China, the Country That Is Trying to Connect the World, Is Prohibiting Me from Contacting My Family
How the Chinese government is cracking down on Uyghurs and the world is keeping its silence, and how I have been personally affected.
In this era of Zoom meetings, Face-timing and Whatsapp’ing, it may sound unimaginable for some to learn that I couldn’t able to connect to my family, especially considering the fact that they are residing in a country that is leading the way in 5G technology, connecting the world through One Belt One Road, and sending spacecraft to Mars. As you may have guessed, that country is China and it’s prohibiting my Uyghur family to communicate with me. It’s been three years since I have talked to my parents, siblings or any friends back home in East Turkestan (note: the Chinese government calls it Xinjiang in Chinese, which can be interpreted as newly occupied territory). My last chat was with my older brother over the phone in late February 2018; He was suspiciously eager to hang up, circumventing my inquiry about whereabouts of dad and mom. Since I was aware that government officials were harassing and intimidating them, I didn’t press more. The worst part was at the end, when he almost bursted into tears while begging me not to call them again, unless it’s emergency.
I thought it was one of those instances that I witnessed and heard over the years, that some civil unrest or riots happened, followed by ruthless crackdown by the government and designation of the happenstance as terrorist attack, and subsequent restriction of communication throughout the region so that the government can shape the narrative. During such periods, contacting with anyone oversees is discouraged and is considered ‘problematic’ at best and crime at worst. So I thought early 2018 was such a period and I was hoping that it’ll get better after a few weeks or months, at worst, as it happened during the July 2009 riots in Urumqi. However, when I called my family a few weeks later, the call did not go through. Since then, I called multiple times, it never went through. I continued to try and contact them, But it never worked. I also tried connecting with friends and other family members, but had the same result. Eventually, friends and families started to remove & block me from Wechat, slowly and one by one.
I initially believed that whatever had happened to my family was just bad luck, but I just can not wrap my head around it. My parents and siblings were village farmers, they do not even had a traffic fine or any criminal record what’s over that led to their harassment by the police. Besides, none of them ever talk about social injustice or discrimination, even though there are plenty of it visible around them. They are just ordinary village people, living their lives, content with whatever they have. Additinally, I myself had never openly talked about injustice and racial discrimination in China, nor had I had any contact with oversees Uyghur or other rights groups. In fact, I could be considered as a ‘model’ citizen.
Little did I know, others have similar experiences that they were not able to contact their loved ones. Then, in the summer of 2018, news broke out that China is secretly interning millions of Uyghurs and other original people of East Turkestan. I realized then that what happened to my family was not a coincidence, but rather a systematic and government-sanctioned racist and imperialist policy to eliminate the local culture and people, similar to what European imperialists did to Native Americans and Aboriginal people in North America and Australia.
A reasonable human being would say that the genocidal policy of the Chinese regime towards the Uyghurs is unacceptable in this age and time, and surely agree that China’s atrocities should be loudly and clearly condemned. Sadly, most of the world is silent, for economic or strategic reasons, reminiscent of world’s silence during the persecution of the Jews people in early days of the Nazis.
On the Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27th, Steven Luckert, from the US Holocaust Museum wrote:
“Too often the Nazis succeeded because others were willing to comply or collaborate, out of fear or out of mutual benefit. During the war, when Nazi policy grew more extreme, with deportations and systematic murder of Jews from across Europe, there always were more than enough helpers, including many who were not wide-eyed fanatical Nazis or German.”
Luckert was talking about the genocide of Jews committed by the Nazis. Eight decades later, leaders, politicians and dignitaries worldwide are commemorating the Holocaust, mostly through virtual messages such as “We Remember” and “Never again”.
At the backdrop is the EU’s trade agreement, New Zealand’s upgrade of free trade agreement, and Turkey’s parliamentary discussion of extradition treaty, all with China, despite the well-documented human rights abuses against Hongkong’ers and Tibetans, and ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other native people of East Turkestan. This raises questions about the meaning of the words. Do you really ‘remember’ ?! What does ‘Never again” mean ? What is the point of the hollow repentance and shallow sorrow ?!
