China is being accused of serious human rights violations against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in the far-west region of Xinjiang. In a report released by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, China is accused of jailing Muslims without trial on false pretexts. The U.N. report released last month states there are “numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.” China, of course, denies the allegations are true.
China has been trying for decades to restrict the practice of Islam and keep an iron grip on the Xinjiang province where about 12 million ethnic Muslims reside. After repeated antigovernment attacks, Communist Party chief Xi Jinping began a harsh crackdown in 2014 on Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in order to convert them to loyal citizens and Communist supporters. Xi told officials last year that “Xinjiang is in an active period of terrorist activities, intense struggle against separatism and painful intervention to treat this.”
The United Nations says it has received many credible reports that up to 1 million ethnic Uyghurs are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.” Other human rights groups have also drawn attention to China’s actions against its Muslim minorities. Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an activist group, said in a July report that 21 percent of all arrests in China take place in Xinjiang.
There have been growing calls in the United States and Europe for China to halt its actions in Xinjiang. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. said it was deeply troubled by the new reports. “We call on China to end their counterproductive policies and free all of those who have been arbitrarily detained,” said State Department spokeswomen Heather Nauert. By contrast, leaders of major Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Pakistan have, as of three weeks after the U.N. report, not issued any statements on the matter.