China

China's Mass Internment of Uighurs Is a 'Modern Cultural Genocide'

Activist Nury Turkel discusses the vast network of camps that may hold over a million Uighurs in western China.

|

HD Download

In western China, there's a growing network of what journalists, former inmates, and the U.S. government are calling "concentration camps"—or what the Chinese government refers to as "vocational training centers." They're believed to hold between 1 and 3 million people, and perhaps as much as one-quarter of the Muslim population of Xinjiang province.

Outside the camps, Xinjiang is described by its Uighur residents as a police state, in which the Chinese government subjects the population to round-the-clock surveillance. Expressions of traditional culture have been criminalized, with the intention of imposing Chinese cultural unity on a multicultural region.

Xinjiang, a region the size of Alaska, is home to 23 million people, 45 percent of whom are Uighurs, a people who identify closely with the culture of central Asia. The remainder are mostly Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group of mainland China.

Government officials initially denied the existence of the camps. Confronted with overwhelming evidence from satellite photography, witness testimonies, and internal communist party documents, Beijing was finally forced to acknowledge their existence.

Officials now say that the camps are necessary to counter Islamic terrorism and quell a violent separatist movement—such as the Uighur riots in 2009 that left 200 mostly Han Chinese dead, and a terror attack by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement in the heart of Tiananmen Square, which killed five people. Party officials describe the training centers as paths out of poverty, designed to teach basic skills like sewing and reading. 

Reason's Todd Krainin sat down with Nury Turkel, an attorney, activist, and American of Uighur heritage, to discuss what he considers the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today. 

Produced by Todd Krainin.

PHOTOS
Morandi Bruno/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom
Hu Huhu Xinhua News Agency/Newscom
Antonio Albore/agefotostock/Newscom
Eric Lafforgue/agefotostock/Newscom
Stephen Shaver/UPI/Newscom
Imagine China/Newscom
Zhou You/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Stephen Shaver/UPI/Newscom
MUSIC:
"Gathering Stasis" by Blue Dot Sessions is licensed on a creative commons license.

NEXT: A Man Spent 82 Days in Jail on Meth Charges. The Meth Was Actually Honey.

HD Download

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So maybe we should contract out our border detention?

  2. “Xinjiang, a region the size of Alaska, is home to 23 million people, 45 percent of whom are Uighurs, a people who identify closely with the culture of central Asia.”

    Obviously, these folks are “invaders,” and not REAL Americans…. er…. I mean “Chinese.”

    1. Xinjiang has been fought over for thousands of years. It would be more proper to say that the Uighurs are a conquered nation of the Chinese Empire, and not invaders.

      1. Don’t confuse useful idiots with reality!

      2. Yes, I am aware of the history of the region. I was using the situation more as an analogy.

  3. This is one of the literal concentration camps that AOC was talking about.

    What’s that? It’s in a communist country. Oh, that’s different then.

    1. Yeah but Drumpf’s concentration camps are even worse because people are literally forced to drink from toilets.

      #AbolishConcentrationCamps
      #LibertariansForAOC

      1. “Yeah but Drumpf’s concentration camps are even worse because people are literally forced to drink from toilets.”

        That’s has been proven to be a lie.
        But thanks for playing.
        Now fuck off.

  4. And we want to make nice with the Red Chinese? Guess we can add ‘cultural genocide’ to their serial lying, serial cheating, and serial theft of American IP.

    1. No, idiot. The thesis is that trade helps weaken barriers. As shown by the Cuban, North Korean, and others, embargoes just give regimes a handy plausible excuse for why their economy sucks and why they live in a police state.

      Besides which, restricting who I trade is just control freakery of the most base kind, and in this case, doesn’t even have the feeble excuse of national security.

      1. When has trade worked? The myth that Reagan opened trade with the USSR leading to it’s downfall is just that a myth. Reagan bankrupted them with an arms race. He took a hardline with Brezhnev and was hands off with Gorbachev until he saw they were serious about reforms. Gorbachev had to open his markers because his country was failing.

        1. When has trade worked?

          “Worked” in what sense? There hasn’t been a war in Europe since trade barriers were dropped. China has gotten less belligerent to the extent that they’ve opened up trade with the outside world. The differences between South and North Korea have a lot to do with international trade. Our trade with Japan turned us from enemies into friends, as with Germany. The relatively-free-trading countries of West Africa are infinitely better off and more peaceful than the communist dictatorships of Central and East Africa.

          And the Soviet Union fell mostly because Communism doesn’t work and they could only attempt cultural expansion via force, with an increasingly-poorly-funded military. As a result their attempt at the cultural export of Communism by force paled in comparison to the effortless expansion of Western culture through trade.

          By contrast, when have trade restrictions ever solved anything?

          1. There hasn’t been a war in Europe since trade barriers were dropped. Really? I guess Yugoslavia (Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia) don’t count. Perhaps you need to amend your sentence.

