By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18.10.2018, www.thecommunists.net
The brutal oppression of the Muslim Uyghurs, or East Turkestani as many prefer to call themselves, is another example of the reactionary character of the Stalinist-Capitalist dictatorship in China. The Muslim Uyghurs are a nationality which lives in East Turkestan (or Xinjiang as the province is officially called by the Chinese authorities).
There are at least about 11-15 million Muslim Uyghurs – according to the World Uyghur Congress it is even up to 20 millions. (1) However, a growing number of them have been forced to flee their native country because of the national oppression by Beijing. As a result there exists a sizeable Diaspora of Uyghurs in several countries (e.g. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia). (2)
In recent past, the Muslim Uyghurs have become a minority in their own country. According to official figures, they constitute 46% of Xinjiang’s population. The background of this development is the fact that the Beijing regime systematically suppresses them and colonizes the province by settling Han Chinese people in order to change the ethnical balance. However, ethnic minorities still account for nearly 60% of Xinjiang’s population.
In recent months the world public has become more informed about the dramatic scale of the Uyghurs’ oppression. The United Nation has published recently a report with shocking details. Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited “estimates that upwards of a million people were being held in so-called counter-extremism centres and another two million had been forced into so-called “re-education camps” for political and cultural indoctrination.” (3)
In many cases, the Chinese authorities even take the children away of parents who are detained. They are brought to schools were they are forced to speak in Mandarin and to adopt the Han-Chinese culture. Such a policy echoes how white colonialists in North America and Australia treated indigenous children. "What we're looking at is something like a settler colonial situation where an entire generation is lost," said Darren Byler, a researcher of Uighur culture at University of Washington. (4)
Another example of the massive scale of oppression is the fact that, according to official Chinese government data, criminal arrests in Xinjiang accounted for an alarming 21% of all arrests in China in 2017. This is a dramatic figure given the fact that the population in Xinjiang (of which officially less than half are Uyghurs) is only about 1.5% of China’s total. (5)
Cynical Justification: “Colourful Life” in Internment Camps
Trying to whitewash the oppression of the Uyghurs, the Stalinist-Capitalist regime justifies the mass detentions as measures “against extremism and terrorism”. (6) In an interview, recently published by the state-run news agency Xinhua, the Xinjiang governor, Shohrat Zakir, said: “Xinjiang conducts vocational skills education and training according to law. The purpose is to fundamentally eliminate the environment and soil that breeds terrorism and religious extremism, and eliminate the terrorism activities before they take place.” (7)
Zakir added that residents at the internment camps in Xinjiang learn Mandarin “to accept modern science and enhance their understanding of Chinese history and culture”. Students undergo legal training on the Chinese constitution, China’s legal code, and local regulations, according to the governor. He said the camps were for people “influenced by terrorism and extremism” and suspected of “minor criminal offences” to receive “free vocational training”. He cynically added: “Many trainees have said they were previously affected by extremist thought and had never participated in such kinds of arts and sports activities. Now they realise how colourful life can be.”
This reflects the assimilationist policy of the regime which aims for the eradication of the Uyghurs culture so that they speak in Mandarin and accept the Han-Chinese culture. This even goes so far that the regime launched in 2016 the "Becoming Family" initiative forcing Uighur families to host cadres of the ruling party at their homes for at least 5 days every two months. (8)
Strategic Importance for Chinese Imperialism
There is no reason to assume that the imperialist state of China would relinquish its grip over Xinjiang. (9) First, one must not forget that the Muslim Uyghurs are not the only national minority in China. There are also other, Muslim and non-Muslim, peoples who face national oppression like the Zhuang, the Miao, the Tibetans, the Mongols, etc. All together, they constitute about 1/10 of China’s total population. Hence, accepting democratic rights for the Muslim Uyghurs could set a dangerous precedence for other discriminated nationalities and destabilize the imperialist state of China.
Furthermore, some of these national minorities inhabit large and geostrategic crucially important provinces (in particular Xinjiang and Tibet in the west of the country.) Hence, keeping control over Xinjiang is of strategic importance for the regime. This importance has even grown in the past years because of the so-called Belt & Road Initiative – a crucial project of Chinese imperialism to globally expand its political and economic influence. (10)
As a side note we draw attention to the bizarre claims of numerous Stalinist, semi-Stalinist and Bolivarian parties praise China as some kind of progressive or even “socialist” state. These forces scandalously tarnish the reputation of the authentic ideas of communism which are fully opposed to the oppression of national or religious minorities. These pseudo-communists do the same to the original ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky what the corrupted Catholic Church of the Middle Ages did with the original ideas of Christianity or what the decadent Sultans did with the original teachings of the Quran. Such Stalinists are whitewashing the brutal oppression of the national and religious minorities in China. In other words, they are nothing but bourgeois lackeys of Chinese imperialism, i.e. pro-Chinese social-imperialists. (11)
Support the Struggle for National Liberation!
The Muslim Uyghurs are resisting their national oppression. A violent uprising in 2009 in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, aimed at Han Chinese shattered the regime. Since then China’s ruling class has massively tightened controls and surveillance of Xinjiang’s population.
The RCIT stands in unconditional solidarity with the Muslim Uyghurs and their struggle for national self-determination. We support the struggle of all oppressed nations in China for national self-determination including the right to form their own nation state. (12)
Such a struggle should be combined with the resistance of China’s workers (of all nationalities) against capitalist exploitation. In the past years, China has seen an explosive growth of strikes and workers demonstrations. If the workers and oppressed people unite their resistance against the ruling class, they are an all-powerful force!
