Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

Last week we were treated to the perverse spectacle of the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China's "re-education camps." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whose hypocrisy on this matter we have noted before) on July 18 called China's treatment of the Uighurs the "stain of the century," and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. (Reuters)  At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. (SCMP)

Uighur scholars and cultural figures continue to be especially targeted for detention. A Uighur family living in Canada recently learned of the death of their relative, writer Nurmehemmet Tohti, who had been held at one of the detention camps in Xinjiang. Berna Ilchi, Tohti's grand-daughter in Calgary, told Voice of America they had not been able to confirm whether Tohti died inside the camp or later at his home because the family in Xinjiang could not speak freely for fear of reprisal. (RCI, June 25; VOA, June 14)

Further highlighting Western hypocrisy in regard to the mass internment in Xinjiang, more accounts are emerging of foreign companies profiting from Uighur forced labor. The firms Traget and Cotton On are both under pressure to confirm that the cotton yarn they source from Litai Textiles is not being produced by detained Uighurs working against their will. Litai Textiles' Korla factory is located just six kilometers from a massive re-education camp in the town. (Radio Australia, July 17)

Earlier this month, 22 ambassadors from mostly Westen countries signed a letter to the UN Human Rights Council calling for pressure on China to end the mass detention in Xinjiang. Interestingly, no Muslim countries were signatories, Promptly, a retort was drafted by 37 other countries, defending China's "vocational education and training centers" as a legitimate response to the "grave challenge of terrorism and extremism." These signatories included Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, Burms, the Philippines—and also such Muslim states as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. (Reuters, July 12)

It's all too obvious what's going on here. China's imperial rivals in the West are exploiting the Uighurs for propaganda purposes. States that are looking to China as a patron or ally, or wish to hide behind "counter-terrorism" to excuse their own massive crimes (or both), are exculpating Beijing. 

The new US sanctions on three members of Burma's military brass over the genocide of the Rohingya (Al Jazeera, July 17) are also to be viewed in this context. Burma tilts to China in the New Cold War. Therefore, the Rohingya are useful to Washington as an excuse to punish the Burmese regime. Note that there is no such Washington pressure on the Philippines. also now escalating to crimes against humanity in its internal repression. Manila, like Riyadh, can even be forgiven for signing on to the letter in support of Beijing's massive repression—because, when push comes to shove, these regimes are in the US camp.

The Uighur exile leadership increasingly looks to Washington as a patron—as does the Tibetan leadership. And it is hard to fault them. As we've said many times before: The oppressed are entitled to take their allies where they can find them. However, nobody should have any illusions that the increasingly fascistic Trump administration has any degree of concern whatsoever for human rights. This is all about Great Power jockeying within the emerging Fascist World Order.