Xi’s Anti-Religious Persecution of Muslim Uyghurs
Editor-in-Chief's Monthly Column

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The largest concentration camp in history is about to be built in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in northwest China. Of the 23 million residents in the region, it is estimated that 1 to 3 million people are being detained. It has almost grown to a level on par with Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.

The Communist Party of China has persecuted people for a long time, but a concentration camp of this scale has never been seen before.

Persecutions began to escalate in late 2016 and many Uyghurs living abroad listened in dread to the news that their families in Xinjiang had been detained. With their families taken hostage they were forced into silence, but having seen the horrors continue, they have recently started to speak out.


Targeting Devout Believers

“My brother and his wife were taken away in March,” says Hasan, an Uyghur who has worked in Japan for over 10 years. “They were devout believers who never missed the Salah – the five daily prayers. Devout families are being watched, and they are the first ones to be detained.”

Hasan tells that the couple has three children of elementary and high school age, and Hasan’s mother now has to look after them despite her ailing health. “I don’t know how my mother is doing, but I know that my brother’s children have stopped going to school, and I worry for their futures,” she says.

The Xinjiang authorities give each Uyghur a mark out of 100, and send them to the concentration camps starting with the people with the lowest marks. They are marked against 32 criteria. The following are three of them that people will be penalized for: 1) devout Muslims who pray fervently or are knowledgeable about Islamic teachings 2) people who have visited the Middle East or other countries overseas, and 3) people who have relatives overseas including children who have studied abroad.

Hasan’s brother and his wife fit those criteria perfectly.


Orphans: A Social Issue

Nasri, another Uyghur who has lived in Japan for over 10 years, has three brothers who have been detained in the Xinjiang concentration camps. The youngest brother had supported the family and looked after their mother, but now Nasri is unable to contact her mother and does not even know if she is alive.

Uyghurs who live abroad are unable to contact their families because it could endanger them. All contact has to be severed. Even if they talk over the phone, the authorities have them wiretapped so they can’t talk about anything regarding the present situation.

Nasri’s brothers were detained for their religious devoutness: the youngest brother was known for strictly adhering to Muslim laws. The fact that Nasri would sometimes contact him was also a negative factor.

“Islam forbids suicide, but still the thought that I caused the arrests of my brothers nearly drove me to it,” she says.

Those who are arrested are mostly aged between 15 and 55 (a healthy working age), so only children and elderly people remain in the villages. There are many cases, however, where the grandparents are detained too, so orphans are becoming a major social issue in Xinjiang.

Authorities remain indifferent and continue to detain people.


Surprise Arrests at the Airport

Authorities are currently trying to deport Uyghurs living overseas. Last year the Egyptian police arrested Uyghur international students and deported them on the request of the Beijing government.

State police in other countries are not as prone to unlawful practices, so Beijing uses another technique: threatening the safety of the families of Uyghurs living abroad.

Osman, an Uyghur masters student studying in Japan says, “Xinjiang police have contacted many Uyghurs living in Japan saying, ‘if you don’t come back we’ll detain your parents.’ Some people who then returned to Xinjiang have gone missing. Last year and this year I was likewise contacted directly by Xinjiang police. But it’s so dangerous, I won’t be going back.”

People who choose to return to Uyghur are seized at the airports in China and immediately sent to the concentration camps. Dilruba, who worked at a Japanese company is one such example. Last year when she visited Guangdong on business she was suddenly arrested at customs. The company director who was with her received no explanation. Upon returning to Japan, the director inquired at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but they told him that nothing could be done because it is “China’s domestic issue”.

Dilruba’s friend explains that, “she has an Uyghur name, but she thinks like a Chinese person, and doesn’t speak any Uyghur; nor does she know anything about Islam. Yet she was detained. Her life is over.”


Abandon Islam, Communism Is Your New Religion

What then is happening inside the huge concentration camp?

According to the announcement made by Xinjiang authorities last October, Uyghurs are “infected with dangerous ideologies” and require “treatment to extract the virus from their brains” so they can learn to “differentiate good from evil.”

Sociologist Massimo Introvigne, who has spoken to some of the very few Uyghurs who were released from the camp, said the following:

In the concentration camp, people who abandon religion are set free, or at least they are promised to be. But those who persistently protect their faith are never able to leave, and are tortured (women are raped), and eventually killed. Islam is considered an evil religion, and people are made to abandon it.

The Diplomatic reports about a man from Kazakhstan who was detained when he went to Xinjiang on business were released following pressure by the Kazakhstani government.

Omir Bekali recounted in detail how he and other detainees “had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticize themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party.” When Bekali refused to follow orders, he was punished, sent into solitary confinement and deprived of food for 24 hours.

It is natural that under these horrid conditions detainees begin to weaken physically and mentally, and some die. Tur Muhammet, president of the Japan Uyghur Union, has suggested that the detainees could be being used for organ harvesting.

There is estimated to be around 3 million detainees, so the economy in Xinjiang is virtually at a standstill. The concentration camps are probably run using profits from the organ trade. One person’s organs can reach up to 1.5 million CNY [USD220,000]. The organ transplant priority lane at the airport in Xinjiang and the government’s access to DNA and blood data on all Uyghurs aged between 12 and 65 serves to support this idea.


