‘China Needs To Be Brought To Account’: Federal MPs Urge Tough Response To China’s Muslim Crackdown

Fergus Hunter
By Fergus Hunter

18 November 2018 — 12:00am

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An unlikely grouping of federal parliamentarians from across the political spectrum has condemned China’s unprecedented crackdown against Muslim minorities and urged a strong response from Australia and the international community.

The politicians — Greens leader Richard Di Natale, Liberal senator Eric Abetz, and Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick — also voiced concern at claims Uighurs living in Australia were being monitored and potentially intimidated by the Chinese government.

Uighurs holding up photos of relatives who are missing, in internment camps or have passed away.
Uighurs holding up photos of relatives who are missing, in internment camps or have passed away.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

The Chinese Communist Party has escalated a campaign targeting Uighursand other minorities in the north-western province of Xinjiang, with up to 1 million people said to be detained in a network of mass indoctrination camps aimed at suppressing religious activity and enforcing CCP practices.

According to reports, detainees have been abused and tortured for failing to comply with the “re-education” program. People not in the camps are living in an increasingly advanced surveillance state with heavy restrictions on their freedoms.

Senator Di Natale said China’s actions in Xinjiang were “an appalling abuse of human rights” that could not be ignored for diplomatic convenience.

“Beijing must be willing to meet international standards of freedom of expression and religion. Instead, it’s attempting to stamp out ethnic minorities through martial law, arbitrary detention and the blocking of religious practice,” he told Fairfax Media.

Security personnel on patrol in Xinjiang.
Security personnel on patrol in Xinjiang.CREDIT:AP

“Combining this inhumane policy with a 21st century surveillance state; including communications monitoring, facial recognition and DNA collection, has created a devastating form of oppression.”

Senator Di Natale said “targeted sanctions should be considered to address the systematic oppression of the Uighurs and other Turkic minorities”.

Senator Abetz, chair of the Senate’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee, said “interning a million people on the basis of religion sort of defies every single concept of basic human rights”.

“From all the evidence provided thus far, there might be some fuzziness about the actual numbers but I don’t think there’s any doubt as to what has occurred or is occurring,” he said.

Asked if sanctions should be considered, he declined to specifically endorse the measure but said: “China – which is clearly sanctioning it and doing it – needs to be brought to account.”

Senator Abetz called the Chinese government’s human rights record “completely unacceptable” and took a swipe at the United Nations and Muslim-majority countries for not being more forthright in scrutinising developments in Xinjiang.

Senator Patrick, who is pushing for a wide-ranging Senate inquiry into relations with China, said the Xinjiang situation “should not be allowed to continue unaddressed” and suggested a multilateral response would be necessary.

In a statement to a scheduled UN Human Rights Council review of China’s record last week, the Australian government expressed “alarm at numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups held incommunicado and often for long periods without being charged or tried”. The United States and other countries also criticised China’s actions.

This week, Australia’s ambassador in China joined with 14 other western envoys in seeking a meeting with the CCP’s top official in Xinjiang over the alleged human rights abuses.

Since acknowledging the existence of the camps, China has strongly rejected any criticism, saying their actions are necessary to protect stability and prevent separatism and religious extremism.

Fairfax Media has been told Chinese government officials have monitored and intimidated members of Australia’s Uighur community, including via direct contact in Australia and harassment of relatives in Xinjiang.

Nurmuhammad Majid, a community leader based in Adelaide, said there has been a clear message: “Not to engage with political activities or engage in anti-China activities in Australia.”

A Uighur man living in Melbourne said a Chinese security agent had been contacting him seeking details about his life in Australia.

“He thinks Australia is one of the countries where Uighur people are protesting continuously against the Chinese government so I think they want information about Uighurs in this country,” the man told Fairfax Media.

Responding to the reports, Senator Di Natale said: “Australia has a proud history of free speech and political expression, and any attempts to silence criticisms of the Chinese Government abroad must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

Senator Abetz said: “One would hope that that is untrue and it’s a very concerning allegation.”

Senator Patrick said the claim was disturbing and “it’s not acceptable in Australia for that sort of conduct to be occurring”.


Gérmaniye Kishilik Hoquq Komitéti Xitayning Étirazini Ret Qildi


Gérmaniye fédéral hökümiti kishilik hoquq komitétining mes'uli barbél koflér xanim.

Gérmaniye fédéral hökümiti kishilik hoquq komitétining mes’uli barbél koflér xanim.Social Media00:00/00:00

Awazni köchürüsh

Gérmaniyening hakimiyette tesiri küchlük bolghan 6 chong partiyesining bir arigha kélishi we ortaq awaz chiqirishi bilen 9-noyabir gérmaniye parlaméntida ötküzülgen Uyghurlar we Uyghur diyaridiki jaza lagérlirigha béghishlan’ghan mexsus yighinda xitayning kishilik hoquq depsendichiliki qattiq tenqid qilin’ghan idi. Bu yighinda yene yighiwélish lagérlirida zulumgha uchrawatqan Uyghur tutqunlarning paji’eliri misallar bilen otturigha qoyulup, parlamént ezalirining küchlük hésdashliqini qozghidi.

