A Modern Day Genocide: Forced Assimilation of Muslims in China


12 July 2015, a satellite swung over the desert and cities of northwest China.

One image captured by the satellite showed an empty patch of sand. 

22 April 2018, the satellite swung by again, but this time showing something different. 

A highly secured structure, with 16 guard towers enclosed by 2km long wall now stood there. 

This site, located roughly an hour away from Urumqi, is one of many building complexes that are officially referred to by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government as “vocational education and training centres.” Some of these buildings have been built from scratch, while many others were repurposed from their previous use as schools or factories.

These facilities are solely for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, many of which have been detained without trial. As of September 2018, 10-20% of all the Muslims living in Xinjiang have endured the horrors of these camps. 

In order to hide what was going on, many sugar-coated reports stated that these “education centres” had clean classrooms and grateful students, all of which were happy to be there. However, these camps are much more than voluntary education centres. In reality, they are indoctrination camps where up to 3 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are being held. 

The Uyghurs are an ethnic group with a population of 10 million people, native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which borders Mongolia and other Muslim majority countries. The region gained independence from China for a short period of time in the early 1900s, but parts of the region were subjected to the rule of the Soviet Union in the decades to come. However, the region’s official control was once more switched to China’s possession, as commander Tao Zhiyue led the People’s Liberation Army to reclaim Xinjiang in 1949, when they were annexed and to this day remain under the control of.

According to leaked documents, videos and reports, prisoners within these camps are being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol (both of which activities are Haram – or forbidden by Islamic law), prohibited from wearing headscarves in the case of women, and recite communist party songs. Furthermore, they are forced to engage in strenuous physical activities that prompt punishment when not completed to a certain standard, beaten if they fail to recite the laws perfectly and enrol in comprehensive training and brainwashing that extracts their own religions. Forced consumption of medical drugs, strict sleeping and queuing positions,  obligatory Mandarin lessons and so many more cruel and inhumane practices are asserted on to the millions of innocent Muslims in these camps.positions, queue positions, forced to learn Mandarin and so much more. 

A leaked memo from 2017 with clear instructions stated that these camps had to work as high-security prisons. It stated that there should be no way to escape, Mandarin proficiency was a top priority, full video surveillance of the dorms was required, confession had to be promoted, and so forth. There had to be a punishment and reward system installed, in which the prisoners who practised with discipline were rewarded and would be allowed to contact their family, yet those who didn’t practice with discipline would be punished. An inmate could only be released if they had shown a full transformation of their culture, religion and beliefs, with evidence of this “transformation” approved by four communist party members, thus granting release.

Former prisoners have said that they were forced to live in crowded cells, and were tortured and brutally indoctrinated into the communist party regime. 

These acts against Muslim minorities in the PRC do not end there, as not only are the people within these camps get surveilled, but people outside are also being restricted. As of October 2018, there has been a mass recall of passports. All Uyghur residents have to hand over their passports to the police for ‘safe-keeping’. 

The PRC has released a statement saying that the goals of these centres are to combat extremism, terrorism and separatism. Furthermore, they have also stated that people get locked up for one of three reasons: having committed a minor offence (ie. watching an illegal religious video), having committed more serious offences and have chosen these facilities instead of going to jail, and lastly for rehabilitation after release from prison. However, many detainees have been arrested for reasons such as a “too religious-heavy” environment at home, obtaining a passport, having a beard or even attending a funeral. 

China is partaking in what could be considered a mass cultural genocide, a mass annihilation of people’s culture and beliefs. 

So what can we do to help?

  1. Sign petitions. Such as:  https://www.change.org/p/stand-up-for-the-uyghur-muslims-in-china-antonioguterres-amnesty-un https://www.change.org/p/international-olympic-committee-china-close-internment-camps-before-hosting-2022-olympics-uyghurche-中文-日本語-türkçe-عربى-00c0e1f3-3ba3-4752-820e-bac10f922330
  2. Take part in campaigns, many of which can be found on the Amnesty website (amnesty.org search up ‘Uyghur’)
  3. Visit the Uyghur human rights project website https://uhrp.org