Actually, China is engaged in a wide-ranging effort to root out and crush the ancient culture of the Uighurs, who are ethnically Turkic and religiously Muslim. In addition to mass detention, the means employed include arrests, torture and disappearance of political and cultural leaders, as well as technological surveillance of the general population. Xinjiang has always been a “restive” province, loath to submit to domination and colonization by the remote Communist Party authorities in Beijing. But the systematic crackdown occurring now goes well beyond what past isolated acts of anti-government violence might possibly justify.
Indeed, President Xi Jinping seems bent on ending or at least limiting any independent commitment to a belief system other than the one embodied in official Communist Party propaganda. His government’s next target appears to be the 10-million-member Muslim Hui minority, who live not in Xianjiang but in Gansu province, and who have no particular record of separatism or extremism. As The Post’s Gerry Shih reports, government agents have begun purging the Huis’ region of visible symbols of Islam, such as mosque domes and minarets. Arabic script signage has been banned in public spaces, as have sales of the Koran. Some liken what’s happening to the anti-religious frenzies of the Cultural Revolution, but Mr. Xi enforces ideological conformity bureaucratically, not via Red Guard mobs.
China’s systematic anti-Muslim campaign, and accompanying repression of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists, may represent the largest-scale official attack on religious freedom in the world. Other governments must not remain silent. The Trump administration’s condemnations have ebbed and flowed, depending on President Trump’s interest in courting Mr. Xi for trade concessions. Mr. Trump is not alone: Many Western countries’ economic interests dictate their China policies.
There was a welcome moment of U.S. toughness on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, however, when the United States led more than 30 countries, along with nongovernmental organizations, in condemning what a State Department official called the “horrific campaign of repression.” Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ top human rights official, is demanding unrestricted access to China. She should get it but probably won’t, because, when it comes to China’s official cover stories, seeing is disbelieving.