Why the West won’t act on China’s Uighur crisis


The United Nations has cited harrowing reports about Uighur detention centers in China. PHOTO/Twitter bit.ly/2PBPq1d

As evidence mounts of China’s internment of almost one million Muslim Uighurs in the country’s far western region, Western nations have largely failed to respond to the reported abuses, a conspiracy of silence that speaks to China’s still-strong economic and political clout.

In what some critics have referred to as a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”, Chinese authorities have since late 2017 corralled hundreds of thousands of Turkic minority, Uighurs into locked down indoctrination camps in the purportedly autonomous Xinjiang region.

Human rights groups contend that torture and beatings are common in the camps – which form a new “gulag archipelago,” according to some activists – as the ruling Communist Party engages in a social-engineering drive to destroy the Uighur’s traditions, identity and religious beliefs.

But despite the widespread reports of systematized mistreatment, the international response has been at best been muted, and at worst appeasement, Uighur activists and human rights groups monitoring the situation say.

They argue that foreign governments, namely in the rights-promoting West, should impose economic sanctions and threaten to boycott Chinese companies in punitive response.

A Canadian parliamentary committee reported last month that the detention of the Uighurs, as well as other Muslim minority groups, is “unprecedented in its scale, technological sophistication and in the level of economic resources attributed by the state to the project.” Yet the Canadian government has not yet engaged is anything beyond rhetorical criticism.

The United States has sought to tackle China on everything from its military expansion in the South China Sea to reputed unfair trade practices, but indignation over the Uighur issue has been relatively absent in Washington’s broadsides against Beijing.

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