There is no escape from religious persecution. In the smallest villages, mosques are destroyed, people are forced to break Halal laws, and face re-education.
Yuli county is located in central Xinjiang, and is under the administration of the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture. It has a population of approximately 120,000 people, of which 47.6% are Uyghurs.
In September of 2014, official media outlets of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) widely reported that Xi Jinping had personally written to the local party secretary of Daxi village, which is under the administration of Xingping township in Yuli county, and to all the villagers there: “wishing that each day may be better than the last for all people.”
Bitter Winter recently visited Yuli county to find out what life is like for people there now? Is it as Xi Jinping wished for them – with each day having been better than the last?
Colleagues forced to report against one another
Ms. Zhang (a pseudonym), a worker at a public-sector organization in Yuli county, doesn’t feel that her life is improving. On the contrary, she has been experiencing ever-growing oppression and terror.
In June of last year, Ms. Zhang’s work unit held a mandatory meeting, during which government officials demanded that employees report and expose one another. Topics for reporting included: whether Uyghur employees usually speak Mandarin or Uyghur; whether they eat halal or Chinese food during their breaks; do their names have sensitive meanings, like Mohammed or Arafat; do employees or their relatives have religious beliefs or have ever participated in congregations or any other religious ceremonies; whether or not any individuals or their relatives have ever gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and similar questions.
Government officers stated that those who didn’t proactively confess would be sent to “transformation through education camps” upon being reported.
After the meeting ended, all of the employees were individually questioned. The government officers held hardline attitudes, saying, “You must tell us everything you know. If we find out you withheld information from us, you will be severely punished.”
According to Ms. Zhang, after the interrogations, everyone was silent, and in a somber mood.
Such methods of getting people to report one another were employed extensively by the government during the Cultural Revolution. In order to protect themselves or show their loyalty to the regime, people even sold out immediate family and friends, and people had to be wary of those closest to them, never knowing whether or not something they said in passing might become the evidence that convicts them of a capital offense in the near future. This collapse of trust, integrity, and tolerance is believed to have negative effects even today on the morality and consciences of people in China.
Mosque Disappears Overnight
An anonymous inside source told Bitter Winter that on one night in April of 2018, a swarm of police officers suddenly appeared and blocked a section of highway in Yuli county, making all vehicles, large and small, to take detour routes. The siege lasted for two nights. No one seemed to know what the police were actually doing.
It wasn’t until after sunrise on the third day that people discovered the truth. A plot of land that had originally been the site of a large mosque had been completely leveled. What’s more, all of the bricks and wood from the Mosque’s remains had been cleared away completely.
The insider said, “The mosque that was demolished was huge. Hundreds of people used to go to the mosque to worship. Each day, five to six police officers with loaded rifles were by the doors, and I heard that there would be two more officers inside the Mosque listening to the Muslims reading scripture. Now, you can’t even tell there was a mosque here just two days ago, and all that’s left is a fenced-in vacant lot.”
In anywhere but Xinjiang, having a huge mosque demolished in such a quick and “peaceful” way, and being so clean about “burning the remains and destroying the evidence” might be difficult to imagine.
The insider continued, “Despite being treated so savagely by the government, none of the local Muslims dare to oppose, or even to voice complaints, as doing so could lead to imprisonment.”
Transformation through education camps extended
According to another source, many Uyghurs in Yuli county have been arrested, and all of those whose words and actions hinted at dissatisfaction with the government or unwillingness to comply with the government’s arrangements were seized. They were placed in transformation through education camps on the grounds that they have “ideological problems.”
“As so many Uyghurs had been seized, and the detention centers couldn’t hold them all, they had no choice but to lock up some Uyghurs in homes for the elderly,” the insider reported. “But so many people have been arrested that even the elderly homes can’t hold them all, and now the government has constructed a ‘study’ base in a rural area outside of the county that can hold 8,000 people. I heard that the CCP is rounding up everyone with religious beliefs and who doesn’t listen to the Party, and is holding them for indoctrination.”
A local man added that authorities are making sure that Muslims eat during fasting periods, and some have been ordered to take down star-and-crescent symbols from the tombs of their relatives. “Some Muslims are being forced by the government to raise pigs and put up the kinds of banners with poetic couplets that only Han Chinese people would. Uyghur children must all attend schools that teach Mandarin and learn the language, and they aren’t allowed to speak Uyghur. Those children who can’t speak Mandarin aren’t allowed to take days off, and must instead study Mandarin on these days. In addition, each community has organized night school study groups. All Uyghurs are required to attend at least one or two nights per week to study books that Xi Jinping has studied, and to study his speeches.”
Local people lamented, “When are these difficult days going to end?” Certainly today, four years after his letter to the villagers of Daxi, people realize that Xi Jinping’s idea of a “good day” is different from their own.
Reported by Li Zaili