(CNSNews.com) – Over the past 20 months Chinese authorities have incarcerated between 800,000 and two million Uighurs in internment camps, according to U.S. intelligence estimates cited by a senior State Department official on Capitol Hill on Tuesday
Over that same period, the 57-member bloc of Islamic states has apparently held not one session, and issued not one public statement, expressing concern for the plight of the minority Muslims at the hands of communist Chinese authorities.
China is the number one trading partner of at least 20 of the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
A search of OIC websites finds that the last time the plight of the Uighurs was raised publicly by the bloc was in June 2015.
(Over that same period, the OIC has issued scores of statements and held dozens of meetings focusing on the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem – most recently on Wednesday.)
The only search result from 2018 for either “Uighur” or “Xinjiang” – the western Chinese region where the minority is located – is a brief statement on a visit to the OIC secretariat in Saudi Arabia last May of a delegation from Xinjiang including government and Communist Party officials, who briefed on policies aimed at “the promotion and betterment of various ethnic communities and particularly for the Uighur.”
At the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, China recently underwent a regular review – a process all U.N. member-states go through every four years – and 86 percent of the countries taking part used the opportunity to praise Beijing’s human rights record, according to U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO.
The only countries to raise concerns about the Uighurs, it said, were Western democracies. Thirteen OIC member-states are currently members of the Human Rights Council.
“If the UN Human Rights Council & its Islamic bloc of nations (OIC) truly cared about Muslims, they would convene an emergency session, launch a commission of inquiry & hold Beijing accountable,” U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer tweeted Wednesday.
“But they are doing none of these things,” he added. “Because they don't give a damn about Muslims.”
Queries sent to the OIC secretariat brought no response by press time.
‘Vocational education centers’
On Tuesday, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor Scott Busby told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing that according to intelligence estimates, “there are at least 800,000 and possibly up to a couple of million folks [Uighurs] in these detention facilities.”
“It’s hard for us to get precise data because we don’t have full access to that region,” he added.
In written testimony for the hearing, Busby said most of the incarcerated Uighurs have not been charged, and their families are in the dark.
“At first, China denied such camps existed,” he said.
As the international community began to speak out, Chinese authorities admitted their existence, but “asserted that these internment camps are ‘vocational education centers’ designed to help young, unemployed people in Xinjiang learn job skills and the Chinese language.”
Busby referred to reports about mandatory classes at which inmates were forced to recite communist slogans and sign songs praising the Communist Party, with slow learners subjected to “beatings and food deprivation.” Other reported violations ranged from sleep deprivation to sexual abuse.
Detainees were forbidden to pray, pressurized to renounce Islam, and were “reportedly forced to eat pork and drink alcohol,” which are prohibited for Muslims.
Mosques converted into ‘communist propaganda centers’
Uighurs, an ethnic Turkic group, enjoyed autonomy in the region then known as East Turkestan in the 1930s and 40s, before the communist Chinese took over in 1949.
The vast and resource-rich Xinjiang region shares borders with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Millions of ethnic Han Chinese relocated into the region, and Uighurs now comprise just 46 percent of its inhabitants, compared to almost 40 percent Han.
The region has given rise to some Islamic radical elements. Twenty-two Uighurs were detained at Guantanamo Bay after 9/11 but were later determined not be “enemy combatants” and the government relocated them to third countries including Albania and Palau.
Uighur campaigners, and U.S. officials, have said Beijing uses the pretext of counterterrorism to try to assimilate Uighurs, both through Han settlement and restrictions on Uighur culture, religion and language.
“The Chinese government is engaged in an effort to monitor every aspect of life for Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups,” Busby said in his testimony.
“Families have been forced to accept communist officials into their homes for extended ‘home stays.’ Thousands of mosques have been shuttered or destroyed; some have even been converted into communist propaganda centers.”