Mezkur yighinni teshkilleshke hesse qatqan yéshillar partiyesining gérmaniye parlaméntidiki ezasi margaréta bawzé xanim bu yighinda qilghan sözide 1 milyondin artuq Uyghurning qolgha élish uqturushi bolmighan, héchqandaq qanuniy resmiyetlerge tayanmighan, a’ilisi we jem’iyet bilen alaqisi pütünley üzüp tashlan’ghan halda jaza lagérlirigha qamalghanliqini bayan qilip, rahile dawuttin tartip hézimghiche bolghan Uyghur tutqunlarning isimlirini sanap ötken idi.

10-Noyabir xitayning bérlindiki bash elchisi naraziliq bayanati élan qilip, Uyghurlar we jaza lagérliri mesilisining gérmaniye parlaméntida muzakirige qoyulushigha “Ikki dölet munasiwetlirige éghir tesir yetküzidu,” dégen. Bérlindiki xitay elchixanisi buning bilenla qalmay, margaréta bawzé qatarliq parlamént ezalirigha téléfon qilip, Uyghurlar mesilisini parlaméntning küntertipidin derhal chiqiriwétishni telep qilghan. 10-Noyabir “Sherqiy türkistan milliy kéngishi” ge qatniship nutuq sözligen margaréta bawzé xanim bu heqte chüshenche bergen idi. 

Dunya Uyghur qurultiyining mu’awin re’isi perhat muhemmidi bu heqte toxtalghanda gérmaniye parlaménti we kishilik hoquq organlirining Uyghurlar mesilisige resmiy qol tiqqanliqini, xitayning étirazlirining netije yaritalmaydighanliqini ilgiri sürdi.

Gérmaniye axbarat wasitiliridiki uchurlardin qarighanda, gérmaniye fédéral hökümiti kishilik hoquq komitétining mes’uli barbél koflér xanim tünügün xitayning étirazlirini ret qilip bayanat bergen. U sözide gherb qimmet qarishigha ige bolghan, démokratik saylam arqiliq wujudqa chiqqan bir parlaméntning ichki ishlirigha xitayning qopalliq bilen arilashmasliqini telep qilghan. 

“Gérmaniye awazi” ning 15-noyabir barbél kofler xanim bilen élip barghan mexsus söhbitimu mushu témigha béghishlan’ghan. “Koflér: parlaménttiki shinjang munazirisi intayin muhim” namliq bu söhbette tunji bolup otturigha qoyulghan: “Gérmaniye parlaméntida ötküzülgen Uyghur diyaridiki qayta terbiyilesh lagérliri toghrisidiki muhakimige xitay terep qattiq naraziliq bildürdi. Buningdin siz qanchilik heyranliq hés qildingiz?” dégen so’algha barbél koflér xanim mundaq jawab bergen: 

“Bizning xitayning kishilik hoquq siyasitige qarita qilghan tenqidlirimizge xitay terep oxshimighan usullarda qarshiliq bildürdi. Bezide diplomatik usullarni qollandi, bezide biwasite söhbet jeryanida naraziliq bildürdi. Emma méningche, xitayning bu qilmishliri heqiqetenmu yat bir hadise. Parlamént ezasining ishxanisigha biwasite téléfon urup bésim ishletse bolmaydu. Gérmaniye parlamént ezalirining musteqil orni bar. Herqandaq kishining atikarchiliq qilip némini muzakire qilish, némini muzakire qilmasliqni belgilep bérishige ruxset qilinmaydu. Eksiche éytqanda, bizmu bundaq qilalmaymiz. Biz kishilik hoquq teshkilatliridin Uyghurlarning teqdirige munasiwetlik kishini endishige salidighan doklatlarni tapshurup alduq. Bu doklatlargha asaslan’ghanda, Uyghurlar qanunsiz lagérlargha mejburiy toplinip qattiq mu’amile we ten jazalirigha uchrimaqta. Xitay hökümiti qismen lagérlarni ‘qayta terbiyilesh merkizi’ dep atimaqta, hetta uni ‘kespiy yétishtürüsh merkizi’ dep perdazlimaqta. Uyghur rayonida xitay da’iriliri kaméralar arqiliq kochilarni nazaret qilmaqta, turalghularni axturmaqta, tor betler, éléktronluq eslihelerni nazaret qilmaqta, d n a ewrishkilirini toplash arqiliq puxralarni teqib astida tutmaqta, buning derijisi misali tépilmaydighan basquchqa yetti. Buning üchünmu fédéral parlaméntning bu xususta munazire élip bérishi intayin muhim idi.”

D u q ning yawropagha mes’ul wekili esqerjan ependi bu xususta toxtalghanda barbél koflér xanimning bayanlirining gérmaniye hökümitige wekillik qilidighanliqini, uning pikirlirining gérmaniye dölitining awazi ikenlikini eskertti.

Gérmaniye fédéral hökümiti kishilik hoquq komitétining mes’uli koflér xanim sözide yene xitayning kishilik hoquq depsendichilikining xitayning özlirining qanunlirighimu xilap ikenlikini, xelq’ara ehdinamilerge xilap ikenlikini, xitayning “Junggoche kishilik hoquq” ni gherb qimmet qarishi asasidiki heqiqiy kishilik hoquqning ornigha dessitishke urunuwatqanliqini, gherb qimmet qarishigha tehdit shekillendürüwatqanliqini, emma buning asan’gha chüshmeydighanliqini tekitlep, “Yiraqni közligende, xitayning ipade erkinliki, étiqad erkinliki qatarliq kishilik hoquqqa qarita yolgha qoyuwatqan qattiq basturush siyasiti emeliyette muqimsizliq yaritidighan asasiy amil” dégenlerni tilgha alghan. 

