Chinese paranoia and oppression in Xinjiang has a long history
China finally admitted this week what had been widely reported: that it is interning thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in “re-education camps” in the far-western region of Xinjiang. Human rights groups previously estimated that as many as one million people have been held in the camps, which satellite photos show have sprung up across the region in recent months. Along with restrictions on halal food, Islamic dress, and general religiosity, the ongoing crackdown has primarily affected the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group who historically were the majority in the region. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang defended recent measures at a press briefing Thursday, saying “taking measures to prevent and crack down on terrorism and extremism have helped preserve stability, as well as the life and livelihood of people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang.” While the strategies Beijing is taking are new — and include a state-of-the-art surveillance regime — they echo a longtime paranoia about Xinjiang and a deep suspicion of its non-Han population among China’s rulers which have historically resulted in oppression and rebellion.