Human Rights

China's 'Sinicisation' policy aims to stamp out identity of Muslim minorities

By Al-Mashareq and AFP

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A member of the Uighur community holds a placard at a demonstration in London on April 22 calling on the British parliament to recognise China's persecution of Muslims as genocide and crimes against humanity. [Justin Tallis/AFP]

NEW YORK -- Beijing is expanding the aperture of its "Sinicisation" policy in populations under its control, attempting to wipe out all cultural and religious identity of ethnic minorities and democratic freedoms.

The Chinese regime is committing "crimes against humanity" in its oppressive treatment of Muslims in the Xinjiang region, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a detailed report released in mid-April.

Beijing's mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities dates back more than two decades, the report said, but it has intensified since 2013 under President Xi Jinping.

Driven by nationalism and Islamophobia, Xi's government increasingly insists on the "Sinicisation" of ethnic minorities, said the report by HRW and Stanford Law School's Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Clinic released April 19.

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The Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Centre, believed to be a 're-education' camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Kashgar, Xinjiang region, China, is pictured on June 2, 2019. [Greg Baker/AFP]

"The Chinese government has committed -- and continues to commit -- crimes against humanity against the Turkic Muslim population," the report said.

Beijing has imprisoned more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in as many as 400 facilities that include "political education" camps, pretrial detention centres and prisons.

Millions more live under a harsh system of surveillance and controls.

"The Chinese government's apparent goal in creating the camps is the erasure of Turkic Muslim culture and religion," it said, specifying Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other groups in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is the only region in China with a majority Muslim population, and Chinese authorities have used various pretexts to damage or destroy two-thirds of the region's mosques and other sacred Islamic sites, the report said.

Beijing's policies violate the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which says widespread or systematic attacks on a civilian population are a crime, the HRW report said.

It faulted the Chinese government for illegal imprisonment, torture and murder of Muslim and for intentional policies of forced labour and sexual violence toward them.

Beijing spin

After first denying the existence of the detention centres in Xinjiang, Beijing later justified them as "re-education" camps designed to stamp out terrorism and improve employment opportunities.

Independent investigations and interviews with former prisoners, however, recount physical and mental torture, brainwashing, systematic rape and sexual abuse, and other horrors.

The Chinese regime has forcibly sterilised large numbers of Muslim women and pressured them to abort pregnancies that exceeded birth quotas, independent researchers found.

But Beijing has hailed the plummeting birthrate in Xinjiang over the past few years as a counter-terrorism success.

"The minds of [Muslim] women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines," the Chinese embassy in the United States tweeted January 7, citing an unpublished study by the Xinjiang Development Research Centre.

At the United Nations (UN) in February, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called China's treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang a "shining example" of the country's human rights progress.

To counter growing criticism of the regime's treatment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, the government has unleashed a fresh wave of propaganda.

The latest push includes a state-produced musical film called "The Wings of Songs" that portrays Xinjiang as a colourful rural idyll of ethnic cohesion -- notably devoid of "re-education" camps, mass surveillance and even references to Islam.

"Beijing has said it's providing 'vocational training' and 'de-radicalisation', but that rhetoric can't obscure a grim reality of crimes against humanity," said Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW.

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