Uighurs

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    In News 

    • Recently, Forty-three countries have called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang.

    About 

    • The declaration, signed by the United States as well as several European and Asian member states and others.
      • They accused China of a litany of human rights violations against the Uighurs, including torture, forced sterilisation and forced disappearances.
    • Countries call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office.

    Who are Uyghurs / Uighurs?

    • The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim minority Turkic ethnic group, whose origins can be traced to Central and East Asia. 
    • Their native region is considered to be the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. 
      • There are also smaller Uyghur communities living in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Afghanistan, Norway, Turkey, Belgium, Russia, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.
    • The Uyghurs are considered to be one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minority communities in China. 
    • However, China recognises the community only as a regional minority and rejects that they are an indigenous group.

    Why are they facing issues?

    • Xinjiang is technically an autonomous region within China.
      •  The region, rich in minerals, and shares borders with eight countries, including India, Pakistan, Russia and Afghanistan.
    • The Uighurs are Muslim, they don’t speak Mandarin as their native language, and have an ethnicity and culture that is different from that of mainland China.
    • Over the past few decades, as economic prosperity has come to Xinjiang, it has brought with it in large numbers the majority Han Chinese, who have cornered the better jobs, and left the Uighurs feeling their livelihoods and identity were under threat.
      • This led to sporadic violence, in 2009 culminating in a riot that killed 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, in the region’s capital Urumqi.
    • According to reports, since 2016, over a million Uyghur Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang re-education camps by the Chinese Government.
      • The main purpose of these re-education camps was to ensure adherence to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party
    • Pakistan’s disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders the Xinjiang region, is a critical part of the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 
      • While the territory has mutual importance for Islamabad and Beijing, Pakistan has found itself accommodating Chinese political and diplomatic needs, which include cracking down on Uighurs in the region. 
      • Recently, Pakistan has used counter-terrorism measures against Uighur militants affiliated with South Asian jihadist groups and has begun seeking out Uighurs for deportation.

    Accusation on China

    • Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labour, systematic forced birth control and torture, and separating children from incarcerated parents.
    • Several countries, including the US, Canada and the Netherlands, have accused China of committing genocide – defined by international convention as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
    • China has been forcibly mass sterilising Uyghur women to suppress the population, separating children from their families, and attempting to break the cultural traditions of the group.
    • A UN human rights committee in 2018 said it had credible reports that China was holding up to a million people in “counter-extremism centres” in Xinjiang.
    • The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found evidence in 2020 of more than 380 of these “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, an increase of 40% on previous estimates.

    China’s stand 

    • China denies all allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, claiming its system of “re-education” camps are there to combat separatism and Islamist militancy in the region.
    • It has long denied accusations of ethnic cleansing against Uighurs and other Muslim Turkic people in Xinjiang.
    • China was willing to host a “friendly” visit to the region, but did not agree to an inquiry by the UN human rights commissioner.
    • China accused Washington, Paris and London of having a “terrible human rights record.
      • It accused the U.S. of “ethnic cleansing” against Native Americans and accused France of committing “crimes against humanity” in its former colonies.

    Response of Global Community

    • A host of Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Pakistan — have resisted condemning China for its treatment of the Uighurs and have accommodated China on a number of issues, including deportation.
    • The Turkish government has been extending asylum to Uighurs since 1952
    • the United States has sounded the alarm about Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang and outside of its borders
      • In June 2020, the Trump Administration passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, a federal law that has brought considerable international attention to human rights abuses. 
    • The Human Rights Watch had released a report in 2017 calling upon the Chinese government to immediately free the detainees and shut down the political education centres. 

    India’s Response 

    • The Indian government has maintained near silence on the Uyghur crisis.

    Way Forward

    • The countries should reconsider their position and urge China to immediately stop the persecution of Uyghur.
    • India should care about the Uyghur issue and become informed about what is happening and it needs to join the multilateral push to bring China to account for the Uyghur genocide. 

    Source: TH