Categories
Asia China COVID-19 Ethnicity General Surveillance

How the Xinjiang crisis was made gloomier by the pandemic


Xinjiang detention centres in Onsu, Aksu, as identified by a technical journalist. Source: https://techjournalism.medium.com/open-source-satellite-data-to-investigate-xinjiang-concentration-camps-2713c82173b6

By anonymous author

In this blog post I want to talk about the plight the Uyghurs face in China since the beginning of the pandemic. A crisis like this puts the socially vulnerable in a more vulnerable spot, especially in a country with a sizable amount of its population living in poverty, and has no social welfare system like China.[1] During the various lockdowns in 2020 worldwide, most people were confined to home, many people lost their job or livelihood, with no employment payment, no income or savings, and many struggled to pull through. The Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang suffered way more than that. The Uyghur communities in southern Xinjiang have much higher poverty rates than the Han communities, as a result of long-term discrimination policies against their Muslim identity. In recent years, their culture, language and religion have been further suppressed by the regime in the name of national security, many fell victim to the “re-education” camps or forced employment schemes.[2]

Xinjiang is a vast region located in the northwest of China, home to over 13 million Uyghurs and over 1 million Kazakhs, who are the ethnic and cultural minorities. News reports and investigations showed that since 2015, numerous ‘re-education camps’ were being built all around Xinjiang, and it is estimated that over 1 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs are being detained in such camps, facing brainwash, mental and physical abuse day by day.[3]

In the beginning of the pandemic, many migrant workers were eager to return to big cities for work, but were forced by the lockdown to stay home for more than two months. As a result, thousands of Uyghurs were being sent across the country, to fill up the vacuum of labour following the first lockdown. Many were forced to wear GPS bracelets to track their whereabouts.[4] According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Chinese government sent approximately 80,000 Uyghurs to other regions of China to work in factories, including for many international brands like Nike, Apple, BMW and Volkswagen.[5] In July 2020, a New York Times visual investigation found that Uyghurs were also included in a government-sponsored forced labour program to produce face masks, in order to satisfy the skyrocketed global demand of P.P.E.. Much of the mask production was for export.[6] Besides all of this, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other minorities were forced to undertake hard and manual labour in Xinjiang’s vast cotton fields and the garment factories, where 20% of the world’s cotton is from.[7]

Another report by China Tribunal also reveals that the detainees in the “re-education camps” are victims of organ harvesting, a practice that is not at all uncommon in Chinese prisons.[8] China has one of the lowest voluntary organ donor rates in the world, with the spreading of Covid-19, there were concerns that the Uyghurs were being “killed-on-demand” for Chinese Covid-19 patients, as China announced its first double-lung-transplant for a Covid-19 patient, who waited only five days for a “consenting” donor to provide a perfectly matching set of lungs.[9]

There were two major lockdowns in Xinjiang in 2020, the first one was from mid-July to early September, when the rest of China reported almost no new cases every day. The same measurements like those in Wuhan were imposed there, people were not allowed to leave their home, some building gates were sealed with iron bars, and residents were forced to take unknown medicine every day.[10] Around this time it was also reported that a mass female sterilization campaign was being carried out among the Uyghur population,[11] similar to the one carried out nationwide in the 1980s and 90s, as a result of the one-child policy.

Being the most heavily policed area of the world, “covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints, and cameras that scan everything from number plates to individual faces”,[12] most people could never move freely before the pandemic. Many questioned the scale of the outbreak in the cities, and expressed their concern of possible outbreaks inside of the ‘re-education camps’.[13] Given that ‘[t]hose camps are especially vulnerable to contagious disease due to the cramped cells, lack of medical resources and generally dire conditions.’[14]

The second lockdown in Xinjian was carried out from late October to late November in the area of Kashgar, where most Uyghur communities and ‘re-education camps’ are located, harsh measurements were imposed on its residents again. According to the news reports and studies, the human rights violations in China continue to deteriorate during the pandemic. In January 2021, the U.S. government declared that the Chinese government has committed genocide on Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities of Xinjiang,’, it was by far the strongest condemnation by any government against the Xinjiang crisis,[15] hopefully more countries will take part in the joint effort to end such atrocities against humanity.

Footnotes/bibliography

  1. CNBC. (2020, May 28). China has over 600 million poor with $140 monthly income: Premier Li Keqiang. CNBC TV18. Retrieved from https://www.cnbctv18.com/economy/china-has-over-600-million-poor-with-140-monthly-income-premier-li-keqiang-6024341.htm#:~:text=Economy-,China%20has%20over%20600%20million%20poor,monthly%20income%3A%20Premier%20Li%20Keqiang&text=China%20has%20over%20600%20million%20people%20whose%20monthly%20income%20is,Li%20Keqiang%20said%20on%20Thursday

2. Lee, Elizabeth.(2020, Oct 23). POVERTY IN XINJIANG, CHINA. The Borgen Project. Retrieved from https://borgenproject.org/poverty-in-xinjiang-china/

