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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Uyghur genocide overshadowed by Olympics

Illustration by Shelby Gatewood
Illustration by Shelby Gatewood

The Winter Olympics have gone on despite China being embroiled in controversy surrounding its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population. 

China has a history of censorship and controlling what is put on the internet within its country, so unless someone knows exactly what to search for, there won’t be much easily accessible information on this topic. 

The Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim ethnic group affiliated with the Xinjiang region in Northwest Asia.

According to BBC News, China has forced more than one million Uyghurs into “re-education” camps since 2014. 

Ever since the Communist Party of China took over in 1949, Beijing has taken large control over various ethnic minorities groups such as Uyghurs and Kazakhs, according to the news site Equal Times. When government repression came rolling in, various groups and individuals within that community started building up resentment toward government officials, they started a revolt against them by carrying out attacks and protests such as the 2009 riots in the region’s capital of Ürümqi, which resulted in several dozen deaths.

“It’s only a matter of time before the cost of China’s treatment of Uyghurs becomes too great to continue,” expert and senior project officer of the Uyghur project Peter Erwin said. “Today it’s the Uyghurs, but tomorrow it may be you who suffers from Beijing’s policies, and you will regret not having stood up for them.”

They are subjected to mandatory labor and experience horrible torture including sterilization, sexual assault and performing acts that go against their religious beliefs.

One of the ways the Chinese government has made the Uyghurs denounce Islam is by force-feeding them pork. Muslims don’t eat pork because it’s one of the foods that are considered haram or forbidden in Islam. 

China has tried to cover these atrocities up by having Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a Uyghur Muslim, light the Olympic torch to signify the start of the games. It’s as if China thinks that’s going to cover up half a decade of torment and dehumanization of an innocent group of people with an obvious political stunt.

More media outlets from other countries should be covering this — because China doesn’t have free media — to bring attention to the genocide, rather than promoting a sports event that should never have been awarded to China in the first place. 

Olympic sponsors such as Airbnb, Samsung, Toyota, Coca-Cola and VISA have been quiet on this topic. 

It was especially surprising considering Airbnb has a history of being vocal about social injustice. During the Black Lives Matter movement, it released a statement and donated money to the organization. But this time, it wants to ensure its logo is slapped all over the stadium. Guess these companies are just a bunch of cowards afraid of losing some money. 

A Uyghur activist told Fox News her sister vanished in 2018 after speaking out against the Chinese government. She was later found in 2020, and the family discovered she had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on false charges.

Jewher Ilham, daughter of one of the imprisoned Uyghurs said, “I’m afraid China’s government will use the Olympics as a propaganda tool” in an interview with Fox News. In another interview, Hamid Kerim said he couldn’t bring himself to watch the Olympics because it reminded him of his siblings who are imprisoned in Xinjiang. 

U.S. delegates did boycott the Olympics, but other than lowering viewer ratings a bit, it’s not as impactful as it could be. Bringing more attention to what’s been happening is necessary. Other countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain also took a similar stance as the U.S.

These countries taking a stance will add more eyes to the situation, but it’s hard not to see it as a publicity stunt. It’s the bare minimum, especially because after the Olympics are over, most will go back to forgetting about it. Athletes could also use their position to amplify the news, but money is money. 

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