Most of the world know what is going on in East Turkestan: The Chinese government is currently detaining over 1 million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other minority groups for seemingly arbitrary reasons, such as wearing a beard or headscarf, having certain names, or visiting a foreign country. These individuals have not been legally charged and are being held in overcrowded and unsanitary concentration/labor camps with limited access to food. They are being forced to work in factories located next to the camps. Among those arrested are Uyghur scholars, artists, writers, poets, and publishers. Additionally, the Chinese government is destroying cultural and historical sites, mosques, shrines, traditional architecture and removing Uyghur books from shelves.
These are the facts, supported by the growing body of evidence, including eyewitness testimony (some available at https://shahit.biz/eng/ and Uyghur Pulse YouTube channel), journalists’ visits to the region (or hindrance of it by the Chinese government), and satellite images of growing number and size of camps and forced labor factories . Furthermore, organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been conducting investigations and calling for action in response to these abuses.
After reading this post or any related news, any human-being with a brain and a pinch of soul could immediately recognize that the Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity by deliberately destroying the culture and heritages of a specific ethnic group. What the Chinese regime doing is the definition of crimes against humanity, and arguable, could be considered genocide according to UN conventions. It is arguable as no piled up dead bodies or bones have been uncovered, yet.
Sadly, there has been a lack of condemnation from UN officials regarding the situation. Additionally, some countries, such as Pakistan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and other countries that run either by demagogues or can be bribed cheaply, jarringly commended the Chinese regimes cruel ethnic cleansing actions. Similarly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an international organization that is comprised of Muslim majority countries with the claimed aim to protect the interests of Muslims worldwide, commended the genocidal action of the Chinese government, as well. The action of OIC is hypocritical but unsurprising, considering that many of those countries are run by some ruthless kings and emirs that only interest in shiny gold rather the teachings of the Prophet, being compassionate and honest.
On the other side, several governments and officials have spoken out against China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. Countries such as the US, UK, Germany, and Australia have taken action. The US, under the Trump administration, passed the Uyghur Human Rights Act and declared China’s actions against the Uyghurs as genocide. The declaration by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is an important step, but doing so just two days before leaving office makes one suspicious of him and his government’s intention. Additionally, while the Uyghur Human Rights Act has support from both political parties, some conservative (and at times racist) politicians were among the loudest, promoting action against the Chinese government.
As conscious human beings, it is important to remember not to let racist and bigoted right-wing groups use the legitimate condemnation of China’s crimes against humanity as an opportunity to further their own agenda. They are not genuine, and these groups do not truly care about the suffering of the Uyghur people. they do not care what happened and happens to the Uyghur people, they only care about their own agenda. It is hypocritical to speak out against human rights abuses in one country while endorsing the dehumanization of marginalized groups in one’s own country.
1,000,000 people are not just statistics, they are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers; they have faces, they had life and dreams. Can you imagine not being able to speak to your loved ones on the phone? Can you imagine the fact that talking to your family is a crime ! Can you imagine of being separated from you family, and are not able to get back home, out of fear of imprisonment and torture; Nor your loved ones could not visit you because their passport and documents were confiscated for no reason ! Can you imagine moving to a new country with your family, building a good and honest life, only for your spouse and children to be arrested and disappear upon returning to visit their family in their home country. Can you imagine of having no information on their whereabouts or well-being, not knowing if they are alive, suffering, or dead, all because they visited another country.
For me and many other Uyghurs, we do not have to imagine, we have been living that life for years.
I write this not to shame anyone for not speaking up or taking action, but to share my own experiences and the impact it has had on me. I know we are all going through tough times since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. The aim of my writing is to tell you how I have been personally affected by the Chinese regimes crackdown and how politicians and countries have been reacting to it. If it is not too much, I ask you to learn some truths, learn about somebody specific and theirs sufferings, and then share it with your family and friends. Hopefully they will do the same, and as conscious individuals, we can raise awareness and work to put a stop to the Chinese regime’s rampage.