The below article was published by Newsweek, photo credit: GREG BAKER / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Chinese regime has detained hundreds of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectual and cultural elites in its sprawling network of detention camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, a report has found.
A report titled “The Disappearance of Uyghur Intellectual and Cultural Elites: A New Form of Eliticide” published on December 8 by the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a human rights advocacy group based in Washington D.C, found at least 312 intellectual and cultural elites were currently being held in some form of detention in the region. These include scholars, professors, poets, musicians, doctors and writers.
In total, it is estimated that upwards of 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are being detained in internment camps in China.
UHRP compiled a database of 312 detained or imprisoned elites who the group believes are currently being held in some form of extralegal detention after disappearing between 2016 and 2021.
“The Chinese government persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectual and cultural elites constitutes a significant component of China’s genocidal campaign in East Turkistan [Xinjiang],” the report states.
The UHRP analyzed data gathered by Uyghur diaspora members to document the Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz intellectual and cultural elites who are suspected to be detained or imprisoned as of late 2021.
The UHRP’s report highlights three persecuted Uyghur elites, all of whom were detained or disappeared in 2017.
Uyghur literature teacher and poet, Gulnisa Imin, was reportedly detained for her ideas about preserving and promoting the Uyghur language and culture. Before her disappearance, her work gained widespread acclaim, particularly on online social media platforms such as WeChat and QQ.
U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia on December 6 reported that Gulnisa Imin was handed a sentence of 17-and-a-half years imprisonment. Her charges are still unknown.
An expert on Uyghur language and cultural heritage, Abdubesir Shukuri, professor and dean of the Department of Literature at Xinjiang Normal University, has been missing since he was held in custody in the region in 2017.READ MORE
Uyghur scholar, calligrapher, and former journalist Exmet Momin Tarimi disappeared in December 2017 as he was set to complete his Ph.D. thesis on a topic which his advisor at Nanjing University initially rejected, saying that the research was extremely sensitive and examined self-governing political rule in the region, according to the report.
“The Chinese government’s use of this new form of eliticide might suggest genocidal intent in its attempt to destroy the cultural structures of the Uyghur people,” UHRP said.
UHRP’s report noted that the Chinese communist regime has long persecuted and suppressed Uyghur elites and their freedom, ramping up pressure particularly on those who speak out against rights abuses committed against the Uyghur people.
It added that this suppression has significantly escalated since 2017
“The current assault on Uyghur intellectual and cultural elites from 2017 onward represents a significant escalation of persecution, as even Uyghurs loyal to the state and party are now subject to absurd allegations such as being ‘two-faced,’ i.e., politically hypocritical,” said the report.
In a statement to Newsweek, Salih Hudayar, prime minister of the East Turkistan government in exile, said that Uyghur cultural, intellectual, and business elites are being disappeared “as a component of China’s ongoing genocide and colonization in East Turkistan.”
“By doing so the Chinese government seeks to deprive Uyghurs of cultural, economic and intellectual leaders that could empower the Uyghur people to preserve their identity and even guide them towards achieving external self-determination—independence,” Hudayar added
The Chinese government has long been justifying its intensifying crackdown of Uyghurs and ethnic minorities as a means to “educate and transform” those whom it deems at risk of the “three evil forces” of “extremism, separatism, and terrorism.”
Before Beijing publicly admitted the existence of its detention camps in October 2018, it had pushed the narrative that the centers were to further education in “vocational skills,” such as sewing and baking.
The report comes on the heels of a verdict by the Uyghur Tribunal that the Chinese Communist Party’s conduct in Xinjiang amounts to genocide.
Meanwhile, a growing number of nations have vowed a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing over China’s human rights record, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., and Lithuania.