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Vineet Ravindran asked: What stops OIC and generally all Islamic countries from criticising China for its treatment of Xinjiang’s Muslim population?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: The Uyghur Muslim population of Xinjiang Province has suffered one of the worst forms of cultural aggression and forced demographic change since 1949, when it became part of China.

    Over the decades, the Chinese Han population is reported to have grown from a meagre 5 per cent of the province’s population in 1941 to 40.6 per cent in 2000, while the Uyghur Muslim population has fallen from 80 per cent in 1941 to 45.2 per cent during the same period. Writing for Vox on 25 September 2020, Jen Kirby states that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has arbitrarily detained between 1–3 million Uyghurs in internment camps (so-called re-education centres) where they go through psychological indoctrination programmes.

    Another report states that Chinese authorities subject Uyghur women to mass sterilisation, force them to take birth control or have abortions and put them in camps if they resist. In fact, official Chinese statistics reveal that there has been a drastic 48.7 per cent decline in birth rates in ethnic minority areas of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019.

    However, much of the Muslim world — particularly its organisations like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League — turn a blind eye to these ongoing human rights abuses. Even at the recently held 48th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of OIC in Pakistan on 22–23 March 2022 — which was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as a ‘special guest’ — OIC remained silent on the Uyghur Muslims’ fate in Xinjiang.

    There could be many reasons for the silence of Muslim states on the situation in Xinjiang. Most Muslim countries are not liberal democracies and generally have a poor record in upholding civil liberties, rights of minorities or for that matter rights of women. Thus, they often find themselves at odds with liberal democracies of the world and are naturally drawn towards totalitarian powers for support. In fact, many of these countries face international sanctions on account of their human rights violations and it is mostly Chinese aid — be it political, economic or related to defence equipment or weapons — that sees them through in times of international isolation. In addition, China has become the centre of gravity for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) energy markets and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects have ensnared much of the Muslim world. Pakistan’s influence has also risen in the OIC as the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project is perceived as a promising prospect by many Muslim states of West Asia. Thus, Pakistan’s influence has proven decisive in scuttling any opposition against its close ally China in the Muslim world.

    Posted on 17 June 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.