U.S. Report: Nearly 2 Million Muslims Trapped in Chinese Concentration Camps as Pandemic Began

Chinese policemen push Uyghur women protesting on the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, China on July 7, 2009. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)
Guang Niu/Getty Images

Communist China, the birthplace of the coronavirus pandemic, was holding up to 1.8 million Muslim minorities in over “1,300 concentration camps” as the disease began to spread near the end of last year, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The report examined religious freedom violations and progress in 2019. Chinese government documents leaked to media show the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) infected the first known patient on November 17, 2019, in Wuhan, China.

In its annual international religious freedom assessment released on Monday, the U.S. commission, an independent federal entity, declared:

Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang— an estimate revised upward since the previous reporting period.”

Uyghur Muslim-majority Xinjiang is China’s largest province. The U.S. commission revealed that China is imprisoning Muslim minorities “for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol, or other behaviors authorities deem to be signs of ‘religious extremism,'” adding:

Former detainees report that they suffered torture, rape, sterilization, and other abuses. In addition, nearly half a million Muslim children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools. During 2019, the camps increasingly transitioned from reeducation to forced labor as detainees were forced to work in cotton and textile factories. Outside the camps, the government continued to deploy officials to live with Muslim families and to report on any signs of “extremist” religious behavior. Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang and other parts of China have destroyed or damaged thousands of mosques and removed Arabic-language signs from Muslim businesses.

Citing human rights activists, Breitbart News has reported novel coronavirus could pose a dire threat to prisoners in Xinjiang’s internment camps.

Uyghur activists have also said that Muslim minorities in China are facing hunger and medicine shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing may also be using its Muslim minorities as “slave laborers and cannon fodder” to keep its ailing economy afloat, the human rights publication Bitter Winter asserted earlier this month.

In early March, Chinese labor camp survivor Yu Ming even indicated that unscrupulous doctors in China were using harvested organs for double-lung transplants performed on people suffering from coronavirus.

“We are seeing certain countries violating human rights to protect medical health,” one of the USCIRF commissioners, Rev. Johnnie Moore, proclaimed during the virtual rollout of the annual report on Monday.

 He indicated that China’s response to the Wuhan virus has led “to a complete shut down of religious life” in the communist country, USCIRF noted on Twitter.

“Whether it’s Uyghur Muslims or Christians … the Chinese government makes it absolutely clear that citizens must not have any loyalty higher than their loyalty to the communist party,” USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer added during the report’s rollout.

The commission believes China remains among the worst violators of religious freedom, primarily targeting its Uyghur Muslim, Tibetan Buddhist, Christian, and Falun Gong minorities.

Members of the commission have urged the U.S. State Department to sanction China along with 13 other countries as countries of particular concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for tolerating or engaging in “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

IRFA reportedly defines “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom as:

[S]ystematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations … including violations such as—(A) torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; (B) prolonged detention without charges; (C) causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons; or (D) other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.

The U.S. Congress established USCIRF to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.

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