OPINION: We’re witnessing a modern day Holocaust-and not doing much about it

*Columns are the opinions of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wichitan as an organization.*

In 1949, approximately 90% of the population in the Xinjiang region of China was Uyghur (alternatively spelled Uighur), a Turkic speaking, largely Muslim, ethnic minority group. Today, they only make up about half of their native land’s population, if official Chinese statistics are to be believed (they’ve been accused of under-recording the number of Uyghurs for years). This hasn’t been by accident. Studies have come out accusing General Secretary Xi Jinping’s administration of forcing Uyghur women into sterilization and abortion, and Uyghur populations have been relocated into internment camps, re-education camps and forced labor across China.

A relatively homogenous country (the Han Chinese make up 92% of China’s population) ruled by a single-party government and a leader with absolute power “relocating” an ethnic minority and purposely decreasing its population while using propaganda to get the public on its side: where have we seen this before?

Now I’m not trying to compare the Communist Party of China to Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ (or Nazi) Party…oh wait, yes I am. In fact, if you read up on China’s “Strike Hard Against Violent Terrorism” plan, which is responsible for the imprisonment of at least a million Uyghur people into re-education camps,  it reads eerily similar to Hitler’s early plans for the cultural (and literal) genocide of Eastern Europe, known as the “Master Plan for the East.”

Due to the Chinese government’s renowned and effective propaganda, the Uyghur people are generally viewed as backwards and “less than” the ethnically Han Chinese. Any attempts to establish greater autonomy, independence or democracy have been labeled terroristic acts and swiftly put down, just as they have been in Hong Kong and any other place that defies the Communist government. In recent years, 100 thousand security personnel have been deployed to Xinjiang, or East Turkestan as it is historically known. The crackdown has led to more violent responses by Uyghur separatists, with some even fleeing to join ISIS.

So surely, you’d think, with such extreme human rights abuses and the possible strengthening of terrorism as a result, a superpower like the United States would do something about it, right? Well, kind of….barely. President Trump recently signed a bill pushing for sanctions of Chinese officials involved with the treatment of the Uyghur people, but there are allegations from a former advisor that the president approved of the mass detention. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the majority of Congress and the Senate have been largely dismissive of China’s behavior until recently.

But we all know the real power in America is in its many corporations. So, where do we stand on that front? The Australian Strategic Policy Institute revealed in March 2020, 83 companies that benefit from forced Uyghur and other minority labor in their factories. The list included several American powerhouses such as Nike, Apple, Gap, Abercrombie and Fitch and Victoria’s Secret. Disney has generated outrage by filming parts of their “Mulan” remake in Xianjiang and then thanking the authorities there that are notorious for the human rights abuse allegations against them.

So, if the government is just now starting to care and American companies are directly contributing to the problem, who can help the Uyghur people in their fight against oppression? That’s where you and I come in. One of the key takeaways from the social justice protests over the last year is that the single most effective way to create change in this era is to make a lot of noise. Peacefully protest openly on the streets (something the Uyghur people aren’t allowed to do for themselves), write letters or emails to any or all of the 83 corporations mentioned before and demand change, post links to resources and articles on your social media and donate to relief organizations such as the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

Remember, just because someone doesn’t live where you live, look the way you look or worship the god you worship, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve basic human rights.