So Much for Solidarity: Muslim Countries Defend China’s Forced Detention of 2 Million Muslims

More than a dozen Muslim-majority countries defended China’s forced detention of up to two million Uighur Muslims in a letter to the United Nations praising China’s human rights record.

According to the State Department, China’s is committing some of its “worst human rights abuses” in the Xinjiang region, where the US government believes they have put as many as 2 million Muslims into forced detention camps for “indefinite periods of time.”

“Reports suggest that most of those detained are not being charged with crimes, and their families lack information about their whereabouts, their well-being, and for how long they will be held. The reasons given for detention appear to vary widely; in some cases, police have claimed they are detaining someone merely because they travelled abroad, or because they have family abroad. There appears to be no ability to contest such detention,” State Department official Scott Busby testified to the Senate.

According to Busby, former detainees described “relentless indoctrination and harsh conditions” at the camps, where they were subject to “beatings and food deprivation.”

“There are reports of the use of stress positions, cold cells, and sleep deprivation in the camps,” he said. “We have also seen reports of other forms of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, including sexual abuse. One common goal in reports from former detainees seems to be to forcing detainees to renounce Islam and embrace the Chinese Communist Party. For example, praying and using common Muslim greetings are forbidden in the camps. There are reports that authorities constantly surveil detainees to ensure that they do not pray, even in their own beds in the middle of the night. Detainees are reportedly forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. Some have reported being forcibly medicated with unknown substances.”

Western countries condemned China’s human rights abuse:

Last week, 22 mostly Western countries signed a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning China’s human rights abuses and calling on them to end "mass arbitrary detentions and related violations."

The letter also expressed concern about widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Muslim countries defend China:

In response to the UN letter, 37 countries sent their own letter praising China’s human rights record, Reuters reported. Nearly half of the countries that signed the letter were Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

"Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers," the letter said adding that there have been no terrorist attacks in the region over the last three years and the residents were safe and happy.

Center for Global Policy director Azeem Ibrahim said the letter shows the influence that China has over so many Muslim-majority countries.

"I was surprised that (Muslim countries) would put it in writing and put their names on it and sign a document to actually praise China. It's one thing to keep quiet and abstain. It's another thing to overtly support (the policies) when there was no need for them to do so,” he told CNN. "I think that's indicative of the influence and power that China has.”

"I don't think there's ever been such a thing as Muslim solidarity," he added. "And I think this particular issue has only highlighted that."

Ibrahim said that the countries that signed the letter are now “complicit” in China’s human rights abuses against Muslims.

"They are providing cover for this persecution,” he said.


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