Watching the Shadows

Podcast: against the global detention state

In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)

East Asia

Podcast: the politics of separatism in China

In Episode 39 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Hong Kong protests—and especially how they have been playing out in New York’s Chinatown. It is natural that the Hong Kong protesters have made common cause with the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols also struggling for their rights and dignity against China’s ruling party-state. But some supporters of these movements have come to embrace a separatist position, actually seeking independent states in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkistan and South Mongolia. Will self-determination for these regions and peoples be possible without active solidarity with the struggles for democracy and political empowerment by the Han Chinese majority of the People’s Republic? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

Central Asia

India, China mirror each other in Islamophobia

Well, this is grimly hilarious. Genocide Watch has issued two “warning alerts” for India—one for Kashmir and the other for Assam, with Muslims held to be at grave imminent risk of persecution and mass detention in both. Pakistan’s semi-official media are jumping all over this news, which is hardly surprising. But Pakistan is closely aligned with China due to their mutual rivalry with India, so it is also hardly surprising that Pakistani media have failed to similarly jump on the Genocide Watch report on the Uighurs of Xinjiang—despite the fact that the group categorizes the situation there as “preparation” for genocide, a more urgent level than “warning.” China itself has issued a protest to India over the situation in Kashmir. Delhi shot back that Kashmir is an internal matter. Beijing has been similarly dismissive of India’s protests over the mass detention in Xinjiang.  (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Central Asia

Detained Uighurs face forced sterilization: reports

Just after Chinese officials announced that the detention camps for Muslim Uighurs in Xinjing region had been mostly emptied, reports emerge that women in the camps are facing forced sterilization. Dubious claims of the camps’ closure were made by Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman for Xinjiang, who told reporters that “the majority of people who have undergone education and training have returned to society and returned to their families.” As Uighur organizations in the exile diaspora expressed skepticism, women who had survived the camps came forward with accounts of sterilization abuse. Gulbahar Jalilova, a Uighur woman who was detained for more than a year before being released to Kazakhstan, told France24: “They injected us from time to time… We had to stick our arms out through a small opening in the door. We soon realized that after our injections that we didn’t get our periods any more.” (Photo: Uyghur Women Association)

Central Asia

China’s rulers fear balkanization —with reason?

Chinese state media are promoting an official “white paper” entitled “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang,” denying the national aspirations and very identity of the Uighur people of China’s far western Xinjiang region. These are portrayed as inventions of Western-supported “separatists.” Yet some leaders of the Uighur exile diaspora have indeed launched an “East Turkistan” independence movement, and are seeking allies among Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Hong Kongers. China’s rulers may be creating exactly what they fear with their intransigent denialism on identity and ultra-draconian measures in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

Central Asia

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 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. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo: Mvslim.com)

Central Asia

China destruction of Uighur mosques claimed

Satellite imagery posted by activists appears to show that the Chinese government is systematically destroying landmark mosques in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region. The revelations come as human rights organizations step up their criticism of Beijing over its abuse of the Uighur people and internment of hundreds of thousands in so-called “reeducation camps.” Tweets by Uighur activists indicate that at least two landmark mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed. Website Bellingcat confirmed the claims with before-and-after satellite imagery. Among the destroyed mosques is the historic Keriya Aitika Mosque in the city of Hotan, which was built in 1237 and inducted to the Chinese Architectural Heritage list in 2017. Unconfirmed reports claimed that the Kargilik Mosque was also razed by the Chinese government. (Photo: Wikipedia via UNPO)

Central Asia

Regional reaction to mass detention of Uighurs

Amid the mass internment of ethnic Uighurs in China's western Xinjiang province, reaction within the greater region has been largely muted. Dolkun Isa, head of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, blasted the leaders of Muslim countries for being largely "silent" over the "ethnic cleansing" of the Uighurs, calling it the "shame of the Muslim world." Worse, both Pakistan and Egypt are accused of deporting Uighurs back to China—presumably to face detention. Demonstrations have been held in Kyrgyzstan against the persecution of the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples in China—but the Sinophobic ethno-nationalist posture of these protesters is clear. Ironically, among their demands is the deportation of any Chinese nationals living "illegally" in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo of Kyrgyz protesters in Bishkek via RFE/RL)

Central Asia

US companies profit from Uighur forced labor?

A top US sportswear company announced that it has dropped a Chinese supplier over concerns that its products were made by forced labor in detention camps in Xinjiang. Reports have mounted that the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs believed to be held in a fast-expanding system of detention camps are being put to forced labor for Chinese commercial interests. An Associated Press investigation tracked recent shipments from one such detention-camp factory, run by privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, to Badger Sportswear of North Carolina. After long denying that the camps exist, Chinese authorities now say they are "vocational training centers" aimed at reducing "extremism." (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Central Asia

China fast expanding detention camp system

With China accused of detaining hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims without trial in its western province of Xinjiang, a BBC investigation analyzed satellite data to determine that the detention camp system in the region is rapidly expanding. Reviewing images from the European Space Agency's Sentinel satellite service, the BBC finds at least 40 such facilities across Xinjiang, half built within last two years—with a big thrust of construction just in the past six months. Among the largest is a "massive, highly secure compound" still being built at Dabancheng, about an hour's drive from the provincial capital, Urumqi. It is enclosed within a two kilometer-long exterior wall punctuated by 16 guard towers. (Photo via UNPO)

Central Asia

Podcast: Legacy of Kazakh-Shoshone solidarity

In Episode 18 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks back at the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the closing years of the Cold War, when the Western Shoshone people, whose traditional lands were being contaminated by the nuclear blasts at the US government's Nevada Test Site, made common cause with the Kazakh people of Central Asia who opposed Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakh activists travelled to Nevada to join protests at the Test Site, while Western Shoshone leaders travelled to Kazakhstan to join protests at Semipalatinsk. This initiative eventually evolved into the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, which as recently as 2016 held an International Conference on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan, again attended by Western Shoshone leaders. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement provides an inspiring example of indigenous peoples and their supporters building solidarity across hostile international borders and superpower influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: National Digital History of Kazakhstan. Banner from protest at Semipalatinsk declares solidarity with anti-nuclear protesters in Nevada.)

Central Asia

China: anti-Islam police state —and Muslim protest

China is denying claims aired by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that up to a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang region. But Beijing appears to be imposing harsh surveillance and restrictions on freedom of worship on Muslims throughout China, even requiring those making the pilgrimage to Mecca to be fitted with GPS tracking devices. Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to. This week saw mass protests in Weizhou, Ningxia province, after authorities attempted to demolish a newly built mosque which they said had not received construction permits. After days of protest, authorities backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (Photo of protest at Weizhou Grand Mosque from Weibo via BBC News)