Hundreds of prisoners, hands tied behind their backs, shaved heads, blindfolded, disembarked from a train. These images filmed by drone, published anonymously on YouTube in 2019, were recently authenticated by experts as attesting to the forced displacement of Uighurs – these Turkish-speaking Muslims numbering 11 million in Xinjiang, the autonomous region of northwest China where they are in the majority. On Sunday July 19, the BBC presented them to Beijing’s Ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming. Disconcerted, he mentioned a banal “Transfer of prisoners “, Arguing that the Uighur population had” double “These” last forty years ».

However, the German anthropologist Adrian Zenz noted last month an 84% drop in the population increase from 2015 to 2018, as well as a drastic drop in the number of births since 2016, in the two main prefectures of Xinjiang. In his study, he denounced an abusive policy of birth control and forced sterilization of women by the Chinese authorities.

A repressive policy

According to several human rights organizations, which have documented this repressive Chinese policy, a million Uighurs are believed to be detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang. Denying these accusations, Beijing speaks of training centers as part of its fight against terrorism.

→ READ. Minorities in danger, the Uighurs, under cultural and religious repression

« The anti-colonial and nationalist feelings anchored in various fringes of Uighur society are pathologized, considered as anti-system thoughts, dangerous – just like Islamism – by the Chinese authorities, explains Rémi Castets, lecturer at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne. These then consider that they must re-educate individuals likely to challenge the national model promoted by the Party. “

The author Sylvie Lasserre (1), in connection with the Uighur community since 2007, notes a “Real turning point in 2013 with the arrival of Xi Jinping to power “. From then on, internment camps were set up in Xinjiang, as well as police stations, cameras with facial recognition systems, identity checks, forced marriages with Hans, the main Chinese ethnic group.

An awakening of the international community

This policy, the international community can only “ denounce her “, Estimates Marc Julienne, researcher at the Asia Center of Ifri, who regrets a lack” of convergence of all democratic powers “. Last month, Donald Trump passed a law sanctioning Chinese officials for “Mass internment” Uighurs, blocking the obtaining of visas to three senior Chinese officials. In reaction, Beijing sanctioned three Republican parliamentarians and an American diplomat. Washington outbid, Tuesday, July 21, by blacklisting eleven Chinese companies ” involved in human rights violations ” targeting the Uighurs.

→ ANALYSIS. China: forced sterilizations targeting the Uyghur community

Sunday, July 19, on the BBC, Dominic Raab, the head of British diplomacy, accused China of committing ” serious human rights violations ” against the Uighurs, accusations qualified as “Calumnies” by Beijing. Tuesday 21, finally, France expressed itself through its Minister of the Economy. Asked about Franceinfo, Bruno Le Maire described the internment of the Uighurs as ” revolting and unacceptable practice ». “We strongly condemn it” he added.

Reactions with very limited scope. Thus, Great Britain delivered to the UN, on June 30, a joint declaration of 27 countries, including France, calling for more action to fight against Chinese actions in Xinjiang. The next day, 46 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and China itself, signed an official letter of support for Chinese policy in Xinjiang, citing the fight against terrorism. This tit-for-tat response highlights, according to Marc Julienne, “ the influence of China within the UN, which manages to preserve its image with resounding success, while opposite, the word of the democratic powers, without legal weight or constraint, does not weigh much ».

(1) Last book: Journey to the land of the Uyghurs, from invisible persecution to Orwellian hell, Ed. Hesse, May 2020, € 22, 216 p.