China in Stark Contrast - Suppression of Uyghurs and Support for Palestinians

China Turkey Uighur Uyghur

Modern China has a duplicitous relationship with the Muslims. On one hand is its treatment of Uyghurs, the ethnic Turks who inhabit the North-western Province of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and on the other is Beijing’s growing ties to the Middle East, and its support for the Palestinian cause.

Beijing supports an independent Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. China continues to support an independent Muslim majority Palestinian state despite its brutal crackdown of its own Muslim minority at home. This position stands in stark contrast and in apparent tension with its oppression of its Uyghur Muslim minority who, like the Palestinians, are living under constant systematic oppression.

Prejudice Against Islam - Chinese Style

Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese State has adopted a comprehensive tactic in dealing with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Uyghurs are Sunni Muslims, speak Uyghur (which belongs to the Turkic language family), and have been practicing Islam for centuries. The regime diversified and redefined the methods to tackle Islam to regulate it within the permitted space. First, the State echoes having a Chinese version of secularism facilitating the germination of Islam with Chinese characteristics. Though Sinicization is not new in the Chinese socio-political milieu, the unapologetic control over Islamic religiosity leads to cultural genocide in Xinjiang is a recent pattern. In addition, the State initiates a stability-security paradigm to socially re-engineer and de-politicize Uyghur Muslims. The objective is to strip the Uyghurs of any Islamic identity, by means of tightened regulations on religion and intrusive religious policing.

The mistreatment of Uyghurs by the People's Republic of China has been taken to extreme levels. Uyghurs now are clearly victims of genocidal policies through internment of all types. The total internment of Uyghurs involves physical, psychological and virtual internments.

Chinese State Securitization of Islam:

But this campaign against Islam in China is not confined to the Xinjiang province. The harsh crackdown on Muslims that began with the Uighurs in Xinjiang is spreading to more regions and more groups.

Across China, the party is now imposing new restrictions on Islamic customs and practices, in line with a confidential party directive.

Sinicization through language, migration, education, inter-marriage, and economic development has affected the identities of all Muslim ethnic minorities in China without exception. Now the repression of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang has begun to bleed into other parts of China, targeting Hui, Kazakh, Dongxiang, Kyrgyz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek, Bonan, and Tatar Muslim ethnicities.

The measures reflect the hard-line policies of China's leader, Xi Jinping, who has sought to reassert the primacy of the Communist Party and its ideology in all walks of life.Xi Jinping has advocated for the Sinicization of Islam, and has called his policy toward
Muslims “a totally correct success” during his speech in 2020 (Xinhua).

In China's northwest, the government is stripping the most overt expressions of the Islamic faith from a picturesque valley where most residents are devout Muslims. The authorities have destroyed domes and minarets on mosques, including one in a small village near Linxia, a city known as "Little Mecca."Similar demolitions have been carried out in Inner Mongolia, Henan and Ningxia, the homeland of China's largest Muslim ethnic minority, the Hui. In the southern province of Yunnan, three mosques were closed. From Beijing to Ningxia, officials have banned the public use of Arabic script.

‘Palestinization’ of Xinjiang vs. Support for Palestine in the Middle East:

In 2007 Chinese dissident Wang Lixiong had warned of the ‘Palestinization’ of Xinjiang, describing the situation of Uyghur Muslims as reaching ‘a critical point in time’ where Uyghurs and Han Chinese enter an interminable ‘ethnic war.’ Indeed it is ironic that even as China pursues the securitization of the Xinjiang region over claims of radical extremism, it refuses to acknowledge that Israel is at the receiving end of violent radical Islam in the name of the Palestinian cause.

Sinicization of Uyghurs is a sensitive topic for Chinese authorities as well as for Western politicians, which has attracted global media headlines. The CCP demands that the world not interfere in China’s internal affairs. Juxtapose this with China’s involvement in the Middle East which has thrived over time, with historical ties, diplomatic recognition, and ongoing efforts to mediate conflicts. China has created a hierarchy of relationships, with the most elevated being a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” In the Middle East, it has such a partnership with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Egypt, and Algeria. And now China sees eye-to-eye with Arab nations, supporting an immediate cease-fire and recognition of a Palestinian state. It may be noted that China buys large quantities of oil from Iran, one of Hamas’s main patrons, and key broker Qatar, as well as other Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.

China has also not shied away from positively expressing its support for Palestinians. In November 2023, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a group of visiting diplomats from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Indonesia that China was a “good friend and brother of Arab and Muslim countries” and a firm supporter “of the cause of the Palestinian people”.

China has been not only offering verbal support but also material support to the Palestinians through direct action such as offering aid to offering verbal support. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a ceasefire and an end to the “collective punishment” of the people of Gaza. China has refrained from describing the Hamas incursion into Israel as a terrorist attack but has called Israel’s retaliation ‘collective punishment’ of Palestinian civilians.

Chinese double standards in defending the human rights of Muslims in Palestine versus the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang could not have been more striking. It seems evident that these double standards are solely driven by geopolitical motives ; supporting Palestine because it serves as a gateway to conflict resolution and goodwill in the Middle East while undermining the Uyghurs in Xinjiang to allegedly prevent extremist ideologies in western China.

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