Who the Uighurs Are and Why You Should Care

The Uighurs (also spelled Uyghurs) are an ethnic minority of Turkic Muslims located in China’s autonomous Xinjiang province. Over the past few years, China has been accused of attempting to purge its population of Uighurs, placing them in concentration camps and forcefully sterilizing them.

In an interview with the BBC, China’s UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming denied claims of abuse against the Uighurs. Drone footage authenticated by Australian services appears to show handcuffed and blindfolded Uighurs being led to trains.

When shown the footage, Xiaoming stated,

“There is no such concentration camp in Xinping.”

Despite this denial, research conducted by The Associated Press reported that China was cutting into Uighur birth rates harshly using forced sterilizations, abortions, and birth control. The report notes that the government routinely checks minority women for pregnancies and the use of IUDs. Generally, sterilization have fallen throughout China with the exception of Xinping, where “it is rising sharply.” The AP also found that parents to three or more children are required to pay fines, which they cannot afford, forcing the parents into detention centers as a result. The Uighurs, being Muslim, believe children are a gift from God that no one should interfere with, not even the state authority. In the eyes of the Chinese government, this makes Uighurs with at least three children religious extremists.

Darren Byler, an expert on Uighurs at the University of Colorado stated that while the intention of these population control policies may not be a complete massacre of the Uighurs, a the reduced population “will certainly make them easier to assimilate into the mainstream Chinese population.” On the other hand, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at Newcastle University Dr. Smith Finley claims these policies are a “slow, painful, creeping genocide.”

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