Myunxéndiki Uyghur jama’et erbabi ablimit tursun ependi gherb démokratik ellirining Uyghurlar mesilisige bolghan jiddiy mu’amilisining Uyghurlargha ümid béghishlawatqanliqini tilgha aldi. 

Uyghurlarning jaza lagérliri mesilisi nöwette xelq’arada jiddiy témilar qataridin orun almaqta. “Gérmaniye awazi” ning 14-noyabirdiki “Shinjang yer sharida eng jiddiy insanperwerlik krizisige duch kelmekte” namliq xewirige asaslan’ghanda, 10-noyabir küni teywenning merkizi teybéyde chaqirilghan “2018-Yilliq oslo erkinlik munbiri” yighinida Uyghur diyaridiki jaza lagérliri mesilisi nuqtiliq muzakirige qoyulghan.

Munasiwetlik xewerler

Gérmaniye parlaménti tarixida Uyghur mesilisi tunji qétim muzakire qilindi


Margérita bawzé xanim 5-iyul weqesining üch yilliqini xatirilesh namayishida nutuq sözlimekte. 2012-Yili 5-iyul. Gérmaniye.

Margérita bawzé xanim 5-iyul weqesining üch yilliqini xatirilesh namayishida nutuq sözlimekte. 2012-Yili 5-iyul. Gérmaniye.RFA/Ekrem00:00/00:00

Awazni köchürüsh

Yéqinqi aylardin béri dunyaning herqaysi jayliridiki insan heqliri xizmitige köngül bölüwatqan shexsler, jem’iyetler we axbarat orunlirining ortaq tirishchanliqi bilen Uyghurlar mesilisi téximu köp döletlerde emeliy hésdashliqlargha we qollashqa érishmekte.

Mushu ayning 6-küni birleshken döletler teshkilati xitaydiki kishilik hoquq mesilisini qerellik közdin kechürüsh yighinida Uyghurlarning kishilik hoquq mesilisi amérika, en’gliye, gérmaniye qatarliq 14 dölet teripidin otturigha qoyuldi. Aridin bir kün ötkendin kéyin gérmaniye fédéral parlaméntida millet wekillirining etigenlik nashta muzakirisining asasiy témisi boldi.
Gérmaniye parlaméntining Uyghurlar mesilisige neqeder köngül bölidighanliqi 8-noyabirda téximu ochuqchiliqqa chiqti. Gérmaniye fédéral parlaménti xitayning bérlinda turushluq elchixanisining qattiq naraziliqigha qarimay shu küni xitayning Uyghurlargha qaritiwatqan nöwettiki qattiq basturush teqiplirini muzakirige qoydi. Arqidin gérmaniye tashqi ishlar ministiri xayko ma’as özining ötken yekshenbe kündin bashlap xitayda élip barghan ziyariti jeryanida Uyghur diyaridiki jaza lagérliri mesilisini otturigha qoydi. Gérmaniye hökümiti tarixida yüz bériwatqan bu yéngiliqlar ötken heptidin béri gérmaniyediki her xil gézitler, radi’o-téliwiziye qanalliri, tor betliri we ammiwi axbarat wasitiliridin eng köp orun alghan qiziq nuqtigha aylandi.

Mushu ayning 8-küni sa’et 8 din 17 minut ötkende gérmaniye fédéral parlaméntining mu’awin bashliqi pétra pa’u xanim yéshillar partiyesi teripidin teyyarlan’ghan “Shinjangda yüz bériwatqan éghir derijidiki kishilik hoquqqa dexli-teruz yetküzüsh qilmishlirini toxtitish, éniqlash we jazalash” dégen témidiki iltimasning muzakire qilinidighanliqi élan qildi.

Arqidin yéshillar partiyesi kishilik hoquq guruppisining mes’uli margaréta ba’uzé xanim öz partiyesige wakaliten sözge chiqip, iltimasni parlamént wekillirining diqqitige sundi. 

Gérmaniyediki küchlük partiyelerdin yéshillar partiyesi teripidin teyyarlan’ghan bu iltimas gérmaniye dölet tarixida tunji qétim Uyghur mesilisining resmiy shekilde hökümetning eng yuqiri orgini bolghan parlaméntta otturigha qoyulushi idi.
Magaréta ba’uzé xanim munberge chiqip, emeliy misallar bilen bashlan’ghan iltimasini sunup, mundaq dédi: 

“Prézidént xanim, xizmetdashlirim! 

– Rahile dawut, 52 yash, xelq’arada tonulghan proféssor. Uyghur medeniyitini tetqiq qilghanliqi üchün qolgha élin’ghan.

– Perhat tursun, 49 yash, alahide közge körün’gen yazghuchi, eserliride Uyghur örp-adetlirige orun bergenliki üchün qolgha élin’ghan.

– Ilham turdi, arxitéktor, amérika puqrasi bolghan bir qiz bilen toy qilghanliqi üchün qolgha élin’ghan.

– Irfan hézim, 19 yash, alahide netije yaratqan putbolchi, putbol komandisi bilen birge chet’elge chiqqanliqi üchün qolgha élin’ghan.

– Muyesser muhemmet, 37 yash, üch perzentning anisi, qazaqistan wetendashliqigha iltimas qilghanliqi üchün qolgha élin’ghan.

