The Centipede

Opinion: Uyghur Life in China

Gary Sun ‘22

     On Oct. 24th, a regular press briefing was hosted by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. The speaker, Chunying Hua, refuted the blame on Uyghur rights from a British journalist, who claimed that he had interviewed an “inmate” in Xinjiang re-education camps that said the life in the camps is “imprisonment without freedom”. Hua countered the idea, saying that if he didn’t have freedom, he would not have been able to be interviewed by the press in the first place. Hua also mentioned that the EU and UK have been in trouble with terrorist activities in Europe caused by the refugee influx. They have exactly the same training centers, and China simply took this idea and applied it in Xinjiang. Whether re-education camps perform as a prison or not should remain as a subject of debate. It is not reasonable to say that the Chinese government is abusing the human rights of Uyghurs for now, and international media has failed to perceive the issue from an unbiased perspective.

     Since the birth of the PRC, Uyghurs have not been in good shape with the government. Constant terrorist attacks and direct confrontations to the local authorities forced Beijing to take heavier measures in Xinjiang than anywhere else in China, such as increasing implementation of the police, army, and applying harsher security checks. Over the past two decades Chinese police have been succeeding in shutting down terrorist organizations, and what they have discovered is that the terrorists believe their god wants them to destroy any political entity that rules them, and to establish a base for “liberating” the entire world from the hand of heathens. The Chinese government found this to be an extremely dangerous belief for the local community, and has subsequently put people suspected to be religious, mainly Muslim in this case, into extreme re-education centers, aiming to depolarise them, or at least separate them from the community in case they plan terrorist attacks. The government would put felons who conducted attacks behind bars, not in the centers.

     The reasons why Uyghurs are the main population performing attacks may be their commonly low education rates and high poverty rates. Their traditional practices mostly discourage education of women unless the family only has a girl; most Uyghurs, surprisingly, refuse to apply technology in agriculture, which is a central a pillar in their lives. For example, the government tried to introduce 4G network in Xinjiang in late 2014, and thousands of Uyghurs rallied up at the capital of the province to protest the introduction since they believed that the government just wanted to steal money from them when they already had 3G. Also, when the army showed that they’d be more than happy to share tractors and planters in the 90s, now still, most of the Uyghur farmers refused to use the machines because they thought it would be humiliating their hard handiwork. Agriculture without the assistance of technology, therefore, takes away most of the time of male, disabling most of the population from focusing on education. When some extremely poor Uyghurs know that people in other parts of China live a far better life than them, they like to think that the government is oppressing them, and so the dischord roots.

     Human rights is an issue that some western media outlets has been using to criticize the opponents of their nations, such as Iraq, Russia, Iran, and China. I believe that human rights issues should be treated with extra caution and nuance because it seems that some portrayals in Western media are not entirely objective upon such issues in countries that oppose NATO, or in a more common sense, western nations. Human rights thus shouldn’t be a weapon that any political entity could use against others, because as its name indicates, it is the most fundamental rights of humans.

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