John Oliver returned last Sunday night, demanding attention to the persecution and forced detention of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, more than a million of whom have been detained by the Chinese government in re-education camps.
“If you hear for the first time about approximately a million people who have been detained in detention camps ̵
However, reports earlier this month revealed that many Uighurs were forcibly sent to work in factories in China that produce personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks in response to the US pandemic. In other words, “the masks themselves, which some in this country consider an unacceptable violation of their personal freedom, can be made by people who would rejoice at their worst violation being kindly asked to leave fucking Costco,” Oliver said. .
And while “there is obviously nothing new in the fact that horrific practices are hidden deep in the supply chain of global capitalism,” Oliver continued, “what is happening to the Uighurs is particularly horrifying.”
The systematic suppression of the government of the Uighurs, who number about 11 million in Xinjiang and differ culturally, linguistically and ethnically from the Chinese Han, who make up 90% of the country’s population, is based on decades of discrimination by the Beijing-based communist regime. . The Chinese government has sharpened some Chinese Han’s long-standing prejudices against Uighurs, largely based on the Uighur Muslim faith in an aggressively secular country, by encouraging Han’s migration to Xinjiang.
Prejudice, tension and extreme discrimination escalated into riots in the capital, Xinjiang, in 2009, which killed more than 200 Han Chinese and sparked a decade of violence by the central government; in 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a “Strike Strict Campaign Against Violent Terrorism,” which “was at the heart of the Patriotic Steroids Act,” Oliver said. “Suddenly, the Uighurs began to be treated as if they were all potential terrorists.”
Xinjiang is already one of the most heavily controlled areas in the world, with authorities “investigating things that most people would find completely meaningless,” Oliver said, such as growing a beard or applying for a passport. People with the flag have been introduced into a police prediction system that, according to a data leak for 2019, sent 15,000 Uighurs to “brainwashing camps” in just one week in 2017.
Opposition is a “sick topic” for the Chinese government, continued Oliver, who initially denied the existence of the camps and then downplayed them as “professional” facilities. But even tightly controlled state tours barely conceal their true role in Uighur prisons, as evidenced by leaked official documents encouraging staff to “strictly manage and control student activities to prevent escapes.”
“The phrase ‘escape prevention’ is something that can be said there,” Oliver said. “If your employee’s manual says ‘escape prevention,’ you’re probably working in a prison, or at least a Scientology picnic.”
During the pandemic, the government escalated the existing deportation of Uighurs to relocate from Xinjiang and “as you may have guessed, this is not a favorable job program,” Oliver said. The idea, according to a local government report, is that sending Uighurs away from home will “distance them from religious extremes and educate them” by sending conservatively estimated 80,000 Uighurs to factories that favor them. multinational companies like Nike over a two-year period.
When contacted last week tonight, Nike said the factory had no long-hired Uighur workers and company representatives “conducting ongoing inspections with our suppliers in China.” Which “feels like their oversight policy is less ‘just do it’ and more ‘we’re just talking about it and I hope people eventually stop asking,'” Oliver said.
More broadly, “as the entire global community progresses, it must do more,” Oliver concluded, calling on the UN to appoint independent investigators to investigate China’s abuses in Xinjiang, with governments speaking “without committing to China’s economic influence.” and companies like Nike to clean up their supply chains while “actively using their financial resources to put pressure on the Chinese government to stop these abuses.”
But none of this will happen, he argues, without redirecting individual attention. “I know that raising awareness is often a silly decision that doesn’t really solve a problem, but it can be of real benefit to awareness, even if it comes through a TikTok makeup lesson or,” he added, pointing to himself, “just the opposite. at once.
“When you’re running a coherent campaign focused on cultural erasure, one of the most important things we can do is keep paying attention.”