Muslim Internment Camps


Photo by Grace Yarrow

Lauren Doran, Reporter

The Chicago Tribune first broke the story “China says Muslim internment camps are for ‘free vocational training’” in Oct. of 2018. In the following months, World Net Daily, Independent, and The New York Times, all came forward with similar stories — “China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor” and “China’s detention of Muslims in re-education camps ‘country’s worst human rights abuse since Mao era.”

The focus of all of them being: that China is being accused of imprisoning up to 1 million Muslims from Xinjiang’s Uyghur ethnic minority, along with Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, according to the WND. So far the Xinjiang government and the State Council Information Office has refused to answer questions but the Chinese state media after first denying the existence of the centers has since then praised them as “leading wayward people toward modern civilization.” They also advertise that the workers are generously paid. However, Abil Amantai, 37, who was put in a camp a year ago and told the WND he was working in a textile factory for $95 a month.

“The training will turn them from ‘nomads’ into skilled marvels. Education and training will make them into ‘modern people,’ useful to society” said Xinjiang Daily.

The only and currently ruling party being the Communist Party, added to the fact that it is a socialist country, China has been taking full advantage of their freedoms to spread even more propaganda that the people within the camps are there for “their own good, offering an escape from poverty, backwardness and the temptations of radical Islam” and for those “suspected of minor criminal offenses” who can be “exempted from criminal punishment,” said Zakir Naik to the New York Times.

Naik also hinted that the measures were actually within the legal framework of China’s anti-terrorism laws, making the camps themselves and the actions within them— legal. However, the rebuttal accepted by most is that the authorities’ attempts to justify the camps “illustrate what the ‘rule of law’ in China means that the Party bends it to its will and uses it as a weapon against perceived political enemies,” Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch said in an email to the Chicago Tribune.

In an attempt to counter stories of poor living conditions within the camps, Naik said that “trainees were immersed in athletic and cultural activities. The centers’ cafeterias provide nutritious, free diets, and dormitories are fully equipped with TVs, air conditioning and showers.”

Ultimately the program, which holds Muslims and forces them to renounce religious piety and pledge loyalty China, aims to “transform scattered Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities — many of them farmers, shopkeepers and tradespeople — into a disciplined, Chinese-speaking industrial workforce, loyal to the Communist Party and factory bosses,” according to official plans published online by the New York Times. China has defied international outcry against the vast internment program in Xinjiang and has made no effort to change or repent for their actions.

But so far, the repercussions against China and the treatment of Uyghur Muslims are relatively limited. The worst being that an American sportswear supplier cut ties with a Chinese company that sourced forced labor from an internment camp where “Muslims have allegedly suffered ‘grave’ human rights violations.” Although there has been talk about a bill revived by the US Senate that could sanction China for their supposed transgressions — at the moment, there is no concrete end in sight for the suffering of the Uyghur Muslims.