China’s crackdown on its Uighur Muslim minority, the ‘health’ component of its genocide and what it means for you
By: Anwar Subhani
“They were given drugs and a liquid that caused bleeding.”
“I never thought I would come out of Cell 210 alive.”
“I was drugged, interrogated for days without sleep, and strapped in a chair and jolted with electricity.”
“They tube-fed my three children and they underwent surgeries. Only two made it out alive.”
“We were chained for days in a small cell with 67 other women.”
“Villages are empty.”
These horrifying accounts aren’t retrospective of the Holocaust. They are the living tragedies of 3 million Uighur Muslims in Chinese concentration camps right now. These camps are situated in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in Western China. Due to rising ethnic tensions, The Communist Party has enacted a brutal high-tech crackdown on its Uighur minority in the aftermath of the 2008 Ürümqi Riots. This suppression is further reinforced by China’s need to strengthen its grip on the region that is at the heart of its economic masterplan; the Belt and Road Initiative. China launched repressive policies starting in 2016 that curbed religious freedoms, increased surveillance, and at the core of it all, sent millions to what it calls ‘re-education camps’, all under the guise of combatting Uighur separatism and terrorism. In addition to political indoctrination, escapees from these camps have given accounts of torture, starvation, abuse, rape, forced sterilization, medical experiments, and deaths, all of which amount to genocide. As the world stays silent, the remnants of this torture make their way into our lives and maybe even play a role in the mask you’re wearing.
‘Health’ measures have been a core component of this genocide. Many question whether the world would take action in the aftermath of a death toll in the millions, but the reality is that perhaps a million of those lives were prevented in the first place. Uighur women and their unborn children bear the brunt of state-sponsored mandatory pregnancy checks, forced intrauterine devices (IUDs), sterilization and hundreds of thousands of abortions. According to Chinese government statistics, birth rates in Uighur areas plunged 60 percent in the past four years. Xinjiang, which was once one of the fastest-growing regions of China, is now one of the slowest. Even more horrific is the live-organ harvesting that some Uighurs are subjected to— especially those to be executed. China has a long history of harvesting live organs from political prisoners, but ones from Uighurs are marketed as ‘halal organs’ which have no basis in Islamic jurisprudence. These are marketed to wealthy Saudi Arabian transplant recipients but have also found their way into the black market. Moreover, leaked databases have uncovered detailed accounts of prisoner blood samples to be matched to blood types of potential organ transplant recipients. Escapees often give accounts of unconsented medical and surgical operations. Prisoners have been injected with substances and forced to take unknown pills. Some have reported cognitive decline, impotence, pauses in menstruation, pain and death as a result of these experiments.
All this may seem so distant, but we are on the receiving end of the products of forced labour. As within these internment camps, Uighurs are subjected to brutal working conditions as well as forcefully relocated to other parts of China as part of labour exchange programs. A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) uncovered that 83 multinational corporations and brands such as Nike and Adidas have either directly or indirectly utilized forced labour from Uighur workers in factories across China. Many of these products end up in domestic use, but reports have suggested that they have ended up in international markets, including Canada and the United States. Some companies have launched investigations, with H&M particularly uncovering forced labour with some of their Chinese suppliers and have since terminated those relationships. Furthermore, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many Uighur labourers are part of the international PPE supply chain and reports have uncovered masks made by such workers ending up in the United States and other western nations.
Ultimately, a genocide is happening as the world watches in silence. It may be happening thousands of miles away, but human compassion is never limited. It may not make the headlines every day, but the daily life of those in concentration camps is grim and destitute while many on the other end unknowingly use their products. Inevitably, it is crucial to spread awareness, call on government leaders to take action, and make mindful purchases, because, at the end of it all, we don’t want to mourn the deaths of millions when we knew it could easily have been prevented.
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