The Chinese government has a dark history of detaining and torturing its citizens. Internment camps, also known as reeducation camps, have been in use for hundreds of years in China. Detainees are held without trial, and often subjected to barbaric methods of torture. The international community has long criticized the Chinese government for these human rights abuses, but little has been done to stop them.
Today, there are an estimated one million people (conservatively) being held in Chinese internment camps. The majority of detainees are Uighur Muslims, but other ethnic and religious minorities such as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Christians have also been targeted. These people are detained for supposed “crimes” such as having too many children, praying, growing a beard, having a foreign passport, or speaking out against the government.
Once inside the camps, detainees are forced to renounce their religion and culture. They are subject to brainwashing and indoctrination into the Communist Party’s ideology. They are also made to perform hard labor, often in dangerous conditions. Torture is commonplace, and many detainees have died as a result of the abuse they have suffered.
The methods of torture “allegedly” used in the camps are varied and often creative. Detainees have been beaten, electrocuted, waterboarded, and burned with hot irons. They have also been subjected to sleep deprivation, forced labor, and solitary confinement. The conditions in the camps are so horrific that many detainees have committed suicide rather than continue to endure the abuse.
The United Nations has called on China to close the camps and release all detainees but the Chinese government denies the existence of these camps, and has refused to allow international observers access to them. Being the toothless tiger it is, the UN has no power to force China to comply.
Since the international community, including the United States, is beholden to China for economic reasons, it is unlikely that anything will be done to stop the abuses taking place in these camps. The United States for all of its rhetoric about “freedom”, is in debt to China to the tune of over one trillion dollars. American companies have outsourced their manufacturing to China to take advantage of the low wages paid to Chinese workers. The American consumer has become addicted to cheap goods produced in Chinese sweatshops. As a result, the United States is in no position to confront China about human rights abuses.
Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes, and business moguls all have a financial stake in China and are reluctant to criticize the country. They have been silent on the issue of human rights abuses in China for fear of jeopardizing their business interests.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has been criticized for censoring posts about the plight of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. His ties go back to his days as a student at Harvard when he received funding from Chinese investors for his social media startup as well as from his wife’s family. His allegiance is so strong to the leader of China that he supposedly asked Xi Jinping to name his daughter during a meeting between the two men.
It is clear that the interests of business and human rights are in conflict. The world will continue to turn a blind eye to the abuses taking place in Chinese internment camps as long as there is money to be made. The only hope for the people being detained is that someone with enough power will finally stand up to China and demand an end to these horrific practices.
Update: Since this blog post was first written, there have been reports of mass graves being discovered near some of the internment camps in Xinjiang. This confirms what many have long suspected: that detainees are being killed in these camps. In response, the Chinese government admits that it is operating internment camps in Xinjiang. However, they claim that these are “re-education” camps and that the detainees are there voluntarily. This is clearly not the case, and the international community must take action to shut these camps down and release all detainees.
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