Thousands of photos from the concentration camps in northwestern Xinjiang provide a behind-the-scenes look at the terror regime led by China’s Xi Jinping. The Uyghurs should be sinicized. German companies are coming under pressure given their presence in the region.
It’s even worse than the world realised: Thousands of photos from the concentration camps in northwestern Xinjiang provide, once again, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the terror regime led by China’s Xi Jinping. The leaked photos and documents, which twelve international media outlets, in Germany the SPIEGEL magazine and Bayerischer Rundfunk, evaluated and checked for authenticity, show how the people in the camps are enslaved, humiliated and tortured. China has consistently claimed that the ever-expanding camps, clearly visible on satellite imagery, are “educational centers” that people can come and go as they please.
Alexander Görlach is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. The PhD linguist and theologian teaches democratic theory in Germany, Austria and Spain as an honorary professor at Leuphana University. In the 2017-18 academic year, he was at National Taiwan University and City University Hong Kong to conduct research on China’s rise. He is currently researching new technologies at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute and how they are used in democracies and abused in dictatorships.
As early as 2018, what really happened in the camps came out, partly through the work of the BBC. But not only the camps are places of horror, Xi Jinping and his clique have turned the entire province into a single open-air prison: People are followed at every step by cameras, genetic samples are taken from them, their voices are recorded and facial recognition software is used is in action against them.
Beijing is now even going so far as to sell the horrible technology that the Chinese tech sector develops and manufactures for the nomenklatura to other regimes such as that in Zimbabwe. No trace of pity for the Uyghurs. This is exactly in the spirit of Xi Jinping, who was quoted by the New York Times in 2019, in the course of another major leak, as saying “Show absolutely no mercy”.
Today, the blood of people around the world runs cold at the horror this man brought upon the Uyghurs. It is the same Xi Jinping who wants to be proclaimed ruler for life in the fall. With him at the head of China, the People’s Republic has no future. Rather, she faces a century of shame.
Everything started in 2013. At the time, the Chinese leadership claimed, when Xi was fresh in office, that radical Muslims had murdered 21 Chinese in Xinjiang. Xinjiang, which means “new frontier” in Chinese, is not part of mainland China. Rather, the province became interesting for Beijing because of its mineral resources (just as Beijing’s grip on Tibet has something to do with the drinking water supplies of the melting Himalayas). The leadership of the CCP moved Han Chinese from the west of the country to the Uyghur province for economic exploitation, which inevitably led to conflicts with the local population. To what extent these really have an Islamist background remains open.
In Xi Jinping’s racial doctrine, the ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic (there are 55 in total) are worth less than those of the superior Han race, to which 95 percent of Chinese belong. Beijing wants the Uyghurs to be “sinicized”, i.e. to learn the way of life and culture of the superior Han. This happens in the camps where people are imprisoned and tortured. They are forbidden religion, language and culture. Outside the camps, Beijing soldiers mess with the wives of the imprisoned Uyghurs. Among other things, they are forced to undergo sterilization and abortions since Beijing wants to prevent Muslims from having a future in their homeland (By the way, Pakistan and Afghanistan support Beijing in the persecution of their fellow believers).
Furthermore, satellite images show that Beijing is having cultural assets destroyed in Xinjiang, just like in Tibet, in order to erase the legacy of the population to be enslaved. The US Congress, Canadian and Dutch legislatures are calling what Beijing is doing to the people of Xinjiang on behalf of all Chinese a genocide.
The Federal Republic is, once again, holding back. The German economy owes it to China that it was not completely wiped out in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. German companies are still active in the region, above all Volkswagen with a plant. The company, which in 1998 paid 20 million marks to people who had to work hard in its factories under the Nazi terror, has learned nothing from its past and defiantly stuck to its factory in Xinjiang as late as 2021. At the time, SPIEGEL quoted the group’s China boss, Stephan Wallenstein, as saying that Volkswagen employed according to the criteria of “diversity” and “without any form of discrimination”. According to SPIEGEL, according to Wallenstein, only the “economic view” of things counts for staying in Xinjiang. The group with Nazi involvement and the exhaust gas scandal is once again on the wrong moral path. Even after today’s revelations, VW is sticking to its cold-blooded assessment of the situation.
At BASF, which also has a plant in Xinjiang, there is talk of the possibility of ending business in China as the “ultima ratio”, which they are keeping open. According to an Australian think tank, concentration camps for Uyghurs are located near the plants of VW and BASF. Both companies say they do not employ forced labourers. Even if that is true, the question arises as to whether one wants to work for a terrorist regime that is only firmly in the saddle when the economy is booming.
Beijing rejects everything as Western propaganda. Rather, state media publish articles with a headline like “Xinjiang: The Greatest Human Rights Story Ever Written”. Officials told United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelette, who is currently in China, that the revelations about Xinjiang were “political manipulation”. The opposite is true: the revelations show that Xi Jinping is leading an unjust regime that the civilized world should not associate with. As long as the camps in Xinjiang are not dissolved and those responsible, above all Xi Jinping and his Foreign Minister Wang Yi, are not charged with their crimes against humanity in The Hague, no democratic, free country can have normal relations with China.