Worldwide scholars' statement on Xinjiang's mass incarceration

By Jerome A. Cohen

Here's a statement [https://concernedscholars.home.blog/; PDF here] signed by a very large number of scholars and China specialists worldwide to protest Xinjiang's “re-education” camps that detain hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and Kazakhs. The statement also offers suggestions for action by governments and academic institutions around the world.

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 www.xinjianginitiative.org.

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

How to describe what's happening in Xinjiang?

By Jerome Cohen

Earlier this month, Josh Rogin wrote in the Washington Post­, Ethnic cleansing makes a comeback — in China, which provoked quite a lot of discussion, especially with regard to Rogin’s use of “ethnic cleansing” in describing China’s continuing campaign to abuse hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in “re-education camps“ in the Xinjiang region as well as other efforts to destroy the social and religious life of Uyghur communities.  

Should we use ethnic cleansing to describe this horrendous situation? It is important to “rectify names” (zhengming), but there are so many aspects to this repression that it is not possible to find words that can adequately encapsulate it. What, for example, about reports that large numbers of Uyghurs from certain areas are being displaced and sent elsewhere outside of Xinjiang?

I personally believe, despite the views expressed otherwise, that we should not confine “ethnic cleansing” to its past notorious uses, for what is taking place is the attempted destruction of an ethnic group. This attempt has about as good a chance of success as the attempts to “convert” LGBT people to heterosexuals, and perhaps that is where we should look for better vocabulary!  

China sends Uyghurs to re-education camps as a “preventive measure”

By Jerome Cohen

Here is a Radio Free Asia report on the hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs who have been detained in “re-education” camps. The number detained may have reached one million, according to the estimate. This is far beyond the number of those who were retained for “re-education through labor” (RETL) at any given time in what were supposedly the last years of that notorious punishment. As I recall, there were usually said to be about 300,000 detained for RETL at that time.

We need to know much more about who has been recently detained in Xinjiang, for what reasons, by what procedures, for how long, for what type of “education” etc. Is it really true that people under 40 are being preventively detained without any basis for suspicion other than the fact that, because of their relative youth, they might be susceptible to evil thoughts and actions? This is a horrendous situation that makes a mockery of the Party’s claim that it is pursuing the “rule of law”. It invites comparisons with the early years of Hitler’s attack on the Jews.

It also makes me think of Lee Kuan-yew’s Singapore. Until the early ‘80s, when he changed his views, Lee prohibited Singaporeans under 40 or 45 (I forget which) who had been educated in the PRC from returning to Singapore, regarding them as security risks. Lee also resorted to preventive detention, but on a very limited scale and with respect to people who had at least demonstrated what he regarded as “left wing” sympathies. I hope those of us who observe developments in China will not look away from this ugly, worsening phenomenon in the Central Realm.