Reports highlight plight of Uyghur Muslims in China

Two reports this week show the struggles faced by Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

The Center for Uyghur Studies (CUS) released a report examining China’s disinformation campaigns in the Islamic World. Meanwhile, a forensic investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Muslims in Xinjiang are flagged as ‘extremists’ for simply practising their faith.

According to the CUS report titled “Islamophobia in China and Attitudes of Muslim Countries,” China is running a campaign to deter Muslims from expressing concerns about the religious persecution faced by the Uyghurs.

Last year Muslim countries were condemned for voting against a UN discussion about human rights abuses faced by the community in China.

The call for the discussion came after the UN released a damning report last August about the grave human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.

“Presenting itself as a “friend” of the Islamic world, the Chinese regime’s anti-Islamic and anti Muslim policies and measures across the country, especially in East Turkistan, have made China one of the most Islamophobic countries in the world today,” the report says.  

“Today, there is no other country that is demolishing mosques and sending millions of Muslims to concentration camps like China,” it adds.

Muslims states accused of failing Uyghurs

The 88-page report details the origins of China’s hostility towards faiths and ideologies that oppose communist and atheistic ideals.

It examines the Chinese Communist Party’s historical policies to “sinicize” and criminalise Islam and Muslims since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

The report also documents the various aspects of China’s “war on Islam in East Turkistan” throughout the last seven decades.

The think-tank argues that Muslim nations have displayed a lack of concern for the Uyghur Muslims and accuses the Organization of Islamic Cooperation of failing the Muslim minority group.

Abdulhakim Idris, Executive Director of Center for Uyghur Studies, said: “Today, the Chinese regime is waging a war on Islam in East Turkistan and committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. However, the Islamic World is yet to recognise the real nature of the Chinese regime due to the mass disinformation campaign the Chinese regime is carrying out among Muslim countries.”  

“With the release of this report, we hope to shed light on China’s Islamophobic policies and educate the Muslims to see the real face of the Chinese regime.”

Muslim-majority countries have been reluctant to hold China accountable for its treatment of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.  

China is an important trading partner for many Muslim countries, giving it influence and leverage over those countries.

China monitoring phones of Uyghurs

The HRW investigation accused the Chinese authorities of monitoring the phones of Uyghurs for files they consider “extreme” — even the possession of the Quran can trigger a police interrogation.  

The forensic investigation found that China has compiled a list of 50,000 multimedia files that it considers extreme.

Analysing the metadata of this list, the investigation found that for 9 months during 2017 to 2018, police conducted almost 11 million searches of 1.2 million mobile phones in Xinjiang’s capital city of Urumqi. This was made possible by Xinjiang’s automated police mass surveillance systems.

When the files were analysed, it was discovered that 57% were just typical Islamic religious materials, including surahs from the Quran.  

“The Chinese government’s abusive use of surveillance technology in Xinjiang means that Uyghurs who simply store the Quran on their phone may trigger a police interrogation,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch.  

“Concerned governments should identify the technology companies involved in this mass surveillance and social control industry and take appropriate action to end their involvement.”

The group has repeatedly expressed concerns about China’s methods for dealing with what they label “terrorism” and “extremism.”

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