            Tariffs are a foreign policy tool. Do you have a beter suggestion on what foreign policy tool we should use to stop Red Chinese serial lying, cheating and theft of American IP? Don’t just sing it….bring it.

            1. I guess Yugoslavia (Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia) don’t count

              They were part of the Euro-zone?

              Tariffs are a foreign policy tool. Do you have a beter suggestion on what foreign policy tool we should use to stop Red Chinese serial lying, cheating and theft of American IP?

              You stole a couple of bases there. How do tariffs address the issue of “lying?” What “cheating,” specifically, are you referring to that is being addressed by tariffs? What responsibility do owners of IP have to not trade with people who are stealing it?

              1. “Do you have a better suggestion on what foreign policy tool we should use to stop Red Chinese serial lying, cheating and theft of American IP?”

                Sometimes we need to have the humility to acknowledge that we cannot control others… We can only control ourselves!

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_China
                GDP per capita
                Increase $10,153 (nominal; 2019 est.)

                USA GDP per capita : 59,531.66 USD (2017)

                We are about 6 times as wealthy as they are!!! HOW MUCH MORE per-capita wealth do YOU want to have, compared to the Chinese, before you are willing to be a wee tad less greedy, nationalistic, and selfish? Maybe we should FIGHT a little less, and COOPERATE a wee tad more? And NOT try always to tell others what to do and not do? Be a little less Trump-ish, in other words? I think more cooperation and less competition would be in order here! Trump is flushing the world economy down the crapper, if there’s no stop to the trade wars!

                1. “Maybe we should FIGHT a little less, and COOPERATE a wee tad more? And NOT try always to tell others what to do and not do?”

                  Self awareness eludes you my friend.

        2. When has trade worked?

          America vs British, War of 1812, ended because both sides were losing more in trade then they were getting from plunder (simplified answer, its more complicated but a reasonably take).

        3. “In the end we beat them with Levi 501 jeans. Seventy-two years of Communist indoctrination and propaganda was drowned out by a three-ounce Sony Walkman. A huge totalitarian system . . . has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes. . . . Now they’re lunch, and we’re number one on the planet.”

          PJ O’Rourke

          1. Arguably the greatest force working against communism today is The Avengers.

            1. In 1991 we had the Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. They had nothing.

              We had Mustangs, Challengers, and Firebirds. They had the Trabant and Yugo.

              We had McDonalds and KFC. They waited in line for bread.

              The USSR never stood a chance.

              All because of the miracle of free market capitalism.

              1. And a hard-ass president who would not back down.
                Capitalism was as alive as we allow before Reagan.

    2. No theft of American IP. Corporation IP maybe but a lot of that is voluntary tech transfers that people conflate somehow being forced.

      Serial lying and cheating – that’s what governments do.

      Cultural Genocide – call me when its genocide genocide. No, actually this is a good reason for tariffs/sanctions. Now go to Congress and get the peoples’ representatives to vote on it because that isn’t a national security issue; Death to Tyrants.

    3. Nothing freer than trade with Emperor Xi, as long as Drumpf doesn’t impose tariffs.

      I hear you can get Uighur kidneys cheap! Muh free market!

  5. Cheap consumer goods > standing for human rights.

    1. You will get better human rights from dictators by freely trading with them. Dictators know that, which is why they breath a sigh of relief every time some leaky embargo comes along.

      1. One example, please?

      2. “”You will get better human rights from dictators by freely trading with them. “‘

        This is what was said decades ago when we moved China to a favored nation status. It hasn’t worked.

        1. Oh this is fun ….
          “Example, please.”

          Do you think China is better now than it used to be? If not, why not?

          1. Some things better for sure, but they have an emperor now and a surveillance state, so some big things are much worse. And pollution.

            1. An Emperor?! In China?! Oh, how the mighty have fallen, and after such a long history of individualism and democratic participation!

          2. “”“Example, please.”””

            As one example, I’ll let the current Hong Kong protests speak for themselves.

            The social credit scoring used to deny people freedoms.

            Perhaps you can give some examples of how they expanded human rights over the last 30 years.

            1. Ending the one child policy, allowing limited private ownership of industry, allowing more freedom of movement, allowing a system of stock trading to develop, increased freedom of people to acquire and change jobs, increased international trade, especially as regards imports.

      3. So this is about regime change now. Keep moving the goalposts.

        Even Trump does not pretend that.

      4. I’m sure Emperor Xi will be happy to have the Uighurs in his indoctrination camps verify that.

        He’ll even throw in a free Uighur kidney as a sample of what you can get from “freely” trading with His Imperial Majesty.

        Muh free market!

    2. Actually you get both. There is not a single instance that can be pointed to where a trade-embargo or trade-war has made a regime loosen its grip. In fact, generally the opposite happens – they crack down more.

