According to media reports, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Xinjiang signals a new emphasis on the assimilation of the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group that the US and other governments say is the victim of ongoing genocide.
Xi’s visit to Xinjiang was his second in eight years, RFA reported. Since 2017, Chinese authorities have detained up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in internment camps.
Locals are said to have been subjected to severe human rights violations, torture, and forced labour, as well as the erasure of their linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions, in what the US and several Western parliaments have called genocide and crimes against humanity.
According to Chinese analyst Ma Ju, Xi went to Xinjiang to prepare for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th Congress in autumn, where Xi is expected to be reappointed for a third term as party general secretary, and the People’s Congress in March.
“Xi Jinping’s statements made after his visit to the region indicates that he will eradicate the remaining few and careful cultural figures after getting rid of the Uyghur elites,” Ma told RFA, adding: “This is an eradication campaign. They will continue this eradication campaign just like getting rid of the civilization of other nations [non-Han peoples] in Chinese history.”
According to Rahima Mahmut, UK director of the World Uyghur Congress, events like the staged dancing of Uyghurs for Xi’s visit were staged for propaganda purposes.
“This happens quite often. It is the same not only for officials from the central government, but also for local officials. The Uyghur students and performers are forced to welcome such officials. The staged dancing of Uyghurs was meant to show the world that Uyghurs enjoy normal happy lives,” she said.
However, Mahmut said it was “frightening” to see photos and videos of the Chinese president surrounded by mostly elderly Uyghurs, with no young men in sight, according to RFA.
“Where did the Uyghur young men go? The truth is most young Uyghur males have faced enforced disappearance. They are either in the camps or prisons. This is quite clear,” she said.