China’s rights abuses in Xinjiang a ‘bellwether for a shifting global order’


Recent events have stoked alarm among the sizeable Uighur diaspora in Turkey that the country is no longer the haven it has been for decades, The Financial Times reports:

Turkey hosts one of the largest population outside China of Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group who have faced a severe security clampdown in their native Xinjiang province. An estimated 1.5m Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been confined to Chinese internment camps, where human rights groups say they are forced to renounce their faith and scores have disappeared. Beijing defends the hardline measures as necessary to fight “extremism”.

China’s effort to line up countries to support it in the face of western criticism over human rights abuses in Xinjiang has become a “bellwether for a shifting global order”, said Sean Roberts, a director at The Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. “If Turkey was to recognise that what’s happening in China is not a mass human rights violation, that would be a huge win for China,” he said.

Arab governments’ universal willingness to back or ignore China’s treatment of the Uyghurs seems to stem from several shared concerns, Haisam Hassanein writes for The Washington Institute: 


    Solidarity on non-interference. Before Qatar’s withdrawal, all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council signed the pro-China letter, notwithstanding their bitter differences on so many other issues. One way to explain this is that all of these states have more or less authoritarian governments and do not like foreign mingling in their affairs. In their view, intervening in China’s internal affairs would leave them open to similar interference. …

  • Fear of political Islam. This concern intensified among many Arab governments after 2011, when uprisings across the region and the empowerment of political Islamists coincided with a spike in jihadist terrorism that destabilized several states. Since then, Arab leaders have become even more uncomfortable with conflicts built on religious ideology, and most of them associate political Islam with terrorism. ….
  • Fear of separatist movements. Historically, the Uyghur region of Xinjiang has been of strategic importance to China because it served as a bridge to Central Asia and the Middle East. … Today, Beijing claims that the Uyghur controversy is a Western-propagated conspiracy aimed at hindering China’s progress by creating ethnic minority divisions within its borders— similar to the situation in many Arab states, where governments tend to view Kurdish and other minority movements as Western-fueled attempts to sow internal strife and separatism. Arab and Chinese leaders alike are firm believers in suppressing any such movements within their borders.
  • Desire for economic development. China’s ongoing Belt and Road Initiative seeks to link Asia and Europe with an ambitious slate of land and maritime infrastructure projects, many of them in the Middle East. So far, Beijing has reached BRI cooperation agreements with eighteen Arab countries, and Chinese companies have signed $35.6 billion in contracts there, $1.2 billion of it directed toward local energy and manufacturing sectors. …” RTWT

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