China’s Dark Secret: Forgotten Nations and their Brutal Subjugation

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Alessandro Giacone

There are many countries in the world, and many nations within these countries.   A nation is a large body of people, united by a shared language, ethnicity, or history. As demonstrated by history, most nations do not like being ruled by a foreign country and without a strong (typically authoritarian) government. A perfect example of this is the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had a dysfunctional government with a dual-monarchy . One monarch represented the sovereign Hungarian Nation, while another represented the sovereign Austrian Nation. The Empire suffered from extreme nationalist movements and resentment from the Slavic countries. After World War 1, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and most nationalist movements resulted in independence. This is the case when a government is weak. However, in recent years, a new potential superpower has been rising in the East, the People’s Republic of China.

The People’s Republic of China, or China, is a powerful emerging country with an authoritarian and dictatorial regime, under President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Government will go to extreme lengths to keep the country whole. It has extreme censorship, and all nationalist movements are heavily suppressed. In 1950, China annexed Tibet. As a result, many fled from the country,  including the influential Dalai Lama, forming a government in exile. Up until this point, Tibet was an independent country. Although this may be true,  China has a completely different outlook on the situation . China claims that Tibet has not been a country for about 800 years. According to the Chinese Government it was absorbed by the Yuan Dynasty as an “inseparable part of China”. However, this is not true.  Prior to the 1950 invasion, Tibet was an independent country. The Chinese government suppresses the actual facts, and any talk of independence from China is quickly silenced. Tibet is not very rebellious under Chinese authority. Many Tibetans are not calling for independence and many have even integrated into Chinese society. Tibet has been made into an autonomous region of China. Even the Dalai Lama (who was the ruler of Tibet before its annexation and leads the government in exile) believes that Tibet should remain an autonomous part of China. To say that the average Tibetan’s life is flawless under Chinese rule would be a flaw. Due to the Communist Regime, their religion is suppressed, with many Tibetan monasteries being destroyed by the Communist government. Many Tibetans were also killed by the Chinese for preserving their culture and being a  “rebellious” region Nevertheless, the point remains that although a  Tibetan independence movement exists, and is fairly strong, it is not a major issue . While Tibetans have become an ethno-linguistic minority and may not be happy about their occupation, Tibet is stable under China. In addition , Tibet is just one case of China’s terrible violation of human rights. China has also been suppressing the native ethno-linguistic group of Xinjiang, the Uighurs.

Xinjiang is an autonomous region in China. Similar to Tibet, it has some history as an independent nation. In the 1940s,  the country experienced a brief independence. However, China annexed it after the Chinese Communist party defeated the Republic of China’s government in a brutal civil war.  The situation becomes even more intense when considering the local ethno-linguistic groups residing there. The Uighurs are Turks, being part of the greater Turkic ethno-linguistic group. The Turkic people, or Turks, are an extremely dispersed group. They spanned from Siberia, through Central Asia and the Caucuses, and up through Anatolia and the Balkans, throughout North Africa. An important element to note is that Turkic is not synonymous with Turkish. All Turkish people are Turkic, but not all Turkic people are Turkish. As one could assume from the name, all Turkic nations have languages belonging to the Turkic language family. The Turks can be divided into sub regions, and the Uighurs are Central Asian Turks. In Central Asia, most Turkic Nations do possess their own state, known as a Nation State. However there are some exceptions to this , with the Uighurs being a prime example, being ruled by China, rather than themselves.

There are many parallels to the occupation of Tibet and that of Xinjiang. Apart from possessing a unique language and ethnicity, Uighurs identify with a religion different from the Chinese majority. One of Communism’s most famous ideas is separation between Church and state. They believe this can be achieved through the ultimate abolition and rejection of religion. Note that this is not the same thing as secularism. Tibet is a Buddhist nation. Although this could be argued, because under the Chinese Communist regime, all of China is an atheist state, with all religion being heavily suppressed. Xinjiang’s Uighurs are Muslim, just like the majority of Turkic groups.  China does not approve of religion and has heavily censored Islam in Xinjiang. This is one of the key factors that led to the current humanitarian crisis.

Historically, many nations have had issues with an ethno-linguistic minorities. The Ottoman Empire purged the Armenians. Nazi Germany purged the Jews.  Even the United States subjugated the Japanese during the second World War. All of these countries used one common method to do this, and that was the internment camp. Similar to the human rights atrocities committed by these previously mentioned countries, China has subjugated its Uighur population using internment camps. Another similarity with the human rights violations among all of these countries is that they all target an ethnic or religious group. China is no exception, with the dominant ethnic group being the Han Chinese. The Tibetans and Uighurs are both minority ethnic groups, and even in their own regions they are being replaced as the majority by the Han Chinese moving in.

With all of these similarities to genocides and human rights violations, how does China do it? According to the Chinese government, they are not put in internment camps, but rather “re-education centers” to combat “radicalism” and “separatism”. In reality, the United Nations estimates that around 1,000,000 Uighurs are held in these camps. The re-education idea is merely propaganda by the Communist regime; they do not exist to fight radicalism, they exist to strip the Uighurs of an identity. They take their religion,  language, and ethnicity, and integrate it into Chinese society. They indoctrinate children at young ages, taking them from their families and feeding them Communist propaganda. Though,  The treatment of adults goes far beyond brainwashing. On top of brainwashing by the Communist government, there are reports of torture, sexual abuse, repressive surveillance measures, complete disrespect of the Uighur’s religion, and even deaths. Many Uighurs were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol (which is forbidden in Islam), and Qurans were confiscated. They have forced men to shave their beards and for women to leave their hair uncovered. Apart from disrespecting the Uighur’s religion, the Chinese Government has forced the Uighurs to renounce their religion and swear allegiance to the Communist Party, and of course, similar to how Monasteries were destroyed in Tibet, Mosques are being destroyed in Xinjiang. The indoctrination goes even further than this though, because the Uighurs are under constant surveillance from the Chinese Government. They go as far as placing Han Chinese in Uighur households, to observing the Uighurs and reporting back to the government.

This issue has been brought to the international community, with China being exposed for their crimes. However, this has done very little to help them. While the Chinese government claims to have released most Uighurs from the internment camps, there is almost no evidence to suggest that China actually did this. In fact there is evidence to suggest that China did not do this, with many Uighurs who were supposedly freed still “missing”, and the presence of an armed paramilitary police force in the region. The Chinese Government also enjoys claiming that these camps are a major success, saying that 90% of the “graduates” have found suitable work, and that  fifty countries have commended China for the success of the camps in de-radicalizing the “graduates” (both claims lack any evidence, and are most likely false, with China blatantly refusing to show the letter from these fifty countries).

In both Tibet and Xinjiang, the Communist Party has suppressed nationalist movements by brutally subjugating its people. This has gone on for too long, and despite the world knowing about it, and the West denouncing it, nothing is likely to change. China is very strict when it comes to keeping their country whole, and even when they are required by law to grant regions heavy autonomy, this does not stop them from trying to take it away, as seen with the subjugation of Tibet and Xinjiang. The Communist party has been in charge for seventy years now, and they have been doing things like this since they first gained power. While nothing is likely to change, it is important to remain informed and to not stay blind to the subjugation of the Tibetans and Uighurs.