3. Uyghur Human Rights Project. (2020, February 18). “IDEOLOGICAL TRANSFORMATION”: RECORDS OF MASS DETENTION FROM QARAQASH, HOTAN. Retrieved from https://docs.uhrp.org/pdf/UHRP_QaraqashDocument.pdf

4. Dong, Han. (2020, March 12). 大批新疆维族人被强制送往内地工厂外出须戴定位. World Uyghur Congress. Retrieved from https://www.uyghurcongress.org/cn/%E5%A4%A7%E6%89%B9%E6%96%B0%E7%96%86%E7%BB%B4%E6%97%8F%E4%BA%BA%E8%A2%AB%E5%BC%BA%E5%88%B6%E9%80%81%E5%BE%80%E5%86%85%E5%9C%B0%E5%B7%A5%E5%8E%82%E5%A4%96%E5%87%BA%E9%A1%BB%E6%88%B4%E5%AE%9A%E4%BD%8D/

5. Xu, Cave, Leibold, Munro and Ruser. (2020, March 01). Uyghurs for sale. Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale

6. Xiao, M., Willis, H., Koettl, C., Reneau, N., Jordan, D. (2020, July 19). China Is Using Uighur Labor to Produce Face Masks. The New York Times. Retrieved fromhttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/19/world/asia/china-mask-forced-labor.html

7. Sudworth, John. (2020, December). China’s ‘tainted’ cotton. BBC NEWS. Retrieved fromhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/nz0g306v8c/china-tainted-cotton

8. Nice et al. (2020, March 01). The Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China. China Tribunal. Retrieved from https://chinatribunal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ChinaTribunal_JUDGMENT_1stMarch_2020.pdf

9. Werleman, CJ. (2020, March 10). Are Uyghur Muslim Organs Being Illegally Removed to Save China’s Coronavirus Patients? Byline Times. Retrieved from https://bylinetimes.com/2020/03/10/are-uyghur-muslims-organs-being-illegally-removed-to-save-chinas-coronavirus-patients/

10. Kang, D. (2020, August 31). In China’s Xinjiang, forced medication accompanies lockdown. AP News. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/article/309c576c6026031769fd88f4d86fda89

11. Zenz, Adrian. (2020, June). Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang. The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved from https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Zenz-Internment-Sterilizations-and-IUDs-UPDATED-July-21-Rev2.pdf?x12273

12. BBC NEWS. (2021, January 20). US: China ‘committed genocide against Uighurs’. BBC NEWS. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55723522

13. Dick, S. (2020, August 08). Dual threat: Coronavirus not the only battle in Uighur ‘re-education’ camps. THE NEW DAILY. Retrieved fromhttps://thenewdaily.com.au/news/coronavirus/2020/08/08/chinas-uighur-coronavirus/

14. Rogin, J. (2020, February 26). The coronavirus brings new and awful repression for Uighurs in China. Washington Post. Retrieved fromhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/26/coronavirus-brings-new-awful-repression-uighurs-china/

15. BBC NEWS, 2021.

Categories
General International Health Medicine Smallpox

Podcast: The World Health Organisation and the Eradication of Smallpox

Logo certifying the eradication of smallpox in Somalia, and soon thereafter, in the world, 1979. © WHO

By Victoria Fronhofer BA & Beverly Mtui BA

This podcast features an interview with a fictional historical medical scientist discussing the only case of an eradication of a disease (smallpox), the WHO’s role in achieving this, and why the world has not succeeded in eradicating any diseases since.

 

Recommended literature:

  • Cueto, M. (et.al.) (2019): The World Health Organization: A History. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.  
  • Manela, E. (2018). Smallpox and the Globalization of Development. In S. Macekura & E. Manela (Eds.), The Development Century: A Global History (Global and International History, pp. 83-104). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108678940.005 
  • Reinhardt, B. (2015): The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era. Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press

 

 

 

Categories
General

International History and Politics of Epidemics

Plague Column, Vienna
Plague Column, Vienna

This blog accompanies the MA seminar “International History and Politics of Epidemics” (2020/2021) at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Vienna. The seminar is based on the assumption that throughout history, epidemics and pandemics have had an impact on societies and humanity as a whole. They had demographic, socio-economic, political and cultural repercussions and they impacted international cooperation. In return, responses to these diseases have been shaped by politics, economics, or culture. The impact of epidemics and pandemics on societies varied depending on their socio-political or economic vulnerabilities and inequalities, many of which can be explained by history. As the world faces another pandemic, Covid-19, this seminar explores ways of making sense of the current crisis by looking at the past. The seminar covers issues such as the role of science and religion in the management of epidemics or cultural and socially constructed responses to disease. Further concerns are the links of epidemics with the environment, gender, democracy, capitalism, the media, humanitarianism, international development, diplomacy, and international governance. These and other topics will be the subject of individual essay-style blog posts written by the students over several weeks. Furthermore, the blog will also feature collaborative podcasts discussing some themes in more depth. They will discuss such diverse issues such as Robert Koch’s role in colonial East Africa, the practice of quarantine, COVID in the history of “biopolitics”, epidemics and the International Red Cross after the First World War, the WHO and the eradication of smallpox, and the international response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The website is directed towards an audience interested in better understanding the current pandemic by looking at the past.