Ever since 2014, the Chinese government has employed sophisticated surveillance technology in the Xinjiang region, according to The New York Times. The technology is designed for struggling cities and impoverished communities to crack down on illegal actions. But in 2017, China began sending Uyghur Muslims, a small Turkic minority-ethnic group, to “re-education camps.”
Over the past three years, about 100,000 Uyghur Muslims have been detained and brought to camps in Xinjiang, according to the BBC. The dormitories in these camps can hold up to 10 people per room, with only a thin sheet of fabric as bedding along with one pillow. The detainees are forced to reject their religion and beliefs. For example, most Muslims are forced to eat pork and drink wine, which is forbidden in their religion.
If a detainee decides they don't want to leave their religious beliefs behind, the Chinese government reportedly puts that person into solitary confinement. This means they are separated from all of society and it's just them, a bathroom and a bed in a small cell. Some Muslims contemplate suicide after a few weeks in the facility.
When Jannet Hasan, a 10th grader at the John D. O’Bryant, first heard about the re-education camps, she felt sick to her stomach.
“How can they sleep at night knowing they’re ripping families apart?” Hasan, a Muslim herself, asked. “In all honesty, I am in no way surprised that this is happening ... ever since 9/11 Muslims have been targeted and it escalated when Trump got elected.”
China believes that it is stopping “terrorism … and separatism” by running the camps. According to the BBC, “(China) claims voluntary training schools for Muslim-majority Uyghurs are in fact heavily policed re-education camps.” In November 2019, 400 pages of leaked files were exposed to the public. In response, the Chinese government said the leaked files are “fake news.”
“China is a communist country and, with that said, the leader runs the whole show and has the view that most, if not all, of China should be Hun Chinese,” Christian Scott, a history teacher at the Patrick Lyndon Pilot School explained. “If not, they are looked at as lower than anybody who is.”
In the past, China has done other human injustices, such as thehe Tiananmen Square massacre. The Tiananmen Square protests were “student-led demonstrations calling for democracy, free speech and a free press in China,” according to The Human Rights Watch. This protest ended with many fatalities caused by the Chinese government, and thirty years later Chinese authorities have not acknowledged the atrocity or provided justice. While the goal of communism is to create a classless society, in practice, a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production, making it hard to get unbiased information.
As of right now, we still don't have definitive data about the situation in China. We should continue to pay attention to the issue, though, and look to established news outlets.