Muslim minority groups are being excessively condemned, in what looks like, prominent Buddhist countries. In Myanmar, the state-sponsored military regime has not only claimed the life of more than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims but has also subjected them to humanitarian violence – including torture and mass-rape. While the government turns a blind eye on the issue and jails reporters responsible for bringing the story in front of the world, more than 700,000 of them have fled the borders and are now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. In China, in an effort to crack down on religious liberty, more than 1 million Uighur Muslims are allegedly being held in captivity. Although the Chinese governments have rejected such claims, former detainees have divulged that they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist party. On 11th October 2018, China may have proven the existence of such political indoctrination camps to be true, by not directly stating it, but by passing it as “education and training centers” where petty criminals are sent for “vocational training.”
According to James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, “It’s a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.” He added that, “It’s a new form of re-education that’s unprecedented and doesn’t really have a legal basis, and I see them scrambling to try to create a legal basis for this policy.”
About 10 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities live in China’s north-western autonomous province of Xinjiang. Due to it being a major logistics hub of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, the Chinese government has increasingly tried to draw Xinjiang into its orbit. In 2009, it started a crackdown in the region in the aftermath of a riot. In 2016, Beijing imposed repressive policies in the region that curbed religious and social freedom, including a ban on veils, increased surveillance, and censorship of public radio and television broadcasts. Under the close eyes of the world and especially the United Nations (UN), China maintained the guise that it was combating terrorism and extremism by such measures.
Now, the Chinese government has released a new law that has legalized the use of such “vocational training centers’ to incarcerate “people influenced by extremism”. A clause in the law mandates the mandatory teaching of Mandarin language, as well as “ideological education, psychological rehabilitation, and behavioral correction”. The new law also reversed an exception issued by authorities in 2017 that allowed Uighur and other ethnic minorities to have more children than their Han Chinese counterparts.
Representatives from the U.S. and EU have pressured Chinese diplomats at the 73rd UN General Assembly over reports of arbitrary mass detentions and harsh security measures aimed at Muslims. According to Leibold, the new law was instated in an attempt to deflect international criticism, a China is up for review by the UN’s human rights council in November 2018. He said, “Regardless of the new law, I still believe the practice of coercively detaining Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang in ‘education through transformation centers’ not only violates Chinese law but also international legal norms against the extrajudicial deprivation of liberty.”