January 12, 2019

Reports coming in about China’s new gulag for Muslims seem too awful to believe. But the United Nations and responsible media have revealed that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims from western China – and perhaps as many as one million – have been shut away in a growing chain of prison camps designed to impose ruthless state control over them and crush their culture and religion.

Who are these oddly-named people, China’s Uighurs? Their homeland lies on China’s far western region next to independent Kazakhstan and Pakistan. The region, as I’ve seen, is arid, hilly and very remote. The Uighurs are a Turkic people of ancient Muslim culture who have nothing in common with China except proximity. Their once independent nation used to be called the East Turkestan Republic before it was invaded and gobbled up in 1949 by Red China and, before that, by the Russian Empire.

A year later, Communist China began invading independent Tibet. China’s aim there was to crush Tibetan national resistance to Chinese rule and wipe out as much as possible of Tibet’s ancient feudal and religious culture. I infiltrated into Tibet in the 1980’s in time to see violent Tibetan demonstrations and riots against the Chinese occupiers. Four decades later, draconian Chinese rule is well on the way to crushing the life out of Tibet’s ancient Buddhist culture.

The same process is happening now in Eastern Turkestan. This strategic piece of real estate is part of the ethnic Turkish Central Asia that includes Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Mongolia and Afghanistan are sometimes included. In the late 19th century, there arose the Pan-Turkic movement in Turkey that sought to unite Central Asia under the guidance of Istanbul. But in the end, the Russian Empire and China occupied Central Asia until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, China is the last remaining colonial master.

The Uighurs, a forgotten people, have been protesting and resisting Chinese rule since the late 1940’s. Beijing has always seen Islam as a challenge to its absolute rule. Uighur resistance has been limited and ineffectual. But Beijing had a big scare when the US CIA set up camps in Afghanistan in the late 1970’s to train Uighurs into an anti-Chinese guerilla force for use in a potential future US-China war. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the former CIA training camps for Uighurs were brazenly called ‘Islamic terrorist training camps’ and blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

China has set about uprooting Muslim culture and identity. Religious devotions, beards and traditional Islamic dress, the Uighur language itself, and historic customs are banned. Communist party members are billeted in the home of Uighurs to keep a wary eye on them. Schools are run by Chinese officials; Uighur movements are restricted; mosques are shuttered.

Over the past year, China has reportedly been building what are officially called ‘re-education’ centers in the region. The UN reports that up to one million Muslims have been locked away in these modern gulags, surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers. China’s prison complex, known as ‘laogai,’ covers the nation, but the Muslim gulag appears particularly brutal and intimidating. Of course, a million Muslims in China’s prisons pales in comparison to the two million, mostly blacks, in US state and federal prisons (though none are charged with religious crimes).

China’s strategy in Tibet and Eastern Turkestan has been what I call ‘ethnic inundation.’ Han Chinese are brought in from afar to settle Muslim and Buddhist lands, relentlessly swamping the local population who become a policed minority. Interestingly, Israel has been following the same policy on the West Bank and Golan. Gaza has been turned into a giant, open-air prison for Palestinians. China’s Turkestan gulag may surpass Gaza in the number of prisoners it holds. Unsurprisingly, China rarely criticizes Israel for its repression of Palestinians.

The Muslim world has done next to nothing to protest the fate of the Uighurs. Only Turkey, one of the few Muslim nations with self-respect, is strongly rebuking China and giving refuge to Uighur refugees. Those self-proclaimed ‘defenders of the faith,’ Saudi Arabia, have been mute to the oppression in Turkestan – as mute as they have been to the savage mistreatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, 800,000 of whom are now living in awful condition in Bangladesh.

As with the sordid murder of Saudi writer Khashoggi by Saudi agents, few dare rebuke the rich perpetrator of the crime. No one wants to be on China’s blacklist.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2019

This post is in: China


  1. Vincent Jay says:

    I find it hard to weep for the Uighers. They’re just another bunch of troublesome moslems, with a long history of plaguing the Chinese.

