PRC points to massacre as justification for Uighur crackdown

PRC points to massacre as justification for Uighur crackdown


After forcing thousands of Uighur Muslims into detention camps and setting up a massive surveillance campaign to monitor those who remain free, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) recently took the unusual step of pointing to the mass slaying of Muslims in New Zealand as justification for its strict crackdown on a religious minority.

The killing of 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques in March 2019, a government information office in Xinjiang, China, told The Wall Street Journalnewspaper, demonstrates the need for the PRC’s video surveillance program at more than 300 mosques in the province.

“The recent mass shooting in New Zealand that harmed so many innocent lives is a strong warning,” the government office told the newspaper. “The goal of improving security at mosques is to protect the ability of the Muslim community to hold normal, orderly religious activities.”

Yet, to Uighurs who live in the mountainous Xinjiang region and to United Nations observers, the government campaign hardly looks like protection. The Wall Street Journal cited former and current residents, satellite imagery and its own reporting to establish that a building redevelopment program launched by the government has led to the bulldozing of Uighur neighborhoods and the closing of Uighur businesses.

Police use religious activity as a criterion to judge whether individual Uighurs are considered “safe” or “unsafe,” according to the Journal’sreport. Residents hide or give away copies of the Quran to avoid trouble with police when their homes are being searched, the newspaper reported.

Uighur exiles argue that the conflict with authorities is sparked by excessive policing and tight religious control. Leaders of the Communist Party of China, however, counter that ethnic tensions and sporadic violent attacks are the fruits of radical Islam.

It’s a controversy that has been roiling for months. A U.N. human rights committee in August 2018 reported that it received “many credible reports” that more than 1 million Uighurs were being detained in counterextremism centers in Xinjiang province. Gay McDougall, vice chair of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said she was concerned that in the “name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability, [China] has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

The U.N. committee reported that families were separated and others had disappeared. McDougall added that “all of these detainees have had their due process rights violated.” (Pictured: Uighur Muslims protest the actions of the People’s Republic of China outside a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, in March 2019.)

As the detention and surveillance programs continued to make headlines, media outlets paid attention when reviews of the alleged New Zealand gunman’s writings revealed an affinity for the Chinese government. Accused gunman Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said he identified with the Chinese government’s values, particularly because it’s a “nondiversified country.”

“It should serve as an alarm for the way the Asian country is accused of treating its Uighur Muslim minority,” Canadian writer Ethan Lou penned for the British online newspaper The Independent, “because when the source of your praise is an alleged mass murderer, it’s clear to see that something has gone disturbingly wrong.”