OZAN KOSE / AFP
In recent months, the protests in Hong Kong have drawn the attention of the world. Scenes of students and demonstrators raging against the Beijing Behemoth have invoked sharp criticisms from the international community, with many commentators denouncing the Chinese government’s crackdown as a calamitous violation of the city’s historic rights and freedoms.
Yet on the other side of the Chinese mainland, too, a calamity has been taking place. While the world has had its gaze fixed upon the Chinese government’s repression in the east, flagrant human rights abuses have been taking place in the north-western province of Xinjiang. Here, the region’s Muslim minorities are being silently, but systematically, coerced into concentration camps. It is a repression which is all the more sinister for the relative quietness with which it has been pursued.
The striking imbalance between the coverage of the Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang reflects the ways in which disparate geographies are mirrored by imbalances of power – the minorities of Xinjiang are exposed to the strong arm of state repression in a region where the Chinese government believes it can control dissidence with impunity. Until recently, Beijing has kept a firm grip of censorship on the region, rigorously preventing news of what is taking place from leaving the province.