As China becomes more powerful, who is really paying the price?

The news that often dominates topics on China is its fast-economic growth and its trade war with the U.S., but we don't often enough hear about their appalling human rights records.

The massive number of human rights abuses by the Chinese government is diabolical. From the illegal detention of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang who has been tortured in prison since 2015 to harassment of journalists covering human right and their interviewees. The ongoing abuse of human rights in Tibet, where the Chinese government restricts religious freedom, speech, movement, and assembly. China also arrests and forcefully returns North Koreans to their country even though they face torture sexual abuse, and imprisonment.

And although the above fails to get much media attention these days, it is Hong Kong whose protests have lit the skies. The Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill movement has been going on for months with no end in sight, and have triggered the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill brought on by the Hong Kong government. According to The New York Times:

“The bill would allow Hong Kong to detain and transfer people wanted in countries and territories with which it has no formal extradition agreements, including Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.”

But the victory for Hong Kong protestors came when democratic candidates gained seats in last weekend’s local elections, sending a clear message to China’s dictatorial regime of Xi Jinping that they will continue to fight against him and his government.

Chinese government scrapped term limits for the presidency, making Xi a president for life. He has introduced powers that in any democracy would be considered human rights violations, and those powers are mostly evident against ethnic minority groups but in particular against the Uyghur people.

Uyghurs are a minority Turic ethnic group culturally affiliated with central and East Asia region, but they are native of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. In the tenth century, they began with Islamisation, and by the 16th century, they became Muslims. Their culture and identity are Islamic, and they are recognized as natives to only one region, Xinjiang.

The recently leaked 400-page internal Chinese government documents show that China has built detention centers forcefully housing Uygurs as prisoners without a trial. The intention is to fully indoctrinate them, brainwash them to change what they believe in terms of religion, and even force them to change the language they speak, Kazakh, they must all speak Mandarin according to the leaked documents.

There are between 900,000 and 1.3 million Uyghurs that have been locked up in those camps, and it is considered to be the largest internment of ethnic minorities since the Holocaust. Detention centers are wholly equipped with surveillance cameras even in bathrooms, so they know what Uyghurs do at all times. Women get two minutes to use the toilet, and if they are late, Chinese guards use electric shock to the back of the detainee's heads, and afterward, the detainees must say:

“Thank you, teacher. It won’t happen again.”

They are locked up for their religion, language, and because their ties are to places outside of China and not Beijing. Secondly, because they may have WhatsApp on their phone. China’s security services have identified 1.8m Uyghurs for having a data sharing app on their phone.

“Where suspected terrorism cannot be ruled out, people should be placed in detention camps.”

The terrorist links stories are made up by Chinese authority's propaganda machine to justify the imprisonment of the ethnic minority. They are locked up so they can be "transformed".

If a person uses the wrong door of their house, they are automatically suspicious. And this is known to the Chinese because they have surveillance cameras all around the Xinjiang watching every house.

As one teacher who used to work in a detention camp, said:

“We teach them ‘I can’t live without the Communist Party,’ but it’s not about teaching them it’s about destroying them.”

For the duration of their incarceration, they must learn and sit exams, and if they pass their exams, then they could leave the detention center. But even when they leave, they are not free, because they must work in clothes making factories for free for three months. So next time you put on that shirt that has “Made in China” label think of the Uyghurs who are used as slaves by Communist China.

If and only if Uyghurs get to leave the detention camp, they can only do so after a year, and four members of the Chinese government must sign an authorization to allow them to leave, but only if they are considered transformed.

Chinese Ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, called the leaked document “fake news” because it did not suit him nor his government's agenda. Instead, he called detention center “vocational educational training centers designed to prevent terrorism.”

The appalling treatment of Uyghurs by the Chinese government should not be swept aside as just another human right violation, nor should any violation by the Chinese government be ignored, it is time that appropriate sanctions are in place against the Chinese. But still, no matter how much noise we in the West make for the oppressed in China or Hong Kong, countries will still run to make deals with China for their cheap and poorly made products.

Instead of going forward and improving human rights, China is adopting Chairman Mao’s abuses and inflicting them on their ethnic minorities. Whatever future holds for the oppressed in China, one thing is sure, those in Hong Kong will lead the way for change, and maybe this is the shakeup China needs.

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