Xizmetdashlirim, bu isimlar peqet xitayning gherbiy-shimalidiki shinjangda rehimsizlerche héchqandaq qolgha élish buyruqi bolmastin, sot échilmastin, adwokat we a’ile-tawabi’atlirigha xewermu bérilmestin jaza lagérigha qamalghan bir milyondin köp kishilerning bir qismi.”

Ba’uzé xanim Uyghur diyarining künimizde bu zéminning heqliq igiliri bolghan Uyghurlar üchün bir lagér dölitige aylandurulghanliqini bayan qilip؛ “Men silerning bu xil éghir derijidiki insan heqlirige dexli-teruz yetküzüsh qilmishini éniq tonup yétishinglarni we bu heqte adil höküm chiqirishinglarni telep qilimen,” dédi.

Herqaysi partiyelerdin saylan’ghan parlamént ezaliri yangratqan alqish sadaliri bilen köp qétim üzülüp qalghan bu doklatta ba’uzé xanim hökümetning dölet ichi we xelq’aradiki barliq amallarni qollinip, lagérlarni taqash, jinayetchilerni éniqlash we u jinayetchilerni jazalashni telep qilidighanliqi éytti. 

Iltimasta Uyghur diyarida élip bériliwatqan türlük zorawanliq, zulum we ziyankeshlikler etrapliq tonushturulghandin kéyin gérmaniye hökümitining xitay hökümitidin töwendikidek üch ishni alahide telep qilishi tekitlen’gen:

1. Uyghur diyarigha terepsiz közetküchi we zhurnalistlarning kirishige yol qoyush, Uyghur we qazaqlarni rehimsizlerche türkümlep qolgha élishni derhal toxtitish.

2. Barliq lagér we tutup turush orunlirini taqash, tutqunlarni derhal we shertsiz qoyup bérish.

3. Yuqiriqilardin bashqa yene ilham toxti qatarliq bir qatar ziyaliylarni qoyup bérish, tutqun qilin’ghanlarning a’ile-tawabi’atlirigha ularning ehwali heqqide tepsiliy melumat bérish.

Ba’uzé xanim iltimasini “Béyjing insan heqlirini iqtisadiy tereqqiyattin töwen orun’gha qoyushi mumkin. Emma, gérmaniye we yawropa üchün insan heqliri bibahadur” dégen jümle bilen ayaghlashturdi.

Ikkinchi bolup sözge chiqqan xristi’an démokratlar birliki we xristi’an sotsiyalistlar birliki wekili mixa’él brand ependi xitayning gherb ellirige iqtisadiy zorawanliq ishlitip qalmastin, belki gherb ellirining erkinlik sistémisighimu hujum qiliwatqanliqini eskertti. Yawropaningmu “Yéngi yipek yoli” témisida bir istratégiyege éhtiyajliq ikenlikini, bu arqiliq uzun mezgil iqtisadiy we siyasiy küchini saqlap qélishi kéreklikini tekitlidi. 

U doklatida yene Uyghur diyarida rehimsizlik bilen yolgha qoyuluwatqan her xil zorawanliq hem qiynash usullirini tilgha élip, xitay hökümiti uzundin béri dunya jama’etchilikidin yoshurup kéliwatqan bundaq esebiy, insan qélipidin chiqqan qilmishlarni pash qilghan kishilik hoquq organlirigha bolghan minnetdarliqini bildürdi. 
U yene kéler ayning bashlirida gérmaniye we xitay hökümetliri arisida élip bérilidighan insan heqliri söhbitige gérmaniyening tolimu estayidilliq bilen mexsus teyyarliq qilishi we xitay bilen bolghan mu’amilide yéngi bir dewr échishi kéreklikini tekitlidi. Sözining axirida u yene yéshillar teripidin sunulghan iltimasning delil-ispatliri yéterlik, estayidilliq bilen teyyarlan’ghanliqini, xristi’an démokratlar birliki we xristi’an sotsiyalistlar birlikiningmu kéler yérim yilliq insan heqliri pilanini “Diniy erkinlik: xitaydiki din’gha ishinidighan az sanliq milletlerning kishilik hoquq ehwali” dégen témida tüzüshni telep qilidighanliqi bildürdi.

Uningdin kéyin yene gérmaniye üchün altérnatif partiyesi, sotsiyal démokratlar partiyesi, erkin démokratlar partiyesi we bashqa partiyelerning gérmaniye parlaméntidiki wekilliri arqa-arqidin söz qilip, yéshillar partiyesi teyyarlighan iltimasni qollaydighanliqini, gérmaniyening xitay bilen bolghan iqtisadiy alaqiliride hergizmu kishilik hoquqtin ibaret menggülük qimmetni qurban qilmaydighanliqini bildürüshti.

Eslide 38 minut waqit bérilgen “Shinjangda yüz bériwatqan éghir derijidiki kishilik hoquqqa dexli-teruz yetküzüsh qilmishlirini toxtitish, éniqlash we jazalash” témisidiki iltimas muzakirisi 48 minut dawamliship tolimu qizghin munazirilerge sehne boldi.

Biz dunya Uyghur qurultiyining re’isi dolqun eysadin gérmaniye hökümiti tarixida künsayin küchiyiwatqan Uyghur mesilisige köngül bölüsh ehwali heqqide közqarashlirini soriduq. U özining gérmaniye puqrasi bolush süpiti bilen gérmaniyening shundaqla gherb démokratik dunyasining Uyghurlar mesiliside ijabiy qedemler éliwatqanliqini bildürdi.

