Photo Credit: Colegota/WikiCommons/CC

by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Colegota/WikiCommons/CC

THE NUMBER OF Uighurs seeking asylum would be on the rise internationally, with Uighurs abroad facing the strong possibility of imprisonment if they return to China simply by virtue of their ethnicity. Namely, China has taken to treating Islam as though it were an ideological contagion in Xinjiang, imprisoning over 1 million Uighurs for “re-education.”

Uighurs who have had contact with the outside world are among those imprisoned, apparently because of the view that they have been “contaminated” by exposure to the outside world. In particular, China likely hopes to avoid Xinjiang residents coming into contact with the international world in order to raise awareness of their plight, and for Uighurs who have been educated abroad, China may hope to crack down on Uighur intellectuals who may become centers of resistance.

Positive steps have been taken by a number of nations to avoid repatriating Uighur refugees back to China. Western nations such as Germany and Sweden have ruled to stop all deportation of Uighurs to China. This, however, took place only after following controversies in which Uighurs were deported back to China, such as Germany mistakenly deporting a 23-year-old Uighur man back to China in April or Sweden sending a family of four back to China because Swedish immigration officials were not aware of the current situation in Xinjiang. Uighur refugees in other western countries, even countries with a history of touting strong support for human rights such as Canada, still fear deportation.

Despite that the persecution of Uighurs has gone on for years, western nations are only now realizing the scale of the campaign of mass incarceration which China is conducting in Xinjiang, which is why such deportations took place. On the other hand, while Uighurs do live in the United States—facing growing issues of surveillance from China—the United States has proven reluctant to accept Uighur refugees at times because they come from countries with majority Muslim countries. This has led America to pursue secret deals to resettle some Uighur refugees in other countries instead, such as in Bermuda.