China targeting Uyghur Muslim children as part of cultural genocide in Xinjiang

China targeting Uyghur Muslim children as part of cultural genocide in Xinjiang

The Chinese government’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims has reached inhuman proportions. Human rights activists estimate that almost 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in internment camps, to ‘reform’ them. There are reports of torture and killings at these camps. Activists say the Chinese government is separating Uyghur children from their parents and bringing them up in boarding schools to ‘educate’ them so that they owe allegiance to the Communist Party, not to their parents, family, community or religion. At these schools, visitors are restricted to once a week and speaking of Uyghur is banned. Only Mandarin is allowed.

According to Kate Cronin-Furman, writing in Foreign Policy, in Xinjiang, China has unleashed cultural genocide. Cronin-Furman says cultural genocide means the elimination of a group’s identity through measures such as forcibly transferring children away from their families, restricting the use of the native language, banning cultural activities, or destroying schools and religious institutions. 

China says the orphanages help disadvantaged children and it denies the existence of internment camps for their parents. It prides itself on investing millions of yuan in education in Xinjiang to steer people out of poverty and away from terrorism. But the evidence is to the contrary.

Uyghur activists say the forced separation of families, targeting of community leaders for detention and ‘re-education,’ ban on Uyghur language in schools, razing of mosques and restrictions on markers of cultural identity such as hair, dressing style and names is evidence that China is doing its utmost to eradicate the Uyghur identity.

As a result of the Chinese plan, a generation or two later, Uyghurs will not speak their native tongue and instead, speak only Mandarin. They will not know anything about Islam, the religion followed by their community. They will also not know the culture of Uyghurs. They will be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, which has ‘educated’ them since childhood. The ethnicity of Uyghurs will be wiped out and replaced with a ‘national identity’. 

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, there is evidence that the Chinese government is placing children of the more than 1 million detainees and exiles in orphanages across Xinjiang. The AP found that the government has been building thousands of ‘bilingual’ schools, where minority children are taught in Mandarin and penalised for speaking in their native language. 

AP also found that since the start of last year, the government budgeted more than $30 million (200 million Chinese yuan) to build or expand orphanages. 

The report says officials regularly visit children’s kindergarten in Kashgar and ask students if their parents read religious verses at home or take part in other religious activities. Thus, children are forced to spy on their own families. A man was taken away by police after his grandson said in class that he had made a pilgrimage to Mecca, a teacher in exile told AP. A government notice said students must be instilled with socialist values and be taught to “be grateful for education and love and repay the motherland.”  In schools, children are taught to respect teachers more than their parents, a source told AP.

China has a totalitarian system, which is repugnant to democracy and human rights and must not be allowed to wipe out the cultural identities of minorities. Almost all countries are maintaining silence over the cultural genocide in Xinjiang, including Islamic countries. The world needs to condemn the cultural genocide and put pressure on China to halt its actions in Xinjiang.

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