Analysis & Opinions - Lawfare

Understanding China’s 'Preventive Repression' in Xinjiang

  • Sheena Chestnut Greitens
| Mar. 01, 2020

Lawfare Editor’s Note: China’s crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and other parts of the country is a massive, and at times dystopic, campaign that affects well over one million Chinese Muslims. This campaign is carried out in the name of counterterrorism, an attempt to snuff out a small, but nevertheless real, terrorism threat. Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Myunghee Lee and Emir Yazici of the University of Missouri explain the timing of China’s crackdown and outline several steps for the United States and other countries to take to mitigate several of its worst effects.

Daniel Byman

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) crackdown on Uighur and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has attracted intense scrutiny and polarized the international community. At least 1 million people, maybe as many as 1.5 million, have been detained in a large network of recently constructed camps, where they undergo forced reeducation and political indoctrination.

These developments have shaped not only Chinese domestic politics but also international politics and debate. Chinese authorities have put pressure on Uighur diaspora networks, increasing surveillance and pressuring other countries in which Uighurs live to repatriate them to China. Beijing has also attempted to build an international coalition in support of its policies: When 22 countries sent a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council asking China to stop its involuntary internments in Xinjiang, that letter was countered by another letter from 37 countries defending the government’s “counter-terrorism, deradicalization and vocational training policies.” The issue has also fueled U.S.-China tension and resulted in U.S. sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies.

What is happening in Xinjiang is deeply concerning and abhorrent. Trying to change it, however, is difficult. Any attempt to do so requires a full and clear understanding of the threat perceptions that are driving China’s behavior in the region, particularly this most recent strategy of intensified collective repression.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Greitens, Sheena.“Understanding China’s 'Preventive Repression' in Xinjiang.” Lawfare, March 1, 2020.

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