Munasiwetlik xewerler

China increases security spending in East Türkistan

Detained and in danger: The tortured Australian families who fear for their missing loved ones

Increasingly helpless and desperate, Uighurs building new lives in Australian suburbs feel compelled to go public with their stories and identities despite the risks.

By Fergus Hunter17 NOVEMBER 2018

Uighurs residents in Australia hold photos of relatives who are missing in China.
Uighurs residents in Australia hold photos of relatives who are missing in China. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

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The security agents came for Adeham Abliz late on a Thursday night.

That day, September 8, 2016, had been much like any other in the 59-year-old Uighur man’s life in the city of Ghulja in north-western China.

Abliz, a shopkeeper, had performed his five daily prayers, starting with fajr at dawn through to isha after dusk. He had wandered through the neighbourhood and brought home groceries after a day of fasting in the lead-up to the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.

He would not be allowed to finish dinner. Around 11pm, two officers in plain clothes arrived at the house.

“We need to talk to you about something. You need to come with us,” they told Abliz, a devout Muslim who had provided religious teaching in the local community and kept religious texts in his house – marking him as a subject of suspicion for the Chinese Communist Party.

Abliz and his family resisted, demanding to know why he was being taken. Ignoring their desperate pleas, the two men escorted him outside and took him away.

“That was the last time I saw my father with my own eyes,” says his daughter, Meyassar Adham. The same day, she had been granted a visa to join her partner in Australia. Advised by her migration agent to urgently get out of Xinjiang province, she left a week later, bound for the safety of the Adelaide suburbs.

Her father was promptly sentenced to two years in prison for his religious practices. In September this year, it became clear he would not be set free. Now 61, Abliz was transferred to a mass detention camp, joining hundreds of thousands in a vast “re-education” network established over the last two years in Xinjiang, known as East Turkestan by independence-minded Uighurs. In the camps, they are forced to renounce their religion and culture and adopt Communist ideology. Reports suggest people have been abused and tortured for failure to comply.

Meyassar Adham fears for her father, who is detained in a mass detention camp in China.
Meyassar Adham fears for her father, who is detained in a mass detention camp in China. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Adham, raising one child and pregnant with another, is haunted by the memories. For members of Australia’s 3000-strong Uighur community, the story is not unusual.

Fairfax Media has conducted extensive interviews with more than a dozen Uighurs in Adelaide; all have relatives in detention and are struggling with the burden of knowing – or not knowing – the fate of parents, siblings, partners, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunties and friends swept up in the unprecedented crackdown. Increasingly helpless and desperate, the Australian-based Uighurs felt compelled to go public with their stories and identities despite the risks.

Their accounts – while consistent with a growing body of information aired by journalists, academics, human rights groups and the United Nations – are difficult to independently verify, given the lack of transparency around the Chinese government’s activities.Play VideoPlay Video06:46Uighur Australians speak out against China’s camps

They’ve built a life here, but for many in Australia’s Uighur community, it’s what they’ve left behind that haunts them.

There are common themes in many of the testimonies. A difficult departure from home seeking a better life; growing alarm from afar as the crackdown intensifies; contact with family becoming impossible as authorities prohibit contact with the outside world; sporadic warnings about the danger, sometimes conveyed in code or through third parties; scant details, desperately sought; children and elders left without people to take care of them.

Horigul Yusuf came to Australia in 2005, reunited with her husband after seven years apart. The religious family had a long and difficult history with the CCP. In Adelaide, she joined the largest Uighur community in Australia – about 1500 people across 300 families.

All of Yusuf’s brothers have been detained in internment camps or sentenced to prison. The 52-year-old last spoke to her elderly parents on October 22, 2017. “It was a short and sharp conversation,” she says. Her parents warned her to cease contact.

“People threatened us and said if you contact relatives overseas, we will send you to prison. They forced us to sign a paper saying we won’t be in contact,” she recalls her mother saying during the call.

Horigul Yusuf sheds tears as she speaks about her brother Abdulahad Yusuf.
Horigul Yusuf sheds tears as she speaks about her brother Abdulahad Yusuf.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Horigul Yusuf's grief has affected her life in Adelaide's suburbs.
Horigul Yusuf’s grief has affected her life in Adelaide’s suburbs. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Yusuf, a proud woman with intense, dark eyes, is visibly burdened by her family’s struggle and overcome with emotion as she talks about it.

“We live in this country freely and without difficulty. We can do whatever we want. But at the moment, it’s so hard for us. I can’t even explain. I can’t express how difficult it is. I don’t want to socialise with anyone, I just want to be at home and think about my family,” she says.

The Uighurs have had an uneasy relationship with Chinese rule for centuries. In the decades following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, there were multiple and short-lived efforts to establish an independent state. Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong’s forces then established control in 1949, incorporating Xinjiang into the People’s Republic of China. In the decades since, the CCP has met ongoing resistance and extremism with an iron fist.

Following outbreaks of unrest and a string of high-profile terror attacks, peaking in 2014, the Chinese government escalated efforts to curb Islamic practises and separatist sentiment. The authorities have banned religious clothing, including the face veil, and “abnormal” beards. Parents have been banned from giving their children names deemed religious.

