Phillipian Commentary: Uigher Muslims

The Chinese city Hotan was a former hotbed of philosophical, technological, and most importantly, religious exchange. A small junction along the Silk Road, Hotan created a harmony of Islam and Buddhist beliefs. Now, however, notes of discord have been imposed upon the oasis town, quickly dismantling the environment of peace and stifling a healthy religious community. The Chinese Communist Party has committed the heinous crime of splitting minority families apart and manipulating state media to snuff out the voices of Muslims or other ethnic minorities.

To date, half a million children of ethnic minority groups—mainly Chinese Muslim children—have been separated from their families and involuntarily enrolled in boarding schools, according to “The New York Times.” The Mainland has largely advertised the schools as a way to grant impoverished families a chance for their children to gain an education. However, these boarding schools were erected in Muslim-heavy regions of China, such as Hotan, to enforce loyalty to the Communist Party of China (CPC), instill a greater sense of patriotism to the Mainland, and indoctrinate children of minority groups. According to state media and official government documents, the crackdown on minorities and their children was driven by the belief that secularising younger generations would eliminate extremist violence in the Xinjiang area, following the ethnic riots of 2004 in Urumqi. But the forced separation of family units seems violent in itself, only adding fuel to the “anti-Chinese” fire that the CPC fears so much. Children are only permitted to see their parents every other week. According to state documents from 2017, this visitation restriction was enacted to “break the impact of the religious atmosphere at home.” Furthermore, the CPC shouldn’t attempt to snuff out the voices of Muslims, or minorities in general, by splitting families apart or manipulating media to their own liking.

The CPC commandeered an overhaul of academic curricula in the Xinjiang region and amassed a great army of teachers to educate Muslim children in Chinese values and philosophy, hoping to eliminate all traces of Islam faith. Teachers that are accused of dissent or digression from the prescribed curriculum are severely punished and silenced. This act of suppression seems reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, spearheaded by former chairman Mao Zedong.

In December 2016, the CPC announced that the education of minority children would become a part of the national security drive. This announcement reveals the insecurity that the Chinese government feels towards Muslims, which leads them to portray the minority group as a threat, thus instilling fear in Chinese citizens towards people of the Islamic faith. The Chinese government has previously exhibited this same behavior of creating fear or opposition towards an allegedly threatening group. When addressing the protests in Hong Kong, the government used state media to present the young students, who were advocating for their freedom and democracy, as a radical and dangerous group. State media exclusively covered the damage Hong Kong citizens had done to their own city, not focusing on what the protesters were fighting for because their messages offended the CPC.

Ironically, prior to the Cultural Revolution, which re-established Communist values in China and paved the road for the CPC, Mao Zedong and his Red Guard were also viewed as a radical group. Only they were responsible for eventually killing millions of innocent citizens and practically eliminating the capitalist economy. In fearing a so-called radical group, the CPC seems to fear its own roots.

The Chinese Communist Party was once a group rebelling against the state government, albeit on a much larger and more militaristic scale. In placing labels upon smaller groups that portray their members in a negative light the CPC is committing a grand act of irony. If the CPC truly desires a greater sense of loyalty and patriotism from ethnic minority people in China, a forceful separation of children from families will only serve to give minorities an impetus to revolt against the government.