It’s been six month since news breakout that nearly a million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and other Turkic people are held in internment camps. (some says it is concentration camps like in early days of Nazi era, but let’s hope it does not share the destiny.) The news have occupied major newspapers for two month or so, ignited some debated and made some noise. But nothing positively really happened since then.
Most, if not all news outlets described the tragedy as Chinese internment of Muslim minorities, i.e. stressing the religious factor of the oppression. These news outlets mean well, but by addressing the issue as the religious rights violations, they did, inadvertently, what the Chinese government is trying to do: depict the native people of Xinjiang as Muslims with problems that needs to be ‘cured’. The Muslim narrative China trying to picture is to use the global Islamophobia, win hearts of some racist in the west. It is not hard to find comments on the news about the internment camps say some saying the west should follow the Chinese lead to eradicate Muslim terrorists.
I will argue that the internment camps are racist Chinese government policy mainly against ethnicity, though being Muslim exacerbated the rights violations of ethnic Turkic people of Xinjiang. Even though China claims it has 56 recognized ethnic groups, today in fact less than a dozen do exit; the rest has been forcefully or involuntarily assimilated into the majority Han. Among the really existing ethnic minority in China are Mongols, Tibetans, and the Turkic Uyghurs, Kazakh, etc of Xinjiang. Among these, the native Turkic people of Xinjiang are the most distinct from the majority Han Chinese. They language, culture, religion and way of life is foreign to the Han Chinese. The Chinese government probably have realized just policy is not enough to assimilate those Turkic people into Han in near future. That’s why they’re building the camps, and forcefully teaching them Chinese, their culture, and way of life.