In 2017 Xi Jinping at the Communist Party conference stressed that all religions must be ‘Chinese-oriented’. Over the years his party’s policies have been suppressing the voice of the Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China. Groupings like the Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC) which talk about Muslim solidarity and brotherhood, the 57-member organisation often brings the Kashmir issue to the table but one can hardly find any reaction of OIC against the Chinese genocide of Uighur Muslims. In recent decades the population of Uighurs has declined from 80 percent to 45.8 percent whereas the Han population grew from 5 percent to 40 percent in the Xinjiang region (1941 to 1981). The Uighur activists have also alleged Chinese authorities of destroying mosques and tombs. Since 2017 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has constructed more than 1200 detention camps for Uighur Muslims with an investment of $700mn. In this blogpost, we are going to explore what explains OIC hypocrisy on China.
In March 2022, the 48th session of the Council of Foreign ministers organised by OIC invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as a ‘special guest’ and thanked him for the developmental work that Beijing is doing for the Muslim population in different countries under its Border and Road Initiative (BRI).
Whereas, on the other hand, OIC talks about full solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and asks New Delhi to reverse its actions taken on 5 August 2019 (Article 370). Statements like these highlight the double standards of OIC, and point out that they are speaking for Kashmir while also keeping silent on Uighurs working under the influence of some powers. They also support China whenever there is criticism against China for its repressive policies against Uighurs (UNHRC is one such example when the US-led motion asked for a debate on human rights violations in Xinjiang).
Who are Uighur Muslims?
In China, they reside near the Xinjiang region, which is also known as ‘the new frontier’, and earlier it was part of the Russian Empire. They are a Muslim minority of the Turkish ethnic group, whose origin can be traced to Central Asia and East Asia. A significant number of Uighur Muslims also reside in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
It is estimated that China has detained around 1 million Uighur Muslims in detention camps, where they had forced psychological indoctrination as they had to read the ideology of the Communist Party of China and give thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping. They had to suffer sexual abuse and other forms of torture (like forcing women to get sterilisation) if they didn’t follow the doctrinarian process.
Accompanied by a ‘Shoot at sight’ order for any individual who tries to escape the camp, there is high-level surveillance to see that they don’t get to consume any content other than what the Chinese authorities want them to see.
Satellite images suggest that the number of these camps is increasing at a rapid pace.
What explains OIC Hypocrisy on China?
Members of OIC are mainly authoritative countries and China uses this to its advantage by not interfering in their domestic politics and supporting them in protecting their sovereignty and territorial integrity (to prevent the other Arab Spring). China provides them unconditional loans without questioning them over human rights violations, rule of law, and other social factors, for example, Pakistan which is under scrutiny for its state-sponsored terrorism received a loan of $62 billion for infrastructure under China’s BRI. The Foreign Ministry of China stated it will invest over $400 billion in nearly 600 projects across the Muslim-majority countries under the BRI. Beijing, taking the course of energy diplomacy, has become the regular crude oil export destination for Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Oman. On the religious front, there is China Islamic Association (CIA), a government body to discuss Islamic discourse and looks after their religious activities.
The Reaction of the Global Community against the Uighurs Persecution
In August 2022, a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that ‘serious human rights violations’ against the Uighur and ‘other predominantly Muslim communities have been committed.
The US, with other like-minded countries (including G7), has called for uniting against China and providing all assistance to the victims, and has also asked for independent investigators to be allowed access to the controversial region of Xinjiang for proper investigations as this is a ‘Crime against Humanity’.
China’s response to the report was as follows, “The so-called assessment is orchestrated and produced by the US and some western forces. It is completely illegal and null and void,” (Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin).
Time and again, China has escaped global interrogations regarding its problematic policies and manages to somehow justify its actions and push the issues in question under the carpet. This is possible because of the upper hand China has economically, and many other privileges like the Veto power. It has so far been successful in maintaining a cordial and diplomatic relationship with a majority of countries in the world, but it is high time that it is called out for all the atrocities they subject the Uighur Muslims to, and they get justice and also end OIC hypocrisy on China.