For some months now, international concern has been growing about what China is doing to its Uighur population, a Muslim minority community concentrated in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang province. Reports have emerged of China ‘homogenising’ the Uighurs, who claim closer ethnic ties to Turkey and other central Asian countries than to China, by brutal  force.

Around a million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims have been bundled into internment camps, where they are allegedly being schooled into giving up their identity, and assimilate better in the communist country dominated by the Han Chinese.

What are these dentention centres?

Children have been separated from their parents, families torn apart, an entire population kept under surveillance and cut off from the rest of the world. The few survivors who have managed to escape the country have been reported to speak of physical, mental and sexual torture at these camps.

China resolutely denies all such allegations, claiming the camps to be ‘educational centres’ where the Uighurs are being cured of “extremist thoughts” and radicalisation, and learning vocational skills.

Why is China targeting the Uighurs?

Xinjiang is technically an autonomous region within China — its largest region, rich in minerals, and sharing borders with eight countries, including India, Pakistan, Russia and Afghanistan.

The Uighurs are Muslim, they don’t speak Mandarin as their native language, and have ethnicity and culture that is different from that of mainland China.

Over the past few decades, as economic prosperity has come to Xinjiang, it has brought with it in large numbers the majority Han Chinese, who have cornered the better jobs, and left the Uighurs feeling their livelihoods and identity were under threat. This led to sporadic violence and radicalization among Uighurs.

Source: The Indian Express

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR