For the last 7 years, the authoritarian regime in China have allegedly been detaining Uyghurs for “re-education” and have outlawed certain cultural practises of this majority Muslim population. From banning veils all the way to legislating that they must furnish their home in an approved and traditional Han-Chinese style, some speculate there is an ethnic cleansing going on, and others believe that this is an attempt to convert the population to achieve the communist party’s vision of cultural unity. Whatever way it is painted, one thing for sure is that the Chinese Communist Party are no strangers to violating those they have a direct responsibility for, from the allegations of systematic rape in Xian-Jiang, all the way back to the early days of Mao Zedong and his Great Leap Forward campaign in 1958 to industrialise China and make it what it is today. I hope to open your eyes and show you that this is not a new thing, and if the CPC continue unchecked, history shows that worse may still be around the corner.
On the 1st of May 1950, a post war China came to it’s conclusion in the civil war. The communist rebels backed by Chinese warlords and with superior equipment had won, 7 months after Mao Zedong declared the existence of the Peoples Republic of China in Tiananmen Square, and now ruled with the blessing of his political colleagues. After the Korean war, he wanted to turn China into an economic powerhouse through industrialisation, going as far as giving the people back yard furnaces to try an accelerate the process. This period of time from 1958 to 1962 was called the Great Leap Forward, however it was when people were moved to the communes it took a dark turn.
In the communes, there was more of a focus around an individuals “ideological purity” rather than expertise, which in simple terms means your political views defined how the state viewed and acted toward you. On top of this, disgruntled workers would regularly kill livestock out of protest, and since the communes were designed to be more like mini industrial zones with less emphasis on agriculture, it caused the agricultural sector of China to suffer. Combined with natural disasters and inefficiency within the communes, this quickly led to a famine which killed between 15–55 million people, which is considered to be worse than Hitler and Stalins body counts, killing 16 million and 19 million through murder and policies. There were also first hand accounts of brutality by members of the Peoples Liberation Army by survivors, from executions to tying kids to a post in the hills and leaving them to die of exposure. Not only did all these people die, but the Chinese economy shrank bringing in yet more hardships for the regular Chinese citizen, meaning at the time it was all for nothing and yet Mao retained power.
In the spirit of ideological purity 4 years after the great leap forward ended, Mao launched his next major campaign which is commonly known as the cultural revolution. This was a 10 year period between 1966 and 1976 where the people and the army were mobilised to attack those who Mao insinuated were enemies of the people. Students killed civilians cause their clothes were considered “bourgeoisie”, and the military killed members of the CPC who were deemed threats to ideological purity or Mao’s power, very similar to the great terror in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Some people that were murdered were killed for supporting Capitalism, and those the people could not reach usually ended up committing suicide. It is estimated between half a million and 2 million people lost their lives in this dark and bloody period of political violence. After the cultural revolution, Mao had died finally getting rid of one of the most horrific facilitators of death, murder and torture in history.
If we go back a few years, Chairman Mao Zedong was also in power when China first annexed Tibet in 1951 and the failed uprising in 1959. For 70 years, Tibet has been occupied despite previously being a sovereign state.Some people from Tibet and journalists commonly referred to this occupation as a “cultural genocide”. The original 35,000 troops who crossed the border and occupied the nation are alleged to have tortured, raped and killed up to 1.2 million Tibetans, leading to the extreme act of self immolation being a common form of protest. In 2009, a video surfaced on YouTube showing the current security forces beating a Tibetan man called Tendar for allegedly defending a monk, this led to a ban of the platform altogether in mainland China after they denounced the video as a lie, despite the victim in the video later dying of his injuries. Now it is believed that an free Tibet may be nothing more than a pipe dream after it was announced a new high speed railway will link up Tibet and mainland China, and has brought fresh fears in India of more border disputes along the Himalayas which could potentially lead to a conflict.
One of the next Communist Party leaders decided to take a hard turn in favour of the people, his name was Hu Yaobang. He had actively worked towards democratic reform in China, and after his death in April 1989, students decided to make sure they were heard and took to Tiananmen square to protest, the same place where chairman Mao had declared the existence of the Peoples Republic of China 38 years earlier. The new leadership decided to crack down on this freedom of expression after tens of thousands had joined the protests by May. Then on June 4th in the early hours of the morning after declaring martial law mid May, the Chinese military opened fire on the students. Many tried to escape, however some fought back with stones and setting military vehicles on fire. The number of deaths is unknown, but the crackdown only lasted two days causing up to thousands of deaths and 10,000 arrests, all of this because the people wanted free press, free speech and democracy and undoing the hard work of Yaobang.
In conclusion, history has shown that when you think they couldn’t do anything worse, the CPC will stop at nothing as the ends justify the means for them, as estimates show there are up to 10 million Uyghurs still missing in Xian-Jiang. With allegations of forced sterilisations, executions, rape, torture and even medical experiments, if the current chairman Xi Jinping continues unchecked, he could surpass Mao Zedong with his body count whether it’s from direct killings or the prevention of Uyghurs reproducing, who have shown a sharp decrease in their rate of birth It is not only the Uyghurs who suffer, but the Uzbek's and Kazakhs allegedly being subject to this treatment too. In the Hotan prefecture where Uyghurs are 97% of the population, the birth rate after 2017 dropped from more than 20 per 1,000 to 8.58 in 2018, and something needs to be done by our governments to ensure that this doesn’t become a genocide that surpasses the holocaust.