A watchtower on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a 're-education camp' where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained near Hotan in China's Xinjiang region. (Photo: AFP/Badung Police)
Long-held fears for the plight of ethnic minority Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province could soon come to pass with a growing outbreak of Covid-19 in the far-flung northwestern province that borders India, Pakistan, Russia and a range of Central Asian nations.
Xinjiang is infamously home to dozens of modern-day concentration camps — called "re-education camps" by Chinese authorities — housing Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities including Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Uzbekhs.
Beijing is conducting a program of cultural genocide that has been found more recently to be full-frontal genocide with documented programs for population control including forced contraception and abortion. Such techniques have been well honed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during its decades of population control over the entire Chinese population due to the one child policy that was finally abandoned in 2005.
“The Genocide Convention, to which China is a signatory, defines genocide as specific acts against members of a group with the intent to destroy that group in whole or in part. These acts include (a) killing; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm; (c) deliberately inflicting conditions of life to bring about the group’s physical destruction; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Any one of these categories constitutes genocide. The overwhelming evidence of the Chinese government’s deliberate and systematic campaign to destroy the Uyghur people clearly meets each of these categories,” Rayhan Asat and Yonah Diamond recently detailed in Foreign Policy.
Due to Beijing’s clear plans to restrict and possibly wipe out Uyghur and other Muslim ethnic minorities from early this year, when Covid-19 was sweeping China’s 31 provinces and four municipalities, human rights groups were concerned about what would happen if the pandemic took hold in Xinjiang.
In terms of understanding exactly what is actually happening in Xinjiang, the biggest problem is the reliability of the information coming from China’s notoriously biased and censorious news outlets.
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region reported 112 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on July 30, the regional health commission was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.
Of the 112 patients, one was in the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture and the other 111 were in the regional capital Urumqi, 30 of whom were previously asymptomatic cases, according to the commission.
By July 30, Xinjiang had 523 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 108 asymptomatic cases. But here is the kicker: 12,416 people were still under medical observation.
While most of the reported infections remain in capital Urumqi, the disease has also spread to Kashgar at the other end of the province and the effective capital of the Uyghur heartland close to the Pakistan border. Perhaps the disease has come the other way as both Pakistan and India are fighting a swelling first wave of the virus.
There are also rising infections in many Central Asian countries — at least those who will admit to them.
They add fuel to the view that this is what looks awfully like a serious outbreak as Chinese authorities take their usual brutal measures to suppress Covid-19 that the world saw on display in Wuhan to new levels.
A string of short videos have been posted on the popular Chinese social media site Diaya — known as TikTok outside the People’s Republic — showing officials sealing the doors of the homes of people who have been infected
The only inference that can be drawn is that this is serious and Beijing will take the most extreme measures to try and halt the outbreak.
We now know that the pandemic is beginning to run rampant in Xinjiang, but what we don’t know is whether it has made its way into the concentration camps. The camps are believed to be extremely crowded to the point of being inhumane — conditions which would lend themselves to the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Given the CCP’s apparent determination to “limit’ the population of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, it’s hard to imagine that they would be doing much to help large swathes of those people who become infected.
After all, what is the moral difference between deliberately preventing population growth by birth control and allowing disease to spread in the already horrific Xinjiang camps?
If it comes to that — and we have to hope and pray it does not — it may be a long time before we know that it has.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.