For the opening ceremony of Winter Olympics, China picked a final torchbearer from Xinjiang as a rebuttal to the many countries that have criticized its human rights record in the region.
- Xinjiang is a region where multiple governments suspect China is committing an ongoing genocide against Uighur/uyghur and other Muslim minorities.
- But, critics see these developments as publicity stunts.
- Various countries have called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang.
- Credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uighurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uighur culture.
- Despite mounting evidence, China denies mistreating the Uyghurs, and goes on to insist it is simply running “vocational training” centres designed to counter extremism.
- The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim minority Turkic ethnic group, whose origins can be traced to Central and East Asia.
- The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
- China recognises the community only as a regional minority and rejects that they are an indigenous group.
- Currently, the largest population of the Uighur ethnic community lives in the Xinjiang region of China.
- A significant population of Uighurs also lives in the neighbouring Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
- Uighur Muslims for decades, under the false accusation by the Chinese government of terrorism and separatism, have suffered from abuses including persecution, forced detention, intense scrutiny, surveillance and even slavery.