Persecution of “Evil” Islam

Muslims in the Xinjiang concentration camp are coerced into abandoning their faith.

Religious oppression was a major feature of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) where authorities destroyed temples and mosques in Tibet and imprisoned monks and clerics. Uyghurs were not targeted back then, and this is the first time civilian Muslims have been arrested and coerced into giving up their faith.

Muslim persecutions in Xinjiang follow the same method as the persecutions against other officially blacklisted religions such as Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty god.

“Calling Islam an ‘evil religion’ will have far reaching consequences in China’s relationship with the Islamic countries,” says Introvigne. Understanding this, China has chosen to refrain from openly insulting Islam, but the persecutions in Xinjiang clearly show that the government considers Islam to be an evil religion.


Trump Administration Moves Towards Salvation

The Beijing government has not admitted to having a concentration camp for the purpose of making people abandon religion. U.S. President Donald Trump has responded to this.

“The United States of America is a ‘nation of faith,’ and religious freedom is a top priority of this administration,” said Vice President Mike Pence in July in front of clerics and activists from over 80 different countries at the Ministerial for Advancing Religious Freedom.

“Beijing is holding hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Uyghur Muslims in so-called “re-education camps,” where they’re forced to endure around-the-clock political indoctrination and to denounce their religious beliefs and their cultural identity as the goal.”

The Trump administration and the U.S. Congress have sanctioned Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, freezing his U.S. assets and limiting travel.


Japan Saves Jews

There are around 2000 Uyghur residents in Japan, and they have high expectations toward the Japanese government.

If we receive unmistakable evidence that the Uyghurs are suffering horrors equal to or greater than the Holocaust, then the government must activate a policy similar to their Jewish protection policy during WWII.

In 1938 many Jews fled from the intensifying persecutions in Germany. Back then Jewish refugees were not accepted by the U.S. or the U.K., and Japan was about the only country that did.

While Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) is famous in Japan for providing transit visas (so called “life visas”) to Jews during WWII while working at the consulate in Lithuania, his actions reflected the attitude of the Japanese government itself.

Uyghurs now living in Japan want the government to pass a law to save Uyghurs, just like they saved the Jews during WWII.

Many international Uyghur students have had to terminate their study abroad when their allowances suddenly stopped. Those who tried to renew their passports have received instruction from the Chinese consulate in Japan to return to Xinjiang. These people will indubitably end up in the concentration camp.

Uyghurs who try to obtain Japanese citizenship find that they cannot complete the paperwork because their registry information is back in Xinjiang. Japan must create a protection policy that includes answers to these issues.


Toward an Alliance of Religious Nations

Before and during WWII, Japan stopped Soviet Russia from expanding southwards while cutting off communications between Soviet Russia and China. To protect Asia from communism, they supported the move towards independence of Inner Mongolia and East Turkestan (Xinjiang Uyghur), and established connections with Tibet. It was all part of a large scheme to create an alliance of religious nations between Muslim Uyghur and Buddhist Inner Mongolia and Tibet, to encircle the communist powers.

While this ended in failure, 70 years later the same alliance idea must be taken up again to counter communist China’s ambitions for global domination.

Important allies would be the U.S. (promoting faith and freedom to the world), Russia (now aiming to strengthen the country through renewed zeal for Russian Orthodox faith), India (Asia’s religious superpower), and Turkey (who succeeded in synthesizing Islam and democracy).

Then more Islamic nations can be included to gain the power to counter Xi Jinping’s insistence that people abandon the Islamic faith. This will help stop China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy from extending through Asia and Europe.

If Japan does not stand up to protect religious freedom in Asia, however, Xi will trample on the island country just like Kublai Khan’s invasion of Japan in the 13th century.

As Tur Muhammet warns, “If we do not start thinking about how to protect Japan, Japan will never be able to save the Uyghurs.” Uyghurs and Japanese share the same fate as neighbors of the growing Chinese Empire.

Jiro Ayaori





Criticizing China’s Persecution of Uyghurs at the UNCERD

The UN now has their eyes on China’s human rights oppressions.

As a representative of the NGO Happiness Realization Research Institute, Yukihisa Oikawa from the Happiness Realization Party in Japan attended the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held in Geneva, Switzerland, in August.

He gave a speech about the Beijing government’s detainment of millions of Uyghurs in a designated concentration camp.

The Beijing government has legislated an anti-separatist and anti-terrorism law to legally arrest and confine innocent Uyghurs. This is an unjustified oppression against civilians.

Around 30 NGOs attended the session, and around 20 representatives were given a chance to speak, including Q&A sessions with the committee members.

One American committee member who was deeply moved by the speakers censured the Beijing government, demanding an explanation from those Beijing representatives present. It was the first time the Uyghur persecution issue had been discussed at the UN.

Upon returning to Japan, Oikawa commented that, “In Geneva I met many representatives from NGOs that were tackling the human rights oppressions in China, and we shared our thoughts. I want to continue to strengthen our connections even more.”

Xi’s Anti-Religious Persecution of Muslim Uyghurs
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