Society often believes that the tragedy of genocide is something that only happens in a vacuum and to specific groups, however this is a dangerously misinformed idea. One quick Google search for the term genocide will result in numerous black and white photos of previous historical events. There have been at least twenty-three genocides in the twentieth century, resulting in up to thirty-two million deaths, with at least four genocidal events in the last twenty years, with at least three continuing today in Myanmar, Sudan, and China.
Since 2014, China has come under international scrutiny for its activities against the Uyghur Muslim population in the north-western province of Xinjiang. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe over one million Uyghur people have been detained against their will.
“I was there,” said a Chinese government official who had spoken with Amnesty International about his participation in arresting Uyghur peoples. “The police would take people out of their houses… and they put black hoods on them… Nobody could resist. Imagine if all of a sudden a group [of police] enters [your home], cuffs you and puts [a black hood] over your head… That night we made 60 arrests… That was just in one district… Every day they arrested more people.”
Not only are people being illegally detained for their ethnicity, religion, and culture; the Chinese government has built internment camps, calling them “re-education camps” or “job training centers,” and there are reports of women being forcibly sterilized, tortured, and forced labor throughout the camps. All of this has occurred without any thought for human rights or safety for the detainees.
China’s official reasoning for the mass incarcerations is preventing terrorist extremism in the Uyghur population. Whereas it is true that up to 5,000 Uyghur Muslims have defected from China and joined ISIS in Afghanistan, over twelve million Uyghurs reside in China. This would be akin to the federal government detaining over two million of the seven million Massachusetts residents for the alleged actions of three thousand people.
President Joe Biden has issued a “diplomatic boycott” against the 2022 Olympic games due to China’s recent actions, reported NBC. The boycott amounts to the U.S. not sending government representatives to the opening ceremonies or the Olympics in general. The U.S. and several other countries such as Canada and the U.K. have issued travel and economic sanctions against China for their ongoing abuse of human rights.
International criminal courts that are supposed to intervene on such matters have cited a lack of evidence to do so in China, although the point would be moot because China refuses to allow international observers access to Xinjiang. Critics of the international response to the genocide of the Uyghur Muslims say the atrocities are being placated in the public eye because governments do not want to disrupt the billions of dollars in bilateral trade done with China.