China bars entry of U.S. research group probing into cultural and religious repression of Muslims in Xinjiang and other regions


By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI—Amid the charges that China is systematically erasing the Islamic identity of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and expanding its crackdown on mosques to other regions, the Communist Party-ruled country has barred the entry of a U.S. research and data analytics group, Kharon, and its lead analysts. Kharon, headquartered in Los Angeles, has worked extensively on the alleged human rights abuses against Muslim minority groups in China.

For a long, China has been carrying out the erasure of Muslim identity and culture and replacing Islamic architecture with symbols reflective of its own Communist ideology. While Karon has made disturbing claims about the repression of Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim community, in China’s concentration camps, the Muslim countries are surprisingly silent over the blatant cultural and religious suppression by the Asian giant.

According to the reports appearing in Western media, over 2,300 mosques in China have been destroyed or modified since 2018. About 1.10 crore Uyghurs and other natives of Xinjiang share religious, linguistic and cultural links with the scattered peoples of Central Asia and have long resented the Chinese Communist Party’s heavy-handed control and attempts to assimilate them with the majority Han ethnic group.

The lead analysts attached to Kharon, Edmund Xu (Director of Investigation) and Nicole Morgret, a human rights analyst affiliated with the Centre for Advanced Defence Studies, were banned from entering China in a statement published by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning last week.

Any assets or property owned by the group in China will be frozen and the organizations and individuals in China will be prohibited from conducting transactions or cooperating with them.

Kharon is an elite research and data analytics company that provides reliable and actionable sanctions-related risk intelligence to prominent global financial institutions, multinational corporations, and public sector entities. Founded and led by former U.S. Department of Treasury senior officials and staffed by a multilingual team of open-source intelligence analysts, Kharon identifies, analyses and maps material relationships between specific individuals and entities sanctioned by a range of governments and multinational bodies.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement, the sanctions have been imposed in retaliation for Kharon’s contribution to a U.S. government report on human rights in Xinjiang. Analyst Morgret wrote in a paper published in June 2022 that the Chinese government was undertaking a concerted drive to industrialize the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which had led an increasing number of corporations to establish manufacturing operations there.

This centrally-controlled industrial policy was a key tool in the government’s efforts to forcibly assimilate Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples through the institution of a coerced labour regime, Morgret’s paper stated. However, China has long denied allegations of human rights abuses, saying the large-scale network of prison-like facilities through which hundreds of thousands of Muslim citizens have passed were intended only to rid them of “violent and extremist tendencies” and teach them job skills.

Muslims who earlier stayed in these facilities describe harsh conditions imposed on them without legal process and narrated how they were forced to denounce their culture and sing the praises of President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party daily. China says the camps are all now closed, but many of their former inmates have reportedly been given lengthy prison sentences elsewhere.

Access to the region by journalists, diplomats and others is tightly controlled and there are restrictions on the movement of Uyghurs, Kazaks and other Muslim minorities outside the region. The Foreign Ministry spokesperson has accused the U.S. of spreading false stories about Xinjiang and illegally sanctioning Chinese officials and companies citing the human rights issues.

A report released last month by Human Rights Watch, a prominent international non-government organization headquartered in New York, stated that China was not only persecuting Muslims in Xinjiang but had also closed mosques in the northern Ningxia region as well as Gansu province, which are home to large populations of Hui Muslims, as part of a process known officially as “consolidation”.

A United Nations report also found last year that China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, including through its construction of a network of extrajudicial internment camps believed to have held at least one crore Huis, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. Chinese authorities have decommissioned, closed down, demolished or converted mosques for secular use in regions outside Xinjiang as part of a campaign aimed at cracking down on religious expression, according to Human Rights Watch.

Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch, said the Chinese government was not consolidating mosques as it claimed but was closing down many in violation of religious freedom. The Chinese government’s closure, destruction and repurposing of mosques was part of a systematic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China, Wang said.

In Liaoqiao and Chuankou villages in Ningxia, authorities dismantled the domes and minarets of all seven mosques and razed the main buildings of three of them between 2019 and 2021. Reports received from China also suggested that the government had closed or altered mosques in other places around the country, occasionally facing public backlash. The protesters in Nagu town in southern Yunnan province clashed with police over the planned demolition of a mosque’s dome in May 2023.

The Muslim nations face a dilemma in the face of blatant injustice by China, even though its audacious actions demand global attention and condemnation. The lack of a collective response from the Muslim world underscores the complexity of international relations and the challenges of addressing human rights violations in the geopolitical context.

The troubling silence of Muslim nations on the ongoing Israeli genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also underscores the fragmentation of the Muslim world and the inability of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to present a united front against global injustices. In the case of China, the Communist Party-ruled country’s strategic leverage wielded through its economic clout, the promise of investment and economic penetration of the Gulf region have seemingly led to a cautious approach by the Muslim countries, which have given preference to economic and diplomatic dividends and ignored the plight of Muslims.


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