It could be China’s hypocrisy of the year. On April 20 Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang
Wenbin asked Sweden, in the wake of anti-Muslim riots on April 15-16, that the European country
should “earnestly respect the religious beliefs of Muslims and other minority groups, protect their
lawful rights and interest, and square their words of respecting and protecting freedom of religious
belief with action.”
Just five days after a soulful lecture to Sweden on issues related to Muslims, the same Chinese
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson on April 25, took a U-turn on the planned visit of United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to Xinjiang in May. Michelle Bachelet who is
known for her feistiness, has expressed her desire to meet Uyghur Muslims whose persecution by
China has created uproar in the world.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, in an obvious move to stonewall the UNHCR’s desire to
visit Xinjiang said “the goal of the High Commissioner’s visit (China) is to promote exchange and
cooperation. We are opposed to political manipulation by exploiting the matter.” Meaning is clear,
China which tried to show its concern for “lawful rights and interest” of Muslims in Sweden, is
egregiously worried that if Michelle Bachelet visits Xinjiang then it could create an awkward situation
for Beijing and would become hard for it to defend an indefensible.
Listed among the worst human rights abusers in the world by the Human Rights Watch, China is not
only erasing the cultural identity of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, it is also hunting
them down abroad. And, this the Middle Kingdom is doing with help from countries like Saudi
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
In his book “Great Wall of Steel: China’s Global Campaign to Suppress the Uyghurs,’ Bradly Jardine
says more than 5,500 Uyghurs living abroad have been targeted by Beijing in the recent past. The
book, published by the Woodrow Wilson Centre’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States,
maintains that Uyghurs’ targeting is done methodically–through cyberattacks, threats to family
members who remain in China. This way more than 1,500 Uyghurs have been detained or forced to
return to China to face imprisonment and torture in police custody, the book reveals. Giving the
breakup of forced return of Uyghurs, the book says that from 1997 to 2007, as many as 89 Uyghurs
were deported from South and Central Asia; from 2008 to 2013, 126 Uyghurs were extradited from
Southeast Asia and from 2014 to present, 1364 Uyghurs have been deported from 18 countries of
the Middle East and North Africa regions.
The book further says that the forced repatriations to China are ongoing. In this regard, it cites an
incident of April 13, 2022 when Saudi Arabia deported a Uyghur woman and her13-year-old
daughter to China, where their detention in the vast web of concentration camps can’t be ruled out.
The girl’s father and another Uyghur continue to be detained in Saudi Arabia, the book said.
By dangling allurements in terms of building infrastructure and providing economic assistance–
under rubric of the Belt and Road Initiative—China pressurises countries, including those with
majority Muslim population to stay away from supporting Uyghurs. In the recent past it was seen in
Pakistan where the 48th summit of the Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
was held. Then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan got Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to
attend the meeting held on March 22-23 in Islamabad. The theme of the summit was “Building
Partnerships for Unity, Justice and Development.” Every speaker at the summit talked about the
situation in Afghanistan and Muslims’ sufferings in Palestine and other countries, but none could
dare to raise a single word for Uyghur Muslims despite the fact the world is aware of their plight
under China’s Communist regime.
As per a report, 1 million to 2 million Uyghurs and members of other minorities are held up in
various camps in Xinjiang, where they are asked to renounce their religion, avoid maintaining any
religious identity, study Marxism and work in factories. As per the Australian Strategic Policy
Institute’s 2020 report, Uyghurs work in a range of supply chains including electronics, textiles and
automotive under a central government policy known as ‘Xinjiang Aid’. The report further said that
Uyghurs are not just working in Xinjiang, they work in 27 factories spread across nine Chinese
Recently the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) appealed to the European Union to ban all imports of
products from China which have been made by forced labour. The WUC said in a tweet on April 26
that even “the solar panel industry is at high risk of being tainted by these abuses.” The European
Commission, which is the executive branch of the 27-member European Union, is reportedly
considering bringing a legislative proposal on a forced labour ban by mid-September 2022.
Whatever be the world’s reactions to China’s abuses of its Uyghurs, the Middle Kingdom is sparing
no moment to masquerade its two-face character. It lodged a diplomatic protest recently with the
US and the European Union after the two sides during their dialogue raised concern on Xinjiang and
issues relating to Taiwan. “China firmly rejects the US and the EU’s groundless interference in
China’s internal affairs and unwarranted denigration and smearing against China” Chinese Foreign
Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular press briefing on April 25. That means,
China can interfere in internal matters of any country and can ask Sweden to “respect the religious
beliefs of Muslims and other minority groups, protect their lawful rights and interest,” but seldom
will it follow the same principle while treating Uyghurs. The country which is aspiring to become a
super power by 2047 is lacking the moral spine to own up its wrongs