 2002 to woo the Chinese government’s support for the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Yet some on the left continue to reject reports of China’s oppression and repression as an American imperialist propaganda ploy. The China sympathisers discredit those drawing attention to the Uighur’s persecution by questioning their motives and exposing their association with various anti-China institutions yet all the while ignoring the vast body of evidence.

This includes:

  • 1. Census data showing the long-term demographic replacement of Indigenous Uighurs with the dominant Han ethnic group – encouraged by government incentives for Han migration and settlement.
  • 2. Statistics revealing a precipitate decline in Xinjiang birth rates by 33 percent (from 15.88 percent to 10.69 percent), and population growth rates by 46 percent (from 11.40 percent to 6.13 percent), between 2017 and 2018 – misrepresented in the Grayzone as a decrease of only 5 percent, even as it excoriates its ideological opponents for “statistical malpractice” and “data abuse”.
  • 3. Counterterrorism laws and “de-extremification” regulations targeting religious practices such as wearing a veil and growing a beard.
  • 4. Leaked lists of detainees, such as the Aksu and Karakax lists, detailing the extrajudicial detention of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims for such “offences” as studying the Quran, travelling abroad, or being “generally untrustworthy”.
  • 5. Procurement and budget documents testifying to the prison-like securitisation and weaponisation of internment centres, publicly defended as “vocational training” facilities yet equipped with electric cattle prods, riot gear, tear gas, stun guns, specialised interrogation chairs, and spiked clubs.
  • 6. A government-issued “telegram” specifying procedures for the operation and expansion of these internment centres, methods of political and psychological indoctrination, and instructions for maintaining “strict secrecy” and “preventing escapes”.
  • 7. State “bulletins” indicating the scale of detention – with 15,683 people reportedly rounded up into camps from four prefectures over the course of one week in 2017 alone.
  • 8. Official policies such as Physicals for All, mandating mass biometric and DNA collection, and Becoming Family, planting government officials to live with and monitor Uighurs in their homes.
  • 9. Policy documents laying out plans for the mass institutionalisation of Uighur children in residential schools, and the mass sterilisation of Uighur women – otherwise known in Chinese state officialese as “baby-making machines”.
  • 10. Official government-issued White Papers and other propaganda materials erasing Uighur peoplehood, indigeneity, and identity, and describing the large-scale transfer of Uighurs out of their indigenous territory for labour programs.
  • 11. Statements by public officials ordering to “break [the Uighurs’] roots, break their lineage, break their connections, and break their origins,” and referring to Islam as a “malignant tumour,” a “virus,” and a “weed” – evidence of an intent to destroy the Uighur people as a people, defined as genocidal under international law.
Rather than disavowing these practices, the Chinese state has  attempted to justify them – “justifications” uncritically reproduced by pro-China commentators. 

Mass internment is pitched as “countering terrorism and extremism.” Imprisoned Uighur academics are cast as alleged promoters of “separatism” and “violent militancy” – no proof provided. Forced labour programmes are explained away as “poverty reduction”. Evidence of coercive sterilisation is packaged as “family planning” and “free healthcare.” Child separation is chalked up to “abandonment” by “irresponsible parents”.

The liberal left website, Grayzone, comes under heavy criticism as being complicit in the misinformation and disinformation war of words. 

As the article says  "...China’s policies aren’t the antithesis of Western colonialism, but its mirror image....Trapped between China’s abusive assimilationism, American political opportunism, and left-wing denialism, it is the Uighurs who are suffering. Abandoning them is not anti-imperialism.."

Just a reminder of what has been written in the Socialist Standard:

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