Xinjiang Initiative

From today’s South China Morning Post [click to view in browser]

Muslims in Xinjiang are facing human rights abuses: time for China scholars to break the silence

By Kevin Carrico and Jerome A. Cohen

Since 2016, Xinjiang’s ongoing “re-education” campaign against local Muslims has expanded into a vast system of concentration camps, currently estimated to hold nearly 10 per cent of the area’s roughly 11 million Uygurs, as well as many of the smaller Kazakh minority. Prisoners are detained not because of any crime, but because of their ethnicity, their Muslim faith, their seemingly irreconcilable difference from China’s ethnic Han majority.

Countless lives have been destroyed, as people are held indefinitely in these camps, without due process. Detainees are pressured, under the watchful eyes of guards, to abandon their religious beliefs, and sing songs and repeat slogans praising the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping. Families have been torn apart. In some cases, they have no idea where relatives are held: people simply disappear.

At this intersection of indefinite arbitrary detention, political indoctrination, family destruction and forced eradication of customs, an entire culture is being erased. These are horrific developments that should have no place in the 21st century.

What can be done? The silence of most China specialists is disturbing, yet also unsurprising. Those of us who know China best have many reasons to rationalise not speaking out. Doing so risks the wrath of a rising power that is determinedly hostile to criticism, and that closely monitors what scholars say and write about sensitive topics. Yet, none of these reasons should be sufficient to warrant silence in the face of crimes against humanity.

To encourage greater awareness and discussion of the ongoing abuses in Xinjiang, with more than a hundred other scholars, authors, artists, and other public speakers, we have begun a “Xinjiang Initiative” – pledging to use our public platforms to speak for those who suffer but cannot be heard.

Participants pledge to use every public event in which they appear to remind their audiences that roughly a million people are being held in extra-legal internment camps, and that these detentions are solely due to detainees’ ethnicity or religion. Participants are also encouraged to share personal stories of detainees to put a human face on these inhuman policies.

If you have a public platform to raise awareness of this appalling repression, please join us. Information about the Xinjiang Initiative, how to join and a list of signatories to date is at

Kevin Carrico, lecturer, Macquarie University, and Jerome A. Cohen, director, New York University US Asia-Law Institute

Chinese Communist Party’s Persecution of Churches: China Change’s Interviews with “Pastor L”

By Jerome A. Cohen

Photo from  ChinaChange : "Believers and SWAT clashed when the cross of this church in Wenzhou was removed on July 21, 2014. TIME Magazine has a video report  here "

Photo from ChinaChange: "Believers and SWAT clashed when the cross of this church in Wenzhou was removed on July 21, 2014. TIME Magazine has a video report here"

China Change has just released a remarkable interview with “Pastor L.” The interview not only updates us about the plight of Christianity in an important area of China but also offers a persuasive analysis of what underlies the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of religions generally. Indeed, it demonstrates the similarities between the CCP’s persecution of religions and its systematic attacks on all freedoms of expression, media, teaching, research and publication, and the legal profession to which victims of suppression vainly turn for protection against an arbitrary and repressive state. This interview deserves widespread dissemination. One need not be a religious person – and I am not – to appreciate its significance.

The interview does prompt a few immediate thoughts. It consistently refers to “Christianity” without distinguishing among the varieties of organized believers who have earned that designation. Readers who are interested in how many of the affected church groups are “Protestants” of one kind or other and how many are “Catholic” can find more information in the first interview China Change released here.

The interview’s account of how local business people, a formidably successful group, have helped to spread the faith during their business trips throughout China evokes thoughts of Max Weber and the connections between capitalism and religions.

It also offers the pathetic story of how Beijing lawyer Zhang Kai, one of several counsel seeking to defend the churches but secretly detained like many of his clients, has been coerced, like them, to issue a jailhouse statement claiming that he no longer wants the help of defense lawyers. This is a vivid illustration of the “rule of law” in practice, as distinguished from the speeches of Xi Jinping, the preaching of the Party plenums and the reformist norms of the National People’s Congress and the Supreme People’s Court. Church believers could render further service by doing empirical studies of the many cases involving interaction of the legal system with their daily lives.

I look forward to further reports from the estimable “Pastor L” and China Change.