women protest treatment of Uighur Muslims
Two women protest the treatment of Uighur Muslims outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC.

Each year, U.S. News, in conjunction with the Pew Research Council, conducts its Best Countries survey in which over 20,000 citizens and business leaders from 36 countries evaluate 80 nations based on 75 metrics including quality of life, economic influence, and education.

Countries are also ranked in a multitude of subcategories. Per this year’s survey, the top 10 countries in terms of the religious freedoms they grant their citizens are the following:

  1. Netherlands
  2. Canada
  3. Norway
  4. Australia
  5. United States
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Belgium
  8. Denmark
  9. New Zealand
  10. Sweden

One world power noticeably absent from that top ten list? China. In fact, China was listed as a ‘country of particular concern’ in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 2018 report of countries that have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” Other countries on that list? North Korea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Chinese Internment Camps

China’s ranking as one of the worst countries for religious freedom should come as no surprise for those who have paid close attention to recent news. Last year, BBC reported on the forced detaining, torture, and ‘re-education’ of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

It’s a disturbing read for those of us who thought such barbaric and cruel practices had been left to the trash heap of history. In China’s Xinjiang region, the largest and westernmost region of the country, the Chinese government is actively imprisoning potentially millions of Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. Uighurs are a Turkic people living primarily in the Xinjiang region, and are a recognized ethnic minority in China- and they are primarily Muslim.

The Xinjiang region is now shrouded in secrecy, and media outlets have all but been banned from the region entirely. But satellite images obtained by the BBC show many new high-security buildings popping up across the country, many surrounded by barb-wire fences. And a Guardian investigation shows that over two dozen Islamic religious sites have been partially or completely destroyed in the Xinjiang region since 2016.

Horrifying Conditions

Those who make it out of the camps paint a horrifying picture. One woman told reporters in Washington that she was forced into a cramped cell with 60 other women and was subjected to torture, including electrocution. Ultimately, she said, nine women in her cell died under the brutal conditions. Other media reports suggest that the Uighur Muslims in these concentration camps are forced to renounce their former faith, swear loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and learn Mandarin, all with the implicit threat of violence if they don’t comply.

The few media reports to make it out of the region show a region under martial law, with frequent military checkpoints and mandatory genetic testing. Even those lucky enough to still have their freedom are threatened constantly. Radio Free Asia recently reported that some free Muslims were forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, both actions forbidden by their faith– or else face being sent to a concentration camp.

World Response

It’s shocking that such a flagrant human rights violation has not made larger waves in world news. But with China’s emergent powerhouse position on the world stage, many countries are hesitant to upset the mighty country.

Many Muslim-majority countries remain silent on the issue, and although the United States, European Union, and Turkey have all spoken out on the issue, no actions have been taken beyond public condemnation and a wag of the finger. It seems that China’s massive cultural and economic influence is allowing it to get away with flagrant human rights abuses, for the time being. But Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez have introduced a bill in the Senate that would force sanctions on China over their treatment of the Uighur Muslims. If the bill is ultimately signed into law, it’ll be a start towards holding China accountable.

15 comments

  1. kimberly says:

    best thing to do all around is to eliminate “made in china”. This isn’t new.

  2. Marcel French says:

    so much concern for persecuted Muslims in China. Don’t misunderstand I’m not saying all Muslims are evil people but the fact is extremist like Isis are allowed to thrive among the regular Muslim population and despite those Muslims that say they’re against it they do nothing to stand up to these oppressive evil good-for-nothing trash like Isis. I find it interesting that in the Quran it is stated by Muhammad himself that Muslims should show all other humans regardless of their differences love and respect not force them to convert to Islam. It also says those who do not return love and respect to the people of Islam are infidels. So the notion that this applies to anyone who is not Muslim is Twisted evil human thinking and it needs to be ended.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      It makes me even more glad that I’m not a Muslim, or from China. And to think, all they have to do is throw a chinaman a few rice cakes to get him to work hard all day, making all kinds of cheap, wonderful sundries that most of our homes are full of. I bet they’d work even harder if those rice cakes came with a smile.

  3. Dan Atatakai says:

    It is a real shame how even governments do not understand Islam, taking the words of extremists as being mainstream instead of radical.

    Having said that, the US has a POTUS who is also just as bigoted and ignorant about Islam as well as many other subjects, causing him to divide people when his job is to bring people together by creating a “United” States.

  4. Lionheart says:

    It’s a tough call isn’t it as to what religion is a safe religion for a nation and what isn’t? Torturing people, if that is truly happening, is obviously an inhuman practice. It’s been done before by radical Christians before the reformation and it just doesn’t work, and doesn’t solve anything.

    🦁❤️

  5. tom says:

    The United States should not trade with countries that do not allow freedom for their non-violent citizens…then perhaps we can bring back manufacturing to America, even though it will cut into the profits of the large corporations…it will also solve much of the unemployment problem, which is far worse than the Trump government pretends…Peace…Tom B

  6. kimberly says:

    having convictions is NOT bigotry

  7. Laurie Cleveland says:

    Why is it shocking when they go after Christians or anybody else who professes true love and allegiance to the IAM. Clearly, the USA and other countries that do business with China could exert pressure, but instead, they turn and look the other way. The more you don’t say something, the more at fault everybody is.

  8. Christian says:

    Peace Be Upon Them.
    Many humans have died defending their beliefs or been killed by others in the name of their god…

    Sad to see so much pain.

    Life changes when you know and make
    LOVE your ‘God’.

    Love LOVE above all things.
    Love LOVE with all your Being.
    Love all beings.
    Love yourself.

    Mindful Compassion & Loving Awareness creates kindness & mercy, happiness & forgiveness, joy and Bliss.

    Love creates Heaven on Earth.

  9. Christian says:

    Peace Be Upon Them.
    Sad to see so much pain.

    Life changes when you know and make
    LOVE your ‘God’.

    Love LOVE above all things.
    Love LOVE with all your Being.
    Love all beings.
    Love yourself.

    Mindful Compassion & Loving Awareness creates kindness & mercy, happiness & forgiveness, joy and Bliss.

    Love creates Heaven on Earth.

    1. Lionheart says:

      “Mindful Compassion & Loving Awareness creates kindness & mercy, happiness & forgiveness, joy and Bliss.”

      That’s a wonderful thought isn’t it Christian? But in reality, it doesn’t work for Islam. It doesn’t matter how nice and loving you want to be. It’s very simple in their faith, if you are not of their religion you are an infidel and deserve death. End of story!

      🦁♥️

  10. Secretary3rd says:

    Read Sharia Law which all Muslims must practice. You have one religion in China which is called the Communist Party. If China could stump out Islam they would. If they could kill off every Muslim in China they would. My Muslims friends say that if they could they would behead me. We still friends and I tell them that if I could I too would slaughter all males and take their wife and daughter as is custom of Islam. We laugh.

    1. kimberly says:

      poor poor Muslims. why aren’t we talking about how China persecutes Christians? this is PC at its finest to object to mistreatment of one group and ignore others in the same situation or worse.

  11. William Waugh says:

    Not interested in supporting any part of a society that condones eating dog. Clearly, not an evolved species. I mean race. I mean, really, screw ’em.

    1. kimberly says:

      native Americans were quite partial to dog meat.

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