Does Anybody Really Care?

One of my daughters sent me this: “Data leak reveals how China ‘brainwashes’ Uighurs in prison camps.” Her question: “Why does literally no one care/talk about this?”

The Chinese government has consistently claimed the camps in the far western Xinjiang region offer voluntary education and training. But official documents, seen by BBC Panorama, show how inmates are locked up, indoctrinated and punished.
About a million people – mostly from the Muslim Uighur community – are thought to have been detained without trial.

The leaked Chinese government documents, which the ICIJ have labelled “The China Cables”, include a nine-page memo sent out in 2017 by Zhu Hailun, then deputy-secretary of Xinjiang’s Communist Party and the region’s top security official, to those who run the camps.

The memo includes orders to:

“Never allow escapes”
“Increase discipline and punishment of behavioural violations”
“Promote repentance and confession”
“Make remedial Mandarin studies the top priority”
“Encourage students to truly transform”
“[Ensure] full video surveillance coverage of dormitories and classrooms free of blind spots”

The documents reveal how every aspect of a detainee’s life is monitored and controlled: “The students should have a fixed bed position, fixed queue position, fixed classroom seat, and fixed station during skills work, and it is strictly forbidden for this to be changed.

“Implement behavioural norms and discipline requirements for getting up, roll call, washing, going to the toilet, organising and housekeeping, eating, studying, sleeping, closing the door and so forth.”
The punishment-and-reward system helps determine whether inmates are allowed contact with family and when they are released. They are only considered for release once four Communist Party committees have seen evidence they have been transformed.

The scale and nature of China’s violation of the human rights of Muslims are horrifying. So, to my daughter’s question: why, seemingly, does hardly anyone care?

When we remember the outcry among American liberals against President Trump’s “Muslim travel ban,” which of course was nothing of the sort, but which temporarily prevented a handful of Muslims from entering the supposedly bigoted hellhole of the United States, and contrast it with liberals’ near-absolute silence with regard to grotesque abuses of Muslims by the Chinese government, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that American liberals care about their own power, not about the wellbeing of Muslims. (We see the same phenomenon in other contexts, of course, e.g. the treatment of women.) My only other observation is that, contra Tom Friedman and others who apparently see the Chinese form of government as optimal, I am glad that we have a president who is finally standing up to China’s leaders and working to reduce their power and influence.

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