AIC Students React to “Cultural Genocide” of Muslim Minorities in China

Avé Mullen, Staff Writer

Springfield, Massachusetts – Have you heard about what is happening to Muslims in Xinjiang, China?

Many news reports from prominent publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times are calling it a “cultural genocide.”

Since, 2017, around 1 million Uighurs, a Muslim minority group, have been forced to live in what China calls “re-education centers,” in an attempt to “prevent extremism.”

Uighur women walking in the old neighborhood. (preston.rhea)

These “centers,” surrounded by cement walls, barbed wire, electric fences, and watch towers, have caused growing suspicion from countries around the world, including the United States.

On August 7, the Trump administration announced sanctions against Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps along with two officials, Peng Jiarui and Sun Jinlong. These sanctions prevent the named offenders from accessing American property and the financial system, and ban any economic transactions between them and American companies and citizens.

“I think this is present-day genocide, and you can’t oppress people for what they believe in,” said Linedlay Alcide, a senior at AIC. “The U.N. should bring more awareness to this issue and do something about this.”

Xinjiang is a sovereign region in Northwest China, formerly known as East Turkestan. It has been under the control of China since 1949 and is their largest producer of natural gas. According to PBS News, there are around 11 million Uighurs in Xinjiang. China claims that Uighur Muslims hold extremist beliefs that are a threat to their national security. The basis for these claims is a 2013 terror attack in Beijing, China that killed five people, and a 2014 terror attack in Kunming, China that killed 29 people.  Abdullah Mansour and Abdurehim Kurban, Uighur militants, have claimed responsibility for each attack, according to The Guardian and BBC News.

“I think the government is unethical and deceitful,” said Fanci Brown, a human rights advocate. “It’s obvious that the Muslims are being targeted.”

Accounts of the purpose for and the conditions within these “re-education centers” differ greatly between Chinese officials and Uighurs.

According to The Washington Post, Chinese officials say that the centers are vocational education schools that are no different in nature from those in the United States, Britain, or France. During an interview with Guardian News, when asked about why the Uighur population in Xinjiang, China has decreased by 84% between 2015 and 2018, a Chinese ambassador vaguely responded, “That’s not right.”

Eyewitnesses, including Uighurs who either previously lived in or are currently living in these “re-education centers,” have made numerous claims of what is actually going on in these “concentration camps.” Reports of forced sterilization of women, children being separated from their families, forced labor, and even death are common from inside the centers.  Along with these reports, the Chinese government imposed great action against the political and cultural expression of the Uighur Muslims by confiscating Korans, forbidding fasting during Ramadan, destroying religious temples and mosques, and preventing Uighurs from growing their hair past a certain length, according to Foreign Affairs.

“I believe this is another Holocaust,” said Jade Mitchell, a junior at AIC. “What they are doing to Muslims is morally incorrect.”

With an estimated 1.8 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Chinese detention camps, this is the largest interment of an ethnic or religious minority since the Holocaust. China has denied all reports of wrongdoing while insisting that the centers are for education and job training.  However, the fact still remains: Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minorities are being locked in re-education camps to prevent extremism as an act of national security in China. What can the United States do about it?


Free the Uighurs’ protest. (