  2. Man’s inhumanity… seems almost never ending. When I think of ‘containment camps’ I think of the manner in which the civilised Western world, Canada and the US, set up internment camps for the Japanese in Canada, stripping them of their livelihood, citizenship, and property; this was less than a century ago. I understand that things in these camps were not pleasant. These camps are different… then and now… the enemy and the oppressed.
    Modern communications make the atrocities more visible. The ‘turnaround time’ is greatly shortened from the occurrence to the published ‘fact’. I’m not to sure about what constitutes a fact, anymore.
    The world instantly knows about ‘what leaked out’. It’s OK to firebomb a million Iraqis, but, wrong to imprison a million muslims. Nothing seems to make sense anymore. Perhaps it never did, but, the huge palette or canvas is front and centre. The Chinese may see these peoples as a long term threat to their country. The Israelis may have the same opinion, and not a peep of criticism. Why are the Chinese singled out and the Israelis left alone? Politics perhaps?
    The Western world is aghast at the premeditated execution of Khashoggi and wants to take Saudi Arabia to task, but, is afraid of the economic consequences. Nothing, significant, has been done. At the same time, they are quite accepting and ‘happy’ about the extra judicial execution of bin Laden; most Americans, and people of the West, think it was a great accomplishment. In my sense of morality they are different sides of the same evil coin.
    Less and less seems to make any sense.

  3. Raj Sathya says:

    The muslim world has done next to nothing to protest the fate of the Uighurs but quick to condemn Israel against Palestinians issues.Events in Gaza have sparked protests across the islamic world not only in the Middle East but also in more distant Bangladesh and Indonesia but the brutal persecution of Uighurs prompts no response, part of the answer is that money talks, Communist China has become a key trade partner of every muslim majority nation.Iran is typical example or a great pretender as though nothing happens to Uighur muslims in China.Calling Israel to be removed from world map the satanic iran having a strong business relationship with Communist China by exporting total values of $20 billion dollars in 2018 while the Communist China financed 20 billion euros for oil projects in iran. Currently iran is the top exporter of goods to China among middle eastern countries. Pakistan, the country fighting for muslim independepence in Indian controlled Kashmir has signed an agreement with Communist China to commence work on the $46 Billion agreement which is roughly 20% of Pakistans annual GDP. Lately HBL the largest bank in Pakistan entered into an agreement with China International Capital Corporation Ltd the largest investment bank in Communist China to provide investment banking services to companies in both countries.

    • The Americans haven’t left Iran much ‘wiggle room’ for trade. The UN should step in… Don’t blame China… of world issues, the US is the common denominator.
      As I’ve noted before, the UN is broken and it needs a new charter to bring it up to the current world. It also needs it’s own ‘international space’ free from American control. The present security council has to be revamped with no VETO powers.

    • Raj Sathya says:

      China’s economic power and the fear of retaliation was a big factor in muslim politics.Governments of muslim majority nations including Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have avoided the matter publicly.Pakistan has gone even further defending Communist China saying the reporting on the Uighur’s situation has been sensationalized by western media. To Indonesia, it was an internal domestic matter,refused to interfere. The statement is in stark contrast to the stance of Indonesia on other muslim issues such as the Palestinian – Israel conflict and the plight of the ethnic minority Rohingya in Myanmar.In contrast countries including Australia and United States of America publicly denounced China’s action in the region.

  4. ……..”The Muslim world has done next to nothing to protest the fate of the Uighurs”………

    Neither did the rest of the world; and this is a typical example of the mixed up priorities at the UN security council; while the council is too busy accommodating the Zionist regime of Israel; discussing the lost of a couple of israeli soldiers by kitchen knife in the occupied Palestinian territories – or criticizing Arab teenagers for their every little desperate attempt to regain some dignity in their lost homeland – the communist regime of China would getaway with mass ethnic cleansing of its own muslim population with no real repercussion from the rest of the world. and this is the cost of the “Trade Off” for allowing the Zionists to run the UN security council, they set the agenda and dominating the narrative with their petty apartheid regime.
    This is a typical example of the mixed up priorities at the UN security council in which China is a permanent member with the “Veto Power”, now, let’s figure who is really in charge of the world affair, who is the “Superpower By Proxy”.

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