Database Entry: Even China’s ‘Model’ Uyghurs Aren’t Safe
Internment Destruction of the Family Forced Assimilation Destruction of Language Restricting communication

Even China’s ‘Model’ Uyghurs Aren’t Safe

March 14, 2019
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“All our lives we have lived as ‘model Chinese citizens.’ We studied Mandarin, my mother was a civil servant for decades, and I’d fallen in love with and got married to a Han Chinese man,” lamented Isaac, who is now living in exile in Sweden. “And yet it has happened to us. Why?”

“It doesn’t matter if you are Uyghur and American, Uyghur and a public servant, or a Uyghur [who] speaks Mandarin as your first language. As long as you a Uyghur, you will be targeted.”

Alfred Uyghur, whose parents were strong proponents of a Mandarin-medium education, also wound up as targets in the crackdown. Alfred lost contact with them three years ago, shortly after he started college education in the United States. He recently found out that his mother had been detained in a camp in 2017, while his father was sentenced to 11 years in jail for unexplained reasons.

participation in the “Xinjiang Class” – a program that funds middle school-aged students from Xinjiang, mostly ethnic Uyghurs, to attend school in predominantly Han populated cities – does not guarantee that the student or his family will be spared “re-education.” “In other words, otherwise upstanding citizens who have been successful in ‘Chinese’ society are being detained simply because of their ethno-religious identities,” he said.

In 2017, authorities banned the use of the Uyghur language at all education levels, warning that those who violate the order will be severely punished.

“When I was selected for Xinjiang Class, my parents were so proud and I was psyched as well. But even though I mastered Mandarin, integrating into the mainstream has been difficult due to various forms of discrimination,” he added.

“I remember a finance professor discussing how to deal with Xinjiang, referring it to a place with undeveloped people, and suggesting that it be turned into a casino center,”

Byler, who lectures at the University of Washington’s anthropology department, sees the crackdown as the Chinese government’s attempt to eradicate all unique aspects of the Uyghur identity. “I am not hopeful that the identity will continue to survive. I think children of the future generations, especially, might lose touch with their Uyghur heritage or just see it as backward, or lacking,” he said.