Statement by Concerned Scholars on China’s Mass Detention of Turkic Minorities

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

As concerned scholars who study China, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Central Asia, and other related regions of the world, we issue this statement to highlight our concerns and to call the international community to action in relation to the mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures presently taking place in China’s XUAR. The signatories to this statement are united in viewing the present situation in the region of China as one of significant international concern. The situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang region in this 2017 file photo. (Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)

Background


The Chinese state is engaged in the mass detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities in their homelands in the Central Asian borderlands of Northwest China. Researchers estimate that around one million people have been detained without trial. In the camps, these detainees, most of whom are Uyghur, are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs, and cultural practices. Outside of the camps, more than 10 million Turkic Muslim minorities in the region are subjected to a dense network of surveillance systems, checkpoints, and interpersonal monitoring which severely limit all forms of personal freedom.


What is Happening in the Camps?


Until October 2018 the Chinese authorities officially denied the existence of the camps. They have since declared that the camps are “vocational training” schools that Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities attend voluntarily. In programming featured on state television on October 16, Uyghur detainees were shown learning Chinese, receiving training in industrial production, and discussing their regret concerning past religious and ethnonational beliefs while proclaiming a new-found love for the Chinese political system. However, in many of the shots at the camp, it is clear that the detainees are being monitored by numerous cameras.


Reports from eyewitnesses have noted malnourishment and severe psychological distress among the detainees, and some report that detainees have been forcibly given psychiatr