We warn against any illusion in Western imperialism. Washington and Brussels want to exploit China’s domestic problems – similar to attempts of Moscow and Beijing to interfere in domestic issues of Western countries. This is business as usual for the ruling classes all over the world – particularly in a historic period which is characterized by the acceleration of the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers. The workers and oppressed around the world must wage their struggles for liberation without relying on any of these Great Powers! (13) The Great Powers are all evil as they all strive to oppress and exploit the people – both domestically as well as abroad. (14)
The only way forward is to organize all fighters for liberation in a revolutionary party based on a program of independent and international class struggle. Such a struggle must aim for the revolutionary overthrow of all ruling classes and for the creation of a world without classes, without oppression and without exploitation. We call such a world “socialism”. Join us in the struggle for such a future!
(1) World Uyghur Congress, http://www.uyghurcongress.org/en/?page_id=29681
(2) On the history of the Uyghur people see e.g. David Brophy: Uyghur Nation. Reform and Revolution on the Russia- China Frontier, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2016; Dolkun Kamberi: Uyghurs and Uyghur Identity, Sino-Platonic Papers No. 150, May 2005, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania; Michael E. Clarke: Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia - A History, Routledge, New York 2011
(3) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the report of China, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 13 August 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23452&LangID=E; see also Al Jazeera: One million Muslim Uighurs held in secret China camps: UN panel, 2018-08-10 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/million-muslim-uighurs-held-secret-china-camps-panel-180810185817270.html; Nick Cumming-Bruce: U.N. Panel Confronts China Over Reports That It Holds a Million Uighurs in Camps, Aug. 10, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/world/asia/china-xinjiang-un-uighurs.html; Stephanie Nebehay: U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps, August 10, 2018 / https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un/u-n-says-it-has-credible-reports-that-china-holds-million-uighurs-in-secret-camps-idUSKBN1KV1SU; Ted Regencia: Escape from Xinjiang: Muslim Uighurs speak of China persecution, 2018-09-10 https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/escape-xinjiang-muslim-uighurs-speak-china-persecution-180907125030717.html
(4) 'Cold-hearted' China policy taking Muslim Uighur children from families, 21 September, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/society/2018/9/21/cold-hearted-china-policy-taking-uighur-children-from-families
(5) Criminal Arrests in Xinjiang Account for 21% of China’s Total in 2017, July 25, 2018, https://www.nchrd.org/2018/07/criminal-arrests-in-xinjiang-account-for-21-of-chinas-total-in-2017/
(6) For the RCIT’s analysis of the Stalinist-Capitalist regime in China see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4
(7) Quoted in Lily Kuo: Internment camps make Uighurs' life more colourful, says Xinjiang governor, 16 Oct 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/16/internment-camps-make-uighurs-life-more-colourful-says-xinjiang-governor
(8) Rukiye Turdush: China is trying to erase the Uighurs and their culture, 2018-10-13 https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/china-erase-uighurs-culture-181012155613937.html
(9) On the RCIT’s analysis of China as an emerging imperialist power see the literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/.
(10) On the RCIT’s analysis of China’s Belt & Road Initiative see e.g. The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is a Project of Chinese Imperialism for the Colonialization of Pakistan! Joint Statement of the International Secretariat of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the Revolutionary Workers Organization (Pakistani Section of the RCIT), 22.1.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/pakistan-cpec/; Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences. What are the background and the nature of the tensions between China and India in the Sikkim border region? What should be the tactical conclusions for Socialists and Activists of the Liberation Movements? 18 August 2017, Revolutionary Communism No. 71, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-india-rivalry/
(11) See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Syria and Great Power Rivalry: The Failure of the „Left“, 21 April 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/syria-great-power-rivalry-and-the-failure-of-the-left/
(12) See on this the relevant chapters on national oppression in the programs of the RCIT: Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation (Chapter IV), October 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/; The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto (Chapter V), 2012, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/; see also Michael Pröbsting: The Struggle for Democracy in the Imperialist Countries Today, August 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/democracy-vs-imperialism/
(13) An elaboration of the RCIT’s program of international struggle against all Great Powers can be read here: Theses on Revolutionary Defeatism in Imperialist States, Resolution of the International Executive Committee of the RCIT, 8 September 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-on-revolutionary-defeatism-in-imperialist-states/
(14) For our analysis of the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers see e.g. Global Trade War: No to Great Power Jingoism in West and East! Neither Imperialist Globalization nor Imperialist Protectionism! For International Solidarity and Joint Struggle of the Working Class and Oppressed People! Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), Marxist Group ‘Class Politics’ (Russia), Alkebulan School of Black Studies (Kenya), Pan-Afrikan Consciousness Renaissance (Nigeria), Courant des Jeunes Penseurs Congolais (Democratic Republic of Congo), and Sınıf Savaşı (Turkey), 4 July 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/joint-statement-on-the-looming-global-trade-war/; Michael Pröbsting: The Rivalry between the U.S. and China as the Main Axis of Inner-Imperialist Contradictions, 02.10.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/u-s-china-rivalry-as-main-axis-of-inner-imperialist-contradictions/; Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, RCIT Books, Vienna 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2018/; Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/great-robbery-of-the-south/; Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/