The government has rolled out an immense network of security cameras and identification and body scanners in public places as part of a highly advanced surveillance state. Police interrogate citizens at checkpoints, search phones for suspicious material, lock down access to once-bustling public places, and forcibly collect voice recordings and biometric data. Fears are growing the cutting-edge surveillance methods could ultimately be deployed across China and exported internationally. Fairfax Media recently visited Xinjiang, observing the all-consuming security apparatus in action.

A Uighur woman and a child sit under China's national flag and a CCTV camera in Urumqi,  Xinjiang.
A Uighur woman and a child sit under China’s national flag and a CCTV camera in Urumqi, Xinjiang.CREDIT:FAIRFAX MEDIA
Photos from Sayfudin Shamseden's photo album of relatives and friends who entered the internment camps.
Photos from Sayfudin Shamseden’s photo album of relatives and friends who entered the internment camps.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

The centrepiece of the campaign has come in the form of the detention camps, now described as “vocational training centres” by authorities that, until recently, denied their very existence. Estimates about the number of detainees range from hundreds of thousands to a few million, with the United Nations highlighting reports of up to 1 million as credible.

The camps appear to vary across the region, with some detaining people 24/7 while others allow detainees to go home at night. Reports suggest the camps are filled on a quota basis, with people targeted by local authorities indiscriminately and without specific charges. Once the government focused its efforts on politically active and observant Muslims. Now the campaign captures all Uighurs and other minorities.

Last week, Australia was among 13 governments to raise Xinjiang in a scheduled UN Human Rights Council review of China’s record. Australia’s representatives outlined “alarm at the numerous reports of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups held incommunicado and often for long periods without being charged or tried”. The official statement warned the measures would exacerbate, not prevent, extremism.

Since acknowledging the existence of the camps, the Chinese government has released propaganda material presenting an idealised image of the facilities, where happy “trainees” enjoy “transformation through education”. This week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the world to ignore “gossip” and said the measures would prevent terrorism.

The CCP appointed a hardliner called Chen Quanguo as its top official in Xinjiang in 2016. Chen made his name as the party chief in the neighbouring province of Tibet, where he suppressed Buddhist resistance to CCP rule. Under his authority, security spending has expanded dramatically.

Nursa Mehmetjan, a 45-year-old woman from Ghulja – known as Yining in Chinese – was on the cusp of escaping the deteriorating situation in early 2017. She got engaged to Adelaide man Muhammad Abdullah and was set to join him within months.

Muhammad Abdullah with a photo of his missing fiancee Nursa Mehmetjan.
Muhammad Abdullah with a photo of his missing fiancee Nursa Mehmetjan.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

But after a two-week rendezvous in Malaysia with Abdullah, Mehmetjan returned home and the Chinese government put a stop to her plans. First, she was interrogated and her passport was taken away. In February 2018, she was taken to a nearby camp where she remains.

In a brief exchange of messages on February, Mehmetjan told her fiance she did not know how long she would be detained and warned him not to try and get in contact.

Abdullah, aged 81 and whose first wife died in 2016, says he could only wish Mehmetjan good luck.

China’s crackdown against Muslim minorities aims to socially engineer their identity to make them more loyal to the CCP, says Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch.

According to Wang, the efforts are unprecedented in their scale and use of technology.

“It is massive social engineering of a large number of people – not only people in the detention camps. There are people in other forms of detention and 13 million people in the region live life under severe control not dissimilar to life in the facilities,” she says.

A distressed Mahbuba Alim with friends and family in Adelaide.
A distressed Mahbuba Alim with friends and family in Adelaide.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Almas Nizamdin checks the news on the Uighur community on his phone.
Almas Nizamdin checks the news on the Uighur community on his phone.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Sayfudin Shamseden wearing a ring showing the flag of the East Turkestan independence movement.
Sayfudin Shamseden wearing a ring showing the flag of the East Turkestan independence movement.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

James Leibold, an expert on Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe University, says China has faced a problem with Islamist extremism but the response has been “completely disproportionate”, counter-productive, fuelled by racism, and fundamentally colonial.

Leibold says the efforts fit with a long-running pattern of Chinese government efforts to stamp out “deviant groups”, be they in Xinjiang, Tibet or elsewhere.

“We haven’t seen anything else on the scale of what appears to be these massive concentration camps, some of them with the capacity to house tens of thousands of detainees,” he says.

Xinjiang is also rich in natural resources and sits at the heart of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure, investment and trade strategy spanning Europe and Asia.

Renagul Tursun, a mother of three based in Adelaide, points to economic imperatives as China’s main reason for wanting to secure control in Xinjiang. She has not been in contact with relatives since December 2017 but understands her younger brother and two cousins have been detained.

“Even after coming to Australia, although we live in a safe country, day and night we live in fear and trauma because so much of our family are living such a stressful life over there and just waiting to be knocked down by the government,” she says. “Every day, before I sleep, I have to take medication otherwise I cannot sleep. It is affecting my mental condition. I am seeing a psychologist here on a regular basis.”

The Uighur community in Adelaide has vibrant religious, cultural and political scenes. It has grown over decades and is centred around the north-eastern suburbs, where the East Turkistan Australian Association oversees activities and practicing Muslims attend the Abu Bakr As-Siddique Mosque. Some Uighurs who initially migrated to Sydney and Melbourne have subsequently moved to Adelaide to be with the larger and more tight-knit community.

The culture has made its mark on broader Adelaide, which now has a number of authentic Uighur restaurants, including the large Tangritah Uyghur Restaurant that occupies a former church in the CBD.

