China issued a white paper on historical matters concerning Xinjiang, home of the Uyghur people. The white paper said “Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory and has never been the so-called East Turkistan. The Uygur ethnic group came into being through a long process of migration and integration, it said, adding that the region is part of the Chinese nation.”
In the 2000 census, Han Chinese made up 40% of the population, as well as large numbers of troops stationed in the region. The Han Chinese are said to be given the best jobs and the majority do well economically, something that has fuelled resentment among Uyghurs.
The white paper said “different cultures and religions coexist in Xinjiang and ethnic cultures had been fostered and developed in the embrace of the Chinese civilisation. But the surge in religious extremism around the world has caused a rise in religious extremism in Xinjiang and has resulted in an increasing number of incidents of terror and violence.”
As a result, more than one million ethnic Uighurs are believed to be held in internment camps. The authorities call them “re-education through labour camps”, but victims say the reality is forced indoctrination for Uighurs held in alarming conditions.
The Chinese government, however, claims that the camps are merely vocational and training centers intended to combat extremism, and that they’re teaching detainees useful and valuable skills.
The Uighurs are subject to intense surveillance by the Chinese government. Cameras and police check points are everywhere. Uighurs have to install a mandatory app on their mobile phones that monitors all calls. The Chinese are tracking the movements of at least 2.5 million residents in Xinjiang.
The white paper indicates that China has every intention to continue the surveillance and indoctrination regime. One of the reasons why is that the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang is the northern bridgehead of the China Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC). The CPEC is intended to promote connectivity across Pakistan with a network of highways, railways, and pipelines accompanied by energy, industrial, and other infrastructure development projects to address critical energy shortages needed to boost Pakistan’s economic growth.
Although Beijing is quick to downplay geostrategic motivations behind the CPEC, many commentators have noted that over the long run, an overland link across Pakistan to the Arabian Sea could help alleviate the “Malacca dilemma,” China’s vulnerability to the fact that roughly 85 percent [PDF] of its oil imports travel through the single chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca.
Now it all falls into place, doesn’t it? China needs to keep the oil flowing and if there is the potential that a couple of million Uighurs could disrupt the flow then they will be dealt with in China’s time-proven fashion. Just to be sure.
I wonder how the Pakistani Muslims reconcile their indifference to the mistreatment of their Muslim brothers and sisters in Xinjiang with the Surah An-Nahl 16:90 of the Quran: “Surely Allah enjoins justice, kindness and the doing of good to kith and kin, and forbids all that is shameful, evil and oppressive.”