Students and teachers were investigated and punished for possession of Islamic or Christian texts, or if they failed to report the religious beliefs of their family members.
Bitter Winter has reported repeatedly about the persecution of Muslim believers in Xinjiang, with one million detained in the dreaded “transformation through education” camps, while mosques are being destroyed and imams arrested.
We have now learned that on March 25, 2018, students, teaching and administrative staff of Xinjiang Medical University became the targets of a Cultural-Revolution-style investigation. The University is located in the city of Urumqi and is home to 14 colleges, two teaching divisions, and seven affiliated medical institutions.
The school authorities announced that students with religious beliefs, or in possession of religious objects or texts, as well as those whose family members are believers, must come forward and confess. If they do so, the school will be lenient; but if they do not confess and will be reported or discovered, they will be severely punished.
Administrators went on to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all the nearly 20,000 students and teaching and administrative staff, declaring that they would only be allowed to possess one of each of the following electronic devices: cell phones, flash drives, card readers, SD cards, and MP3 (or MP4) players. Laptops and other “extra” electronic devices should be handed over to the security division to be examined, primarily to check whether they contained any saved data that would reveal religious beliefs. All personal possessions had to undergo the inspection as well, looking for crosses, Islamic flags, the Bible, the Quran, and other objects related to religion. According to one student, as it was an emergency inspection, they had no time to collect their personal articles.
After the inspection was finished, the school forced each student or staff member to sign a declaration, stating that he or she did not have any religious texts or objects, “extra” electronic devices, or family members with religious beliefs. In addition, the document included the statement that each signatory accepted to incur the severe consequences for false or incomplete declarations on these matters. One female Uyghur student was expelled from the university on the grounds that a black headscarf, Islamic texts, and other Muslim-related objects were found in her dorm room.
On March 31 and April 1, the Xinjiang Medical University broadcasted two video conferences, demanding the participation of all the staff and students, emphasizing that they must not be absent for any reason whatsoever. The primary subject of the meeting was the assertion that in a Communist Party-led nation, there can be no religion, everyone must follow only the Communist Party. Anyone unwilling to obey must not be granted even an inch of Chinese soil to stand on. The Secretary of the school’s Party Committee gave a speech, in which he stated, “We must guarantee that the nation is stable, and have to crack down on religion. What the Communist Party says should be accepted; individuals don’t have the right to autonomy!”
According to a university staff member, after the video conference, the school authorities issued orders every month, demanding that everybody studied Xi Jinping’s speeches, take notes, and write reports about what they felt while reading. They stated that people with a sense of ethnic identity, not willing to undergo “sinicization” (assimilation and adapting of religions to socialist needs), should be considered “double-dealing terrorists.” They demanded that each student or teacher should analyze and self-criticize his or her behavior as well as identify, report, and expose the “two-faced” people who “claim to support Marx and Lenin while having Allah in their hearts.”
In addition to the normal work and studies, the school is now requiring the staff and students to dedicate a large portion of their time to study the political doctrine and statements. High-level leaders and other officials are conducting random inspections and will punish anyone who does not follow these rules. The same staff member also said, “I feel exhausted each day, extremely stifled, anxious, and afraid that I might accidentally say something that will get me reported – and I’ll be labeled as someone with thought problems and be punished.” The level of pressure in Xinjiang is now truly reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
Report by Li Zaili