Universities hold allegiance ceremonies for teachers and students, make them criticize countries that raise concerns over the mistreatment of Uyghurs.
by Chang Xin
A student from inland China who is studying at a university in Xinjiang told Bitter Winter that at the end of 2019, her school organized all students “to swear allegiance to the motherland” and promise to “stand with the Chinese government forever.” The gathered were also encouraged to shun the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act—the bill passed by the US House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority on December 3, 2019. It asks for personal sanctions against Chinese officers responsible for detaining millions of Uyghurs in the dreaded transformation through education camps and explicitly names Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo as a primary offender. The bill also bans sales of US-made goods to “any State agent in Xinjiang.”
“Everyone had to swear allegiance, no one dared to refuse,” the student said helplessly.
According to the information on the Kashgar University website, its Civil Engineering College also organized a themed meeting in December 2019 to criticize the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. The meeting was primarily dedicated to studying the multiple official statements issued by the Chinese government to protest the bill. It was also repeatedly asserted that the “anti-terrorism fight in Xinjiang had made the region harmonious and stable,” resulting in “unprecedented prosperity.” The organizers accused the United States of interfering in China’s internal affairs and called to “continuously strengthen the ideological, political, and moral education, leaving no space for disseminating false thoughts and harmful speeches.”
The teachers and students interviewed by Bitter Winter believe that even though people are forced to swear allegiance to the government, it doesn’t mean they will turn a blind eye on the hard facts of continuous violations of human rights in Xinjiang.
A Han Chinese teacher who works for the Xinjiang Aid program in rural Xinjiang said that all teachers were asked to prepare statements criticizing the Policy Act, which they should use to indoctrinate their students during mandatory national flag-raising ceremonies.
“Transformation through education camps are real, and parents of many students are detained there,” the teacher said, adding that Han Chinese teachers are often forced to cooperate with the government to monitor Uyghurs. She and her colleagues have been assigned to regularly visit or even live with local Uyghur families to observe what they do and say, as part of the “home-stay” program. Some teachers were even arrested for expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s suppressive policies.
Another interviewed university student from Xinjiang told Bitter Winter that upon enrolling, the university asked each student to install a special app so that the police could detect any “sensitive” information on their smartphones. The app cannot be uninstalled without approval.
On the enrollment day, she was also asked to swear to maintain a “modern civilized lifestyle,” proactively resist “religious infiltration,” stay away from religious activities, promise not to wear religious clothing, accessories, or symbols, voluntarily assume legal responsibilities, and accept punishment imposed by the school if these requirements are violated.
The young woman feels suffocated seeing omnipresent checkpoints, pervasive surveillance, and the mistreatment of her Uyghur schoolmates. “I’m depressed in Xinjiang. I will get out of here as soon as I finish school,” she is determined.