Opinion: China’s abuses against Uighur minority not going away

The Chinese regime’s scandalous mistreatment of Uighurs is explained away by authorities as means of preventing terrorism.

By Lela Gilbert

A troubling report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was released on Mar. 13, 2020. It accused the People’s Republic of China of using Uighur Muslims (alternatively spelled Uyghur) for what amounts to slave labor in China’s massive textile manufacturing industry.

“The Chinese government has compounded its mistreatment of Uighur and other Muslims by forcing them to work in factories,” said USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “We urge all American companies, including Amazon, Nike, Apple, and Calvin Klein, to conduct a thorough investigation of their supply chains in China and cease any operations if they cannot definitively rule out the use of forced labor.”

For decades, the Chinese Communist government has been scrutinized for its abuses of religious minorities and dissidents. And for years Christians, Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners were the best-known and most oppressed victims. But recently, the incarceration of as many as two million Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang autonomous region of China is under increasing scrutiny by human rights observers and U.S. lawmakers.

Not only are imprisoned victims being used as slave laborers. They are also held by the millions in so-called “re-education” facilities where Cold War-era communist brainwashing takes place night and day. Children are torn away from parents while millions of cameras are equipped with facial recognition software to shadow every movement. Even in their homes, Muslims are spied upon to see whether they observe Ramadan (which is not permitted), recite prayers or refuse to eat pork.

The Chinese regime’s scandalous mistreatment of Uighurs is explained away by authorities as means of preventing terrorism. It is true that there have been separatist movements and violent incidents in the Xinjiang region and elsewhere, perpetrated by jihadis. However the massive incarceration of perhaps two million innocent Muslims, the violent abuses they continue to endure, and the Orwellian hi-tech surveillance and medical testing they are subjected to are the stuff of horror movies.

In Feb. 6, 2019 speech at the Hudson Institute, Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, a member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, recalled the testimony of “a brave Uighur woman” and mother of triplets, Mihrigul Tursun.

“After living abroad for some years, Mihrigul returned to Xinjiang with her three infant children in 2015,” Cotton said. “What awaited her was a nightmare. Almost immediately Mihrigul was separated from her children and detained, seemingly for no reason. When she asked what crime she’d committed, she received a telling reply: ‘You being a Uighur is a crime.’”

Mihrigul went on to describe the conditions in which she was held. She said that nine of her 68 cellmates had died within a span of three months. According to the testimony, they were starved, confined in tight spaces, injected with unknown drugs, and electrocuted—and all the while forced to sing patriotic Chinese songs and repeat slogans like “Long live Xi Jinping,” the Chinese president.

“In other words, they were being brainwashed—a term, I’ll note, that originated with the Chinese Communists during the Korean War,” Cotton said.

At the same time, draconian technology is being used and perfected by China against its perceived enemies. The Chinese government is spending tens of billions on facial recognition, electronic spying, and coercive DNA collection, to create a database capable of tracking a person’s every move, Cotton said.

Chinese Christians – another blacklisted and persecuted people group – are rightly concerned about their own fate as such technology is perfected, and as China’s emerging social credit system is fully functional.

But frightening as that is, and wicked as the government’s intrusions and mistreatment may be, that’s not the worst of it.  The forced incarcerations, the violent abuses, the separation of families and the invasive technology are certainly terrible enough. But the reality is that Uighurs are being penned up like livestock. They are being kept healthy and whole, but only because they are being prepared like sacrificial lambs for the slaughter.

A primary source of marketed organs

The fate of these endangered women and men is best described as being eventual donors for organs-on-demand: when a liver, kidney, corneas or even a set of lungs is requested by a “customer” (often a wealthy westerner), a prisoner of conscience is identified with the appropriate blood type, tissue matching and DNA, and is quickly killed and disemboweled.

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It has become clear that the Uighur population has become a primary source of these marketed organs. And, not coincidentally, those camps are also primary site of “disappeared” men and women. These missing victims have reportedly had extensive blood tests, DNA and tissue samples taken. Their medical details were strategically categorized. Then they simply disappeared.

On Mar. 10, The Uyghur Human Rights Project hosted a briefing at the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. They provided several handouts citing evidence of transplant theft including:

  • Eyewitness testimony of unexplained “U” shaped scars on young Uyghur men consistent with kidney removal
  • Collection of DNA without consent across 100% of the Uyghur population over the age of 12 from 2016.
  • Unexplained forced medication in the detention camps.
  • Evidence of forced extraction of blood products.
  • Non-consenting unexplained medical examinations in detention including whole-body scans, consistent with assessment of extractable organs for transplant.

Even more damning evidence has come from London. According to Forbes, on June 17, 2019, the Independent Tribunal Into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners Of Conscience in China (the China Tribunal) released a 60-page-long summary of its Final Judgment. The tribunal was convened by activists in response to worldwide accusations of forced organ harvesting in China.

The report states, “In regard to the Uyghurs the Tribunal had evidence of medical testing on a scale that could allow them, amongst other uses, to become an organ ‘bank.’”

Financially speaking, the profitability of organ transplants is unquestionable. The number of documented organ transplants since 2000 has soared exponentially. Meanwhile, the total of likely voluntary donors can in no way provide sufficient quantities of vital organs, nor can donated organs become available so quickly – within weeks or even days.

The most wide-ranging and accessible report on the subject of China’s organ transplant industry, by Matthew P. Robertson, was presented at the Mar. 10 briefing and is available online. One conclusion was is clear, and judging by the rest of the report – irrefutable:

We have presented the most plausible explanation for China’s organ-sourcing practices, though we would be relieved if a more plausible scenario – that is, one fully able to account for the observed phenomenon, and more parsimonious than any other – were presented. At the same time, if the Chinese authorities had such an explanation, presumably they would have given it by now. In light of a new population of blood-typed political prisoners who are highly vulnerable to organ harvesting, we urge observers to examine the evidence on which our conclusion is based, consider our suggestions for handling the truth-status of the claims, reflect on the ethical justification for doing so, and act.

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What can we do?

The obvious response to “and act” is “What can we do?” First and foremost, our lawmakers need to be made aware of this horrendous situation. We can write letters. Make phone calls. Compose reactions and comments to the editors of local and national newspapers and news sites. And (with care to get the facts right) spread the word on social media.

Meanwhile, in these days of COVID-19 and its unprecedented global consequences, it is also timely to encourage our president and political representatives to rewrite our international trade agreements with the People’s Republic of China. It seems to be past time that America brought home the manufacturing of Nike and Calvin Klein products, iPhones and other electronics components, pharmaceutical ingredients and far more.

At the same time, we can encourage our representatives to enact realistic consequences of the recent USCIRF report:

“USCIRF calls upon this administration to use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the International Religious Freedom Act to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations, especially Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang.”

For the record, if it were up to me, I’d add President Xi Jinping to that list.

Lela Gilbert is an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, an award-winning author, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and a Senior Fellow at Family Research Council who lived in Jerusalem for over a decade. This article was originally published in Religion Unplugged.