Uyghurs: Let's Make a Difference

The Uyghurs are a Muslim Turkic minority whose territory became subject to China’s authority at the beginning of the 20th century after their empire dissolved.

To completely assimilate the Uyghur population, in 1949, the Chinese government offered financial incentives to the Han, the Chinese ethnic majority, to move to Xinjiang. This policy led to an influx of Han Chinese immigrating and leading to the Uyghurs becoming the ethnic minority.

Uyghurs faced job insecurity, had their farmland seized, were denied positions within the government, and faced systemic harassment to marginalize their way of life.

Several Uyghur groups have unsuccessfully advocated for autonomy and to free themselves from governmental oppression. Still, the abundance of resources, such as oil, has drastically increased the region’s value and incentivized China to retain control.

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Concentration camps in Xinjiang

3 Million

Up to 3M Uyghurs held in 2019

34%

Population underwent sterilization in 2019

30%

Mosques demolished

50%

Uyghur cultural sites destroyed

Overview

The Uyghur people are continuously questioning if it is safe to practice the most fundamental aspects of Islam. Perpetual governmental surveillance creates a fog of fear in their daily lives and often leads to isolation.

Those who are found guilty of praying, outwardly appearing Muslim, or any other act deemed ‘seditious’ by the PRC, are transported to concentration camps.

In these re-education or de-radicalization camps, the PRC endeavors to create the ideal Chinese citizen and imbue a strong sense of patriotism and admiration for their president, Xi Jinping. Any person who resists or is not considered to have made sufficient progress is abused either physically or verbally.

Several reports of forced labor and torture, including food and sleep deprivation and solitary confinement, have been published. There have been numerous claims of Uyghur organ harvesting in these Chinese camps.

The most profound effects may be considered psychological as the Uyghur people are forced to apologize for their way of life, religion, and speaking a dialectical variation of Turkish. This process of re-education asserts the idea that Chinese practices are the only respectable and civilized forms.

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Chinese Aggression

China views the Uyghurs’ religious and cultural identity as incompatible with their Communist ideals and fears they hold extremist and separatist ties. This view is fueled by the same irrational fear of the Tibetan and Christian community and is in line with creating a fully homogenous state.

Due to the Uyghurs’ political and economic marginalization in their homeland, there have been consistent protests until 2009, when the situation resulted in extensive riots in the Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital.

After two hundred fatalities ensued, the government responded by further oppressing the Uyghurs, inciting resistance and attacks against the government. Initial PRC response relied upon increasing checkpoints to restrict their freedom of movement, and surveillance through facial and voice recognition technology and internet monitoring.

In 2017, in a further attempt to repress and ‘re-educate’ the Uyghur people, the government built numerous concentration camps, frequently referred to as vocational training centers. Leaked documents have proven what was widely suspected – the focus of the camps is to erase heritage and replace Islam with Communist ideals.

The detention centers violate fundamental human rights, such as freedom of movement and religion. They are liable for several crimes against humanity through organ harvesting and sexual violence.

Although limited information is available, there is strong evidence to suggest children are separated from their parents who are sent to concentration camps. These children are sent to concentration camps disguised as orphanages, where they become thoroughly indoctrinated in the CCP value set.

Our Approach

We believe it is imperative to stand collectively and decisively against these abuses. It is a fundamental human right to practice one’s religion without fear, and this right must be safeguarded vigilantly.

It is not an option to remain silent, especially when the Uyghur people are at risk of cultural erasure at their government’s hands. Millions face imminent danger exclusively because of their religion, and thousands have been kidnapped and held against their will with no accountability.

China has begun to prosecute several denominations, as widespread as Christianity and Buddhism, seemingly seeking to eradicate its citizens’ individuality in the name of their communist ideology. Stand with us as we protest the genocide and seek justice for our Uyghur brothers and sisters.

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POLICY

Advocating for common sense legislation with a direct impact on freeing the Uyghurs.

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MULTI-FAITH

Working with faith leaders in Houston and throughout Texas to build more capacity.

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EDUCATION

Amplifying the voices of the Uyghur people through programming and partnerships.

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TARGETED ACTIONS

Drawing attention to stakeholders complicit or enabling the plight of the Uyghur people.

Uyghur Crimes

The Chinese government seeks to identify those whose values diverge from theirs. They survey their citizens in every aspect of their life to discover those that do not follow the nation’s norms and send those who deviate to concentration camps.

Citizens spend their days suspended in fear, unsure of when they will be removed from their homes. They restrict their daily routines and live a semblance of their former lives in hopes they will not be subjected to the torture and countless human rights violations.

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Praying

Uyghurs are discouraged from praying in public and more than once a week. Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam,  but they cannot enter a mosque in China without registering with their government.

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Muslim Appearance

Targeted based on their appearance, growing a beard and wearing the hijab are both emblems of the Islamic faith, but their visibility is often interpreted as willful disregard of their government’s desires.

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Avoiding Forbidden Practices

Drinking, smoking, and gambling are forbidden in Islam and so the government tends to view citizens who suddenly abandon these practices as a threat with the potential for religious extremism.

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Foreign Lands and Relatives

Traveling to any of the holiest sites in Islam, including Mecca and Jerusalem, draws considerable attention from the government and nearly guarantees detention upon return.

Must-See Videos

Learn more about the situation in Xinjiang province from different perspectives with these three videos.

FREQUENT QUESTIONS

Nations are becoming increasingly critical of the treatment of the Uyghurs and many have issued statements expressing their concern and disapproval. Twenty-two nations, predominantly located in Europe, have signed a letter addressed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, although thirty-seven responded in four days to defend China and depicted the issue as one of sovereignty. Activists have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court, asking that officials of the Chinese government are investigated for crimes against Uyghurs, specifically genocide.

China has steadfastly maintained their citizens in Xinjiang are receiving vocational training to combat the infiltration of terrorism, extremism and separatism. They have strongly resisted international interference and opposed the UN human rights chief’s demand to grant monitors access to Xinjiang. China and Beijing have both contended they have not perpetrated human rights abuses.

Researchers gather government documents and construction bids for the camps just as journalists rely upon primary sources to leak critical information. They also utilize satellite imagery, including the services provided by Google Earth, when they are not able to access primary sources.

The Chinese government has prohibited acts capable of promoting religious fanaticism, including wearing a veil, having an abnormal beard, or giving a child a name that differs from the Chinese ethnic majority’s tradition. They have begun efforts to end the use of halal products if they are not food, such as toothpaste, to assure the separation of state and religion and prevent religious extremism.

Xinjiang is a central logistics hub of the Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar infrastructure project led by Beijing. It is located along the Silk Road and intended to boost China’s global economic and political influence. The region additionally holds several of the largest reserves of minerals, approximately thirty-eight percent of the coal, and more than twenty-five percent of the petroleum and natural gas reserves within the nation.

The Chinese government strives to maintain cultural and religious uniformity. President Xi Jinping issued a directive in 2017, mandating that religions in China be Chinese in orientation and adapt themselves to socialist society. Similarly, Communist party members and bureaucrats have been told to speak Mandarin Chinese in public instead of local dialects.

Many nations have remained silent, although Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia have condemned the actions of the Chinese government. Others, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar, have asserted it is the government’s right to internment to assure national security and protect their country from terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.

They have different languages, religions, and ethnicities. The Uyghurs’ culture more closely resembles and overlaps with Central Asia, especially Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and nations with a Turkic majority.