Uighur children Efruz, Abdukuddus, Elif and Melek watch as a car pulls into their driveway at their home in Adelaide.
Uighur children Efruz, Abdukuddus, Elif and Melek watch as a car pulls into their driveway at their home in Adelaide.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Tursun Mollaisa and Abdulwali Muhammad during lunch.
Tursun Mollaisa and Abdulwali Muhammad during lunch.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Abdulwali Muhammad during evening prayers in a prayer room while dining at a Uighur restaurant that used to be a church.
Abdulwali Muhammad during evening prayers in a prayer room while dining at a Uighur restaurant that used to be a church.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Life in Adelaide offers hope but is not without its challenges. Two Uighurs tell Fairfax Media they are suffering from depression and receiving treatment.

“Every morning, I get up and these things will come to mind until I fall asleep. They will surround me all the time,” another says.

One person spoke of the coded pleas for help, sent from relatives via the Chinese messaging app WeChat.

“The weather is so harsh,” a relative said. “Strong winds.”

Wang, of Human Rights Watch, says the condemnation from Australia and elsewhere has been growing but is not enough.

“Australia has not been completely silent but I would say the volume has been very low and that would be taken as a sign of weakness by the Chinese government, that Australia doesn’t care much about human rights in China,” she says.

“If you don’t speak up when the Chinese government detains 1 million people in camps, then when are you going to speak up?”

Shahida Mahpirof, dressed in traditional attire during a Uighur community event in Adelaide.
Shahida Mahpirof, dressed in traditional attire during a Uighur community event in Adelaide.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

License this article

China is locking up its Muslim minorities, and pushing Islamophobia to get Europe to do it too

Business Insider
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xinjiang protester

China’s persecution of its Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang, western China, is gaining international focus. Here, a demonstrator in Istanbul wears a mask painted with the colors of the East Turkestan (or Xinjiang) and Chinese flags in 2009.OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

WERBUNGinRead invented by Teads

  • The Chinese government is receiving more and more heat over its persecution of the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority in the country’s west.
  • Beijing is responding by trying to stoke Islamophobia in Western countries to justify its controversial policies and even accuse those countries of hypocrisy.
  • Earlier this year a Chinese official cited terror attacks perpetrated by Islamic militants in Paris and Belgium to say that Europe was “failing” to curb Islamic extremism.
  • China’s critics aren’t buying it.

China is trying to stoke Islamophobia among Europeans to justify, and even export, its model of locking up their Muslim minorities as the troubling crackdown continues to grab global attention.

Beijing is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority, in the western region of Xinjiang. Many Uighurs refer to the region as East Turkestan.

Uighurs are placed under intense surveillance in their hometowns, with up to 1 million of them reportedly imprisoned in detention centers or re-education camps, where many are reportedly psychologically and mentally tortured.

Beijing sees its crackdown on Uighurs as a counterterrorism measure, and claimed the camps were “free vocational training” that make life “colorful.”

Read more: How a Chinese region that accounts for just 1.5% of the population became one of the most intrusive police states in the world

Xinjiang police

Beijing submits Uighurs under an unprecedented amount of surveillance. Here a police officer guards a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Lawmakers and international organizations are increasing pressure on China to stop these practices. But Beijing is not only ignoring their critics — it’s even trying to get them to follow their lead.

Over the past few weeks, China has, through official statements and editorials in state media, cited Islamic terror attacks in Europe to justify and promote its Xinjiang policy.

China: Maybe Europe should learn from us

Last week the country’s state-run Global Times tabloid ran an editorial accusing Europe of hypocrisy in their criticism of China’s human rights record.

It even suggested that European countries “discuss with China” how it can learn from Beijing’s model of suppressing Muslim minorities.

The writer, Ai Jun, said Europe “may have overlooked its own troubles,” and singled out Britain, France, and Germany as countries with large Muslim populations and which were — according to Ai — vulnerable to terrorist and extremist threats.

“Instead of judging China condescendingly, Europe might need to sit down and discuss with China how to figure out their common challenges,” Ai said.

china muslims xinjiang uyghur

Ethnic Uyghur members of the Communist Party of China carry a flag past a billboard of Chinese President Xi Jinping as they take part in an organized tour on June 30, 2017 in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. Kashgar has long been considered the cultural heart of Xinjiang for the province’s nearly 10 million Muslim Uyghurs. At an historic crossroads linking China to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, the city has changed under Chinese rule with government development, unofficial Han Chinese settlement to the western province, and restrictions imposed by the Communist Party. Beijing says it regards Kashgar’s development as an improvement to the local economy, but many Uyghurs consider it a threat that is eroding their language, traditions, and cultural identity. The friction has fueled a separatist movement that has sometimes turned violent, triggering a crackdown on what China’s government considers ‘terrorist acts’ by religious extremists. Tension has increased with stepped up security in the city and the enforcement of measures including restrictions at mosques. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

In September, Li Xiaojun, a spokesman for China’s state council information office, also cited terror attacks in Brussels and Paris carried out by Islamic extremists over the past three years to hit back at Western critics.

Referring to detention centers, Li said according to Reuters: “If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism. Because the West has failed in doing so, in dealing with religious Islamic extremism.”

“Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

Muslims pray at a mosque during Ramadan in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, July 6, 2015. Picture taken July 6, 2015 REUTERS/China Daily

Muslims pray at a mosque during Ramadan in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous RegionThomson Reuters

Peter Irwin, a project manager at the World Uyghur Congress in Munich, told Business Insider: “I think China’s tapping into Islamophobia that does certainly exist in the West, but what we’re witnessing in China isn’t merely Islamophobia. It’s the forced assimilation of an entire ethnic group based on historic notions of Chinese superiority.”

