China is pretty much what the left pretends America to be. Unapologetically so and virtually impervious to any outside pressure, which means hardly anyone on the left actually bothers to attack it over anything. As I wrote a few weeks ago, China’s westernmost province, the majority-Muslim Xinjiang (or West Turkmenistan, as some non-Chinese refer to it) is undergoing a major crackdown with barely a peep from the international community. One million out of the population of ten million are said to be held in camps by the Chinese authorities. Now “The Atlantic” expands on the mass incarceration:
Former inmates—most of whom are Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority—have told reporters that over the course of an indoctrination process lasting several months, they were forced to renounce Islam, criticize their own Islamic beliefs and those of fellow inmates, and recite Communist Party propaganda songs for hours each day. There are media reports of inmates being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, which are forbidden to Muslims, as well as reports of torture and death.
The sheer scale of the internment camp system, which according to The Wall Street Journal has doubled in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region just within the last year, is mindboggling. The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China describes it as “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.” Beijing began by targeting Uighur extremists, but now even benign manifestations of Muslim identity—like growing a long beard—can get a Uighur sent to a camp, the Journal noted. Earlier this month, when a UN panel confronted a senior Chinese official about the camps, he said there are “no such things as reeducation centers,” even though government documents refer to the facilities that way. Instead, he claimed they’re just vocational schools for criminals.
China has been selling a very different narrative to its own population. Although the authorities frequently describe the internment camps as schools, they also liken them to another type of institution: hospitals.
Pathologising political dissent is an old communist trick, as attested by numerous Soviet dissidents who were incarcerated inside psychiatric institutions to “cure” them of their “anti-social” beliefs. There is a soft echo of that amongst some sections of the Western left, which offer the third alternative the wrong-or-evil dialectic of their ideological foes: mental illness. After all, no normal person could genuinely believe all that dreadful right wing stuff, could they?
But just as we have stopped seeing “Free Tibet” bumper stickers sometime over the past decade (for the record: Tibet is still not free), you won’t see “Free Uighurs” anywhere either. This is despite the human rights violations and persecution of a Muslim minority on the scale unknown anywhere else in the world. Imagine the howls of outrage if Israel imprisoned ten per cent of its Palestinian population, much less the United States (where I remember similar hysterical predictions being made in the aftermath of September 11 by some Muslim and leftist activists fearing an official backlash, which of course never materialised). What’s more surprising than the Woke Street being so quiet about Xinjiang is that the Arab Street is too. No Muslim government or international body is speaking up for their coreligionists; the ummah itself, normally so restive and sensitive to any slights, real or imagines, remains AWOL. There is a Mohammed cartoon contest being staged in the Netherlands and mass protests are hitting the streets of Pakistan while a female Pakistani pop star is calling for blasphemers to be hanged on her Twitter. In Chinese “reeducation camps” Muslims are being forced to renounce their faith and eat pork and no one gives a damn.
Once there is some more consistency about the outrage and protest I might actually start taking it seriously. Western Islamophobia, eh?