Issue 27: Mass Arbitrary Detention of Uyghur Muslims

World Uyghur Congress, 11 June 2018

One of the principle targets of the Chinese government’s strategy to stabilize and culturally assimilate the Uyghur population has been the practice of Islam. The mass incarceration of Uyghurs also forms part of the Party Secretary Chen Quanguo’s ‘de-extremification’ efforts in the region, which has tried to conflate the peaceful practice of Islam and any expression of Uyghur dissent with ‘extremism’ and terrorism. 

Since April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views have been detained in re-education camps throughout the Uyghur Autonomous Region and are subjected to indoctrination classes where they are forced to denounce Islam and swear allegiance to the CCP. Detainees are forced to participate in self-criticism sessions where instructors lectured  them about the dangers of Islam and forced them to repeat pro-CCP slogans or be sent to stand near a wall for hours on end. Those accused of being religious extremists were also reportedly forced to eat pork and drink alochol. According to the Associated Press, the internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities.

According to former detainees of the camps who were later released, religious Uyghur Muslims were targeted in particular for detention, especially those who had travelled abroad to a Muslim-majority country.

Uyghur religious leaders and scholars and Uyghur Muslim men in particular have been targeted for detention, with a disturbing trend emerging of elderly Uyghur religious leaders dying in the camps under mysterious circumstances. Cities with a more religious population have experienced greater rates of detention, especially in Hotan[i]and Kashgar[ii].