[Marxism] With Pressure and Persuasion, China Deflects Criticism of Its Camps for Muslims
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 9 08:30:29 MDT 2019
NY Times, April 9, 2019
With Pressure and Persuasion, China Deflects Criticism of Its Camps for
By Jane Perlez
In the opulent halls of the Emirates Palace hotel, a seat of power in
Abu Dhabi where 114 domes decorate the vast rooftop, a delegation of
about a dozen Chinese diplomats lobbied foreign ministers of the Muslim
world last month.
China has been fighting criticism that it has detained as many as one
million members of Muslim ethnic minorities in indoctrination camps in
its western Xinjiang region. But at the two-day conclave in early March,
the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has
been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians — handed Beijing
a significant victory.
In a resolution on protecting the rights of Muslim minorities around the
world, the group praised China for “providing care to its Muslim citizens.”
Its vast system of detention without trial has drawn condemnation from
the State Department and Congress, but no sanctions, and only scattered
criticism in Europe and at the United Nations. That is still more of a
response than in the Muslim world, where nations — including Pakistan,
Indonesia and other recipients of big Chinese loans — have overlooked
China’s abuses against ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others.
And as Muslim countries fall in line, the West is under less pressure to
The major deterrent to antagonizing Beijing is its blunt economic power.
In Washington, President Trump’s trade talks hang in the balance. China
is building ports, railways and roads in countries rich and poor across
Asia, Europe and Africa in its global trillion-dollar infrastructure
push, the Belt and Road Initiative.
Even New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who forcefully
condemned violence against Muslims after mass shootings at two mosques
in Christchurch last month, focused on promoting trade with China during
a visit to Beijing last week.
She raised the treatment of the Uighurs with China’s top leaders only in
private, and told reporters afterward, “You can’t do much more than that.”
Confident at Home and Abroad
When the West imposed sanctions on China for the massacre of
pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989,
policymakers gave little thought to retaliation. It was still a weak
country then, without the economic leverage it now wields.
China is the European Union’s biggest trading partner, and several newer
members are grateful recipients of China’s new infrastructure.
“No one wants to do this alone,” said Mikko Huotari, deputy director of
the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “There’s a general
fear of deterioration of relations with China.”
In defending the detention camps to counterparts, Chinese diplomats have
mounted some novel arguments. They have told American officials, for
example, that Beijing is applying in Xinjiang best practices it gleaned
from studying the United States.
The Americans have replied that the detainees in Guantánamo eventually
had access to lawyers, fair trial and visits from the International
Committee of the Red Cross, none of which have been available in
Xinjiang, two American officials involved in the conversations said.
The government insists that the camps are vocational training centers
that curb extremism. But witnesses and experts describe them as the
heart of an immense campaign to transform Xinjiang’s 11 million Uighurs
and other minority Muslims into loyal servants of the Communist Party.
The campaign challenges traditional definitions of crimes against
humanity, which complicates the world’s response, said Adrian Zenz, a
lecturer at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany.
“What we are witnessing in Xinjiang is different, not quantitatively but
qualitatively: a massive, concerted campaign of coerced sociocultural
re-engineering,” he said. “It is not so much a crime against physical
bodies as it is against souls.”
There is also little dissent in China. The state’s censored news outlets
run propaganda videos that make the camps seem like quiet oases of work,
with Uighur inmates sitting in rows at work tables.
Many Chinese support the government’s policies in Xinjiang because of
concerns about Uighur separatism, including violent attacks.
Beijing at first denied the camps’ existence. But it has since switched
tactics, playing on fears of Islamic extremism.
Last month, Chinese officials even wrote letters to their counterparts
urging them to avoid an event held by the United States mission in
Geneva to discuss Xinjiang, suggesting that participation could hurt
ties with Beijing.
How China Won the Support of Islamic Leaders
Before the Abu Dhabi gathering in March, the Organization of Islamic
Cooperation held a December session on human rights.
There, member countries expressed concern about China’s mass internment
of Muslims, a campaign that they described as “disturbing” and said
Around the world, rights activists cheered. It was a rare bright spot
for Uighur advocates.
Fatimah Abdulghafur, 39, a Uighur doctoral candidate at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, said that for the first time she had felt hopeful
that her brother and father, whom she has been unable to contact for two
years, would be released from the camps.
“Maybe hope is coming our way, maybe we can raise some global awareness
among Muslims,” she recalled thinking after the December event.
But China responded with a diplomatic campaign targeting the Muslim world.
In January, China escorted eight officials from the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation on a 10-day tour of Xinjiang that included visits to
select facilities, said a human rights advocate who was briefed on the
There were differences among the officials about what they saw at the
camps. Still, they decided to close ranks because they did not want to
upset China at the foreign ministers’ gathering, the advocate said.
In the run-up to the Abu Dhabi meeting, China cemented its ties with two
Arab friends — Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — who have a history of remaining
silent on the plight of non-Arab Muslims.
It also made an example of a country that dared to criticize the camps.
In February, the spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry, Hami Aksoy,
called the “systematic assimilation” of the Uighurs a “great shame for
humanity” and urged China to close the camps.
Beijing ignored the request and retaliated by closing a Chinese
consulate in Turkey. The Chinese ambassador, Deng Li, warned that
“criticizing your friend publicly everywhere” could hurt economic relations.
Turkey is the current chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,
but when the country’s delegate was given the floor in Abu Dhabi, he
refrained from raising the issue of Xinjiang, the advocate who was
briefed on discussions said.
The resolution passed by consensus. Uighurs like Ms. Abdulghafur were
“We don’t feel that global brotherhood love from them,” she said. “They
sell their soul, they sell their faith, for money. They know that
millions of people are suffering.”
Charlotte Graham-McLay contributed reporting.
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