      The Soviet Union wasn’t destroyed by us refusing to engage with them. The Chinese Communists won’t be destroyed by us taking a hardline stance with them and refusing to do business – which we’re doing with individual Chinese, not the government, two separate entities and libertarians should understand the difference.

      1. libertarians should understand the difference.

        We do, but I am pretty sure that the “iLlEgAl iNvAdErS” crowd is not meaningfully libertarian.

      2. Actually, they USSR was defeated because Reagan launched an arms race against Brezhnev that bankrupted the country. Free trade came only after Gorbachev was forced to implement reforms because the country was failing economically. He wasn’t really in favor of reforms buy realized it was necessary. It’s a myth free trade defeated the Soviets. Free trade was the final straw but their were a ton of other reasons leading up to that moment.

        1. So, if not for the arms race, Communism would have succeeded? There are lots of Communist countries we didn’t have arms races with – how are they doing?

          1. No, the arms race greatly accelerated the fall, but Commie governments can hang on a long time if they are willing to viciously oppress their people, e.g. Cuba, China, NoKo. Is we had listened to the Dems in the 80’s the Soviet Union would likely still be with us, and Eastern Europe still commie.

            1. Commie governments can hang on a long time if they are willing to viciously oppress their people, e.g. Cuba, China, NoKo.

              They can if they liberalize their economies, yes.

        2. Maybe in part.

          I would guess people getting tired of waiting in lines for bread and toilet paper would put some internal pressure.

          1. I would guess people getting tired of waiting in lines for bread and toilet paper would put some internal pressure.

            ^ This. And how much worse would it be if the people knew the only reason they couldn’t get cheap American toilet paper was that their own government wouldn’t allow it rather than that the evil Americans withhold it from them?

    3. Money talks, human rights walks.

  6. So, the commies and the islamists are fighting.

    And we care why?

    There is no winning play here for the US at all. No one who it benefits us to help.

    1. One can support non-interventionism while still thinking that putting Muslims in concentration camps is atrocious. It’s really not that hard.

  7. We need Thomas Friedman to tell us how enlightened this policy is. And how being unfettered by pesky democracy makes it so.

  8. Expressions of traditional culture have been criminalized

    You know who else would like to criminalize traditional culture?

  9. So this is Bernie’s ‘free’ schooling?

    1. “So maybe we should contact out our border detention?”

      Actually it sounds like your plan.

  10. Looks like Reason was smart enough to disable comments on their ads.

    1. I came here to write something to that effect.

    2. An ad followed by hundreds of snarky ‘this idea sucks’ comments isn’t very valuable.

      However, if they were clever they would have fake snarky comments saying ‘this rocks!’

      1. I am making 10,000 Dollar at home own laptop .Just do work online 4 to 6 hour proparly . so i make my family happy and u can do. Go centrel Texas transet authorty!

        .….. Read More

    3. Considering the ad was bought by the transit authority it seems akin to saying that they were “smart enough” not to swallow whole peanuts and raw corn before shitting themselves in public.

  11. This may be a terrible thing the Chinese are doing to the Muslims, but they are Muslims so it’s easier to rationalize. Muslims go around blowing people up and if these aren’t those kind of Muslims, well, close enough. Kinda like me eating meat – I’m pretty sure a cow would eat me if it got the chance and if that’s an ignorant statement I’m not interested in learning the truth. I’m pretty sure both Communists and Muslims would cheerfully kill me if they got the chance so I’ll just sit quietly over here with my cheeseburger and hope neither side notices me.

    1. We’ve spent a lot of blood and treasure defending Muslims over the past few decades. Something I occasionally have to point out to some rightwing friends that ironically supported our efforts to do just that.

      1. And those Afghani Muslims are eternally grateful. Someone never did something to hurt us.

        1. Afghani is a currency. Afghan is the correct term for a person or a dog.

  12. “China’s Mass Internment of Uighurs Is a ‘Modern Cultural Genocide'”

    I’m jealous.
    I wish the Union of Soviet Socialist Slave States of America had a mass internment for all the counter-revolutionaries here.
    Then we could would be the envy of the totalitarian world.

    1. Patience, weed hopper, patience. All in good time and probably sooner than you think.

      And I’d be watching what I thinked if I were you.

  13. Confucius say: “Man who practice Islam in China get called a wigger.”

  14. Es increible que esto pueda pasar, lei esto en mi trabajo de limpieza de pisos en Chiclana de la Frontera y sigo sin creerlo

  15. Yeah, playing free trade with a bunch of people who don’t believe in our cultural conceptions of freedom sure will work wonders. Let’s just keep financing Muslim genocide and get the Chinese to admit some “reforms” that they’re mocking once we stop looking.

  16. They look white. Isn’t it all RACIST?

Please to post comments