Uyghur refugee Tahir Imin reveals a major Muslim scandal—and evidence of the pervasive CCP influence on Arab countries
by Ruth Ingram
“Are there no depths to which our so-called Muslim brothers won’t sink to bow to China’s influence,” asks America-based Uyghur refugee Tahir Imin, showing leaked pictures showing short-sleeved, and secular-clothed Han Chinese men, obviously not Muslim, standing on a balcony in Mecca photographing the pilgrims below.
From its foundation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has enforced a strict policy of forbidding non-Muslims to visit the holy cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina. There are not even exceptions for ambassadors and other foreign dignitaries, unless of course they are Muslims themselves. But now it seems Saudi Arabia is making an exception—for Chinese tourists.
Imin is a former political prisoner, whose own brother and mother are in prison for his activism and who has had no contact with his own wife and daughter since his connections were severed with the mainland three years ago. He asks, “How this has been allowed to happen?”
“According to Islamic rules, non-Muslim visitors are not allowed to stay in the most sacred Islamic site —the house of Allah ‘Kaaba Sharif,’” he says, “but in these pictures the visitors, who are obviously non-Muslim Chinese, are observing the pilgrimage of Muslims as strangers.”
Imin asks why the Saudi Kingdom, “having the custody of Baytul Muqeddes (the House of Allah) is suddenly permitting non-Muslim Han Chinese visitors to observe the Hajj proceedings.”
He took great exception to the visit, particularly given the atrocities meted out to his compatriots in his homeland of Xinjiang; the extra judicial incarcerations, the demolition of mosques, the confiscation, burning and forbidding the reading of Qurans, the separation of parents from children and placing them in State orphanages, and the compelling of Muslim women to marry non-believing Han Chinese.
Imin asked, “Are they doing this for lucrative Chinese cash?” “According to Islamic traditions this is unacceptable,” he said bitterly. Paradoxically, the CCP is sending secular Han Chinese tourists to Mecca and Medina while at the same time limiting the possibility for devout Han Muslims to go on pilgrimage there. Not to mention, of course, Uyghurs.
Bitter Winter has also sought comments about Imin’s statements from Uyghurs among the diaspora in Turkey and around the world. They reacted with shock and disbelief. “Saudi Arabia has never allowed unbelievers into Mecca,” said Rozagul, whose husband has not been allowed to leave Xinjiang and join her in Turkey because he used to work for the Chinese military. “If they even guessed an unbeliever was there, he would be sentenced to a long prison term,” she said. Looking at the pictures of the large group of Han Chinese men videoing the Hajj proceedings filled her with rage. “They should never have been allowed in, but given that they were, they weren’t even made to wear the customary long white clothing. That amount of respect should have been the minimum,” she said.
An announcement on September 27, 2019, by the Saudi Kingdom that it was opening its doors to international tourists for the first time (without mentioning Mecca and Medina) was hailed as a “historic moment” by tourism minister Ahmad al-Khateeb, but met with despair by the Uyghur diaspora.
News that Han Chinese tourists were the first to take advantage of the instant visa scheme in October, with 7,391 visitors flooding through its gates, was met with glee by Chen Weiqing, ambassador of China to Saudi Arabia.
“China and Saudi Arabia are comprehensive strategic partners. We are pleased to see that Chinese tourists topped the number of tourist visas applied for so far,” Chen said.
But this has outraged Uyghurs many of whose relatives have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for simply having visited the kingdom years ago. “I cannot understand this betrayal,” said Tunsagul, a Uyghur who was forced to remain in Turkey after a business trip three years ago. “Non-Muslim Han Chinese can play wherever they like. They have passports, they can travel the world even to our holiest pilgrim sites, but we are locked up for even having a photo of these places on our phone,” she complained bitterly. “How can Saudi Arabia act like best friends to a country that is persecuting us to this degree?”
The comment by the Saudi Arabian tourist minister that “non-Muslims will still not be allowed to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the ban on alcohol will be maintained,” increased the sense of treachery among Uyghurs. According to Imin, this is a lie. Non-Muslim Chinese have in fact been allowed into the holy cities. For Islam, this is a blatant sacrilege.
“Their government refuses admission to ordinary tourists, but not to the Chinese unbelievers,” said Abdullah, a Uyghur refugee marooned in Turkey after news that the country had appeared on Beijing’s list of no-go areas for Uyghurs three years ago. “We have been sold out by our so-called brothers, “he said in disbelief. “Where are the sanctions and the boycotts?” he asked.