US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last week seized a 13-ton shipment of beauty products, including weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to have been made from human hair. The shipment originated from the Xinjiang region in China, raising serious concerns they were forcibly harvested from Muslim Uyghurs detained in modern-day concentration camps.
This was the second time this year that American authorities have seized a shipment from Xinjiang suspected to have been made from the hair of Muslim inmates. Whilst a CBP spokesperson condemned the gross human rights violation, others pointed to revelations in John Bolton’s new book ‘The Room Where It Happens’, in which Bolton writes that American President Donald Trump gave the green light to Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019 to build the modern-day concentration camps by saying “go ahead with building the camps”. According to Bolton, the ‘leader of the free world’ said the camps were “exactly the right thing to do.”
Rushan Abbas, an American Uyghur activist, said women who wear hair weaves should consider where they originated from. Abbas has a sister, a medical doctor, who is thought to be held in a detention camp. Abbas said:
“This is so heart-breaking for us. I want people to think about the slavery people are experiencing today. My sister is sitting somewhere being forced to make what, hair pieces?”
The Xinjiang region, where between 1 to 2 million Muslims are being detained in concentration camps, is under a media blackout as foreign journalists face extreme difficulty in gaining access to the region. Despite this, the region has seen worrying reports of organ harvesting and forced sterilisation.
Late in 2019, the UN Human Rights Council was presented with evidence from the China Tribunal that China was killing Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities and harvesting their organs. According to the report, detainees were “killed to order … cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale.”
Hamid Sabi, Counsel to the China Tribunal, presented the evidence at the UN saying:
“Victim for victim and death for death, the gassing of the Jews by the Nazis, the massacre by the Khmer Rouge or the butchery to death of the Rwanda Tutsis may not be worse than cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people.”
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Chair of the China Tribunal, said that the international community “can no longer avoid what it is inconvenient for them to admit.”
The organ transplant industry is reported to be worth more than $1 billion for China.
Adrian Zenz, a scholar studying the Xinjiang concentration camps, said that Chinese state authorities were sterilising Muslim women or fitting them with contraceptive devices in an apparent attempt to curb the population of Muslim Uyghurs, even as it encourages its Han majority to have more children. Muslim women were threatened with internment if they refused. Police raids to identify ‘hidden’ children are also reported.
Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, was ordered by Chinese authorities to have a contraceptive device inserted after she had her third child in 2016. Despite this, officials from the government in military fatigues knocked on the mother’s door two years later and gave her three days to pay a $2,685 fine for having more than two children. The penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader was warned that if she failed to do so, she would be separated from her children and detained with her husband in a modern-day concentration camp.
The widespread and systematic measures have seen a dramatic drop in the birth rate in Xinjiang. Birth rates in the mostly Uyghur regions of Hotan and Kashgar fell more than 60% between 2015 and 2018. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates plunged by 24% in 2019 alone, compared to 4.2% across China. Adrian Zenz commented on these figures: “This kind of drop is unprecedented … there’s a ruthlessness to it.”
Whilst the Chinese oppression in Hong Kong or its cultural genocide in Xinjiang seems to go unchecked by many Muslim-majority governments, it is a salient fact that most, if not all, are run by self-serving despots. In July 2019, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Algeria helped to block a motion calling on China to allow “meaningful access” for “independent international observers” into the Xinjiang region. The only Muslim-majority countries that resisted China’s lobbying were Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
China’s economic might, and its resulting influence across Africa and the Muslim world, is well known. The “Belt and Road Initiative” is an infrastructure program that is pumping billions of dollars of Chinese investment into Pakistan. Yet there is no such thing as a free lunch. Muslims in Pakistan need only look to the intrusive and ubiquitous high-tech surveillance systems currently being used against the 13 million Uyghurs for a glimpse at the price they will pay. With China’s growing might, the entire world needs to consider the possibility of a sinister and dystopian future with Chinese subtitles.
The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.