“China only uses Islamophobic rhetoric retroactively as a means of gaining support from its own domestic population,” he added.

Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post’s former China correspondent, dismissed the Global Times’ criticism of European critics as “Twitter trolling,” but warned that its policy of detaining Muslims to counter terror “is the actual position of the Chinese government right now.”

Read more: Photos show huge expansion of Chinese facility where Muslim minorities say they are persecuted and forced to sing hymns to Xi Jinping

Xinjiang checkpoint

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, residents walk through a security checkpoint into the Hotan Bazaar where a screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hotan in western China’s Xinjiang region.AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

It’s not working

China’s policy of attacking countries that criticized its own human rights issues is not new, and it doesn’t seem to be working, either. In fact, Western countries are ramping up their actions against China over the Uighur issue.

This week alone, Reuters reported that 15 Western ambassadors in Beijing were seeking a meeting with Chen Quanguo — the Chinese official believed to have masterminded the Xinjiang crackdown — to demand an explanation over China’s Xinjiang crackdown.

On Wednesday, US lawmakers drafted a bipartisan bill urging the White House to punish China, by way of possible export bans and financial sanctions, over its persecution of the Uighurs.

And on Monday, UN experts in Geneva sent a scathing letter to the Chinese government, seen by Business Insider, describing China’s Xinjiang policies as “incompatible with China’s obligations under international human rights law.”

Last month the European Parliament also issued a motion calling on China to “immediately end the mass arbitrary detention” of Uighurs, close all the camps, and allow “free, unhindered access for journalists and international observers to Xinjiang province.”

xinjiang uighur man police

A police officer checks a Uighur man’s ID documents in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in March 2017.Thomas Peter/Reuters

Irwin told Business Insider: “China’s consistent refrain in response to allegations of human rights abuses has been to point the finger back at its accusers and remind them that they, too, have their own problems.”

“This line of argumentation isn’t at all convincing. Although it is true that rights abuses exist the world over, you can’t paper over your own record through returned accusations,” Irwin added. “If this were the case, all states would accept bad behavior and nothing would change.”

Read more: China tells Congress to back off after planned legislation looks to sanction Beijing over imprisoning Muslims

U.N. Rights Officials Criticize China Over Muslim Internments

Uighur Muslims demonstrated in Brussels in September against China’s mass detention of Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang.CreditEmmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Uighur Muslims demonstrated in Brussels in September against China’s mass detention of Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang.CreditCreditEmmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Nick Cumming-Bruce

  • Nov. 13, 2018


GENEVA — United Nations human rights officials have sharply condemned regulations issued by China that seek to provide a legal basis for the mass internment of Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Six United Nations officials and rights experts said in a letter sent on Monday to the Chinese government that the regulations were a violation of international law, and they urged that those responsible be held accountable.

The regulations were issued by the authorities in Xinjiang in western China, who said they were intended “to contain and eradicate” extremism.

The United Nations experts contended that the new rules to justify mass internments in “re-education centers’’ were based on overly broad definitions of extremist behavior and amounted to criminalizing the legitimate exercise of basic rights.


The experts said the regulations were “incompatible with China’s obligations under international human rights law.”

Western reporting and academic research in recent months have exposed a crackdown on Xinjiang’s Uighur population and other minorities in which as many as one million people, about one-tenth of the region’s population, have disappeared into re-education camps. In addition, nearly all aspects of daily life and religious practice have become minutely regulated.

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Among those who participated in preparing the letter were Elina Steinerte and Bernard Duhaime, who are members of United Nations panels monitoring enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions; David Kaye, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression; and Fernand Varennes, an expert on minority rights.

An example of what they viewed as overreach by the Chinese officials was references in the regulations that identified extremism as the “spreading of religious fanaticism through irregular beards” or the selection of names.

The regulations stated the authorities’ intention to make religion “more Chinese and under law and actively guide religions to become compatible with socialist society.’’

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“We would like to highlight that the homogenization of society and the aim to make religion ‘more Chinese’ are not considered legitimate aims under international law,” the experts said. They also argued that the coercive nature of the re-education centers meant they amounted to detention camps.

The statement appeared likely to hit a raw nerve in Beijing with its forceful critique of a policy closely associated with President Xi Jinping’s drive to stabilize Xinjiang, a region that has increasing strategic significance in China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative to connect the country with Central Asia and Europe.

In August, Chinese officials denied to a United Nations panel that it was engaged in mass internments. Since then, China has begun a campaign through the state media defending its policies as a humane initiative, saying that it was providing vocational training for Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities, protecting vulnerable populations from the scourge of extremism and generating employment opportunities.

The human rights experts said they were concerned that the Xinjiang regulations and other measures to suppress dissent applied across China not only violated basic rights, but by “creating pockets of fear, resentment and alienation” could lead to more radicalization and extremism.

The other rights experts who participated in drafting the letter were Ahmed Shaheed, who monitors freedom of religion and belief, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, who follows the protection of human rights in the context of counterterrorism measures.

Their critique came only a week after China defended its record at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, claiming “tangible and enormous progress” in promoting and protecting “human rights with Chinese characteristics” and dismissing criticism as politically motivated.