Every day, more and more people are criticizing the Chinese government for its oppression of residents of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). This issue did not just come to light, but is one that has been continually brought up for several years. On November 26, 2019, the BBC News website posted an article entitled “UK urges China to give UN access to Xinjiang region.” It read:
It follows a data leak that revealed how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were mistreated in high security camps.
The official documents, seen by BBC Panorama, show how inmates are locked up, indoctrinated and punished.
China’s UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming dismissed the leak, made to 17 media organisations, as fake news.
The leak was made to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which worked with partners, including BBC Panorama and The Guardian newspaper in the UK.
“We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the Chinese government’s escalating crackdown, in particular the extra-judicial detention of over a million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities,” said a Foreign Office spokesperson.
“The UK continues to call on China to allow UN observers immediate and unfettered access to the region.”
About a million people – mostly from the Muslim Uighur community – are thought to have been detained without trial.
The leaked Chinese government documents, which the ICIJ have labelled “The China Cables,” include a nine-page memo sent out in 2017 by Zhu Hailun, then deputy-secretary of Xinjiang’s Communist Party and the region’s top security official, to those who run the camps.
The instructions make it clear that the camps should be run as high security prisons […].
The memo includes orders to:
・ “Never allow escapes”
・ “Increase discipline and punishment of behavioural violations”
・ “Promote repentance and confession”
・ “Make remedial Mandarin studies the top priority”
・ “Encourage students to truly transform”
・“[Ensure] full video surveillance coverage of dormitories and classrooms free of blind spots”
The documents reveal how every aspect of a detainee’s life is monitored and controlled: “The students should have a fixed bed position, fixed queue position, fixed classroom seat, and fixed station during skills work, and it is strictly forbidden for this to be changed.
“Implement behavioural norms and discipline requirements for getting up, roll call, washing, going to the toilet, organising and housekeeping, eating, studying, sleeping, closing the door and so forth.”
The XUAR is home to the Uyghur people, Muslims who speak the Uyghur language. This region was independent as the East Turkestan Republic for two short periods of time in the 1930s and 1940s. It has a distinctive culture and religion and a history of independence. The independence movement picked up from the 1990s in particular, and acts of terrorism occur every few years. The Chinese government says this possibility of terrorism is the reason why it sends many Uyghurs to internment camps without trial. Satellite images show that these internment camps have grown to hold one million people today.
Many people have attested that the detainees are given no prior warning before being imprisoned and are not told when they will be released. They say detainees cannot return home unless they are instilled with loyalty to Xi Jinping and fully become a Communist Party sympathizer. This is clearly a type of mind control, and is a violation of human rights. The UN should take some sort of action to deal with this matter, such as sending observers, as mentioned in the BBC article. However, the UN cannot do anything because it is under the thumb of China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The Japanese government is doing what it can; Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato clearly declared his grave concern about this issue, and the U.S.-Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement of April 16 specified that the countries share serious concerns about human rights. Now is not the time for Japan to be swayed by its close economic ties with China. Japan must display a resolute stance against China, which feels no compunction as it tramples the human rights that are recognized by all advanced countries and most nations around the world. The European Union (EU), United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other major North American and European countries are acting together on this matter and sanctioning China, including freezing the foreign assets of government leaders and restricting travel. However, Japan has no law that allows for this at present. I believe Japan should promptly pass a law in the National Diet that allows sanctions on other countries related to human rights issues.
The Japanese media does not report in a pointed way on the Uyghur issue, merely passing along information from foreign news outlets without using many primary sources. This is because the Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement makes it possible for China to demand that Japanese correspondents leave the country if they report information that is disadvantageous to China. In contrast, Chinese news outlets can say whatever bad things they want about Japan. But while this agreement is the most unequal treaty, I think it would be difficult for private-sector media outlets to revise it. The Japanese government should put forth every effort to annul the Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement, just like the Meiji government worked to revise the unequal treaties concluded by the Edo Shogunate.
China is the closest major power to Japan, and its top leader is the president. Before Xi, the previous two presidents (Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao) both abided by the term limit of two terms (totaling 10 years) according to the will of supreme leader Deng Xiaoping. However, Xi revised the constitution in 2018 to abolish the two-term limit and effectively make his own office a lifetime one. That was the start of the “Empire of Xi.” The closest major power to Japan has become a dictatorship led by one individual, and is increasing its economic strength to become a military superpower. Although the Japanese media does not frequently bring up this topic, this is a clear threat.
Some people state that China would not use military force against Japan because of Article 9 or the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty even in these circumstances, but that is a mistake. Chinese fishing boats started gathering near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in early March, reaching a number of 220 ships. It is clear that Chinese deep-sea fishers are under the command of the government and act according to its orders. This fleet, consisting of roughly 10,000 fishermen (50 per ship), is called the “People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia.” The Philippines and Vietnam, which also claim territorial rights to this ocean area, cannot do anything about the fishing fleet because they fear China will use military power according to its Coast Guard Law that came into effect in February. They are forced to recognize that China has effective control of the Spratly Islands.
What would happen if China did something similar at the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea? Japan is involved in a territorial dispute with South Korea over Takeshima. The South Korean Dokdo Volunteer Garrison landed on the islands in 1953 during the Korean War and still has effective control of the islands today. Perhaps China will plan to use its Maritime Militia to gain effective control of the Senkaku Islands. If the Japan Coast Guard attempted to remove the Maritime Militia, we must be prepared for an armed conflict with the China Coast Guard according to the Coast Guard Law. Japan and China are in increasingly intense opposition regarding the Senkaku Islands, but many media outlets do not report on this either.
World history shows us that all countries do everything they can to regain territories that were illegally snatched away. European countries, which have repeatedly been involved in fierce fights over territory, are particularly attuned to territorial issues.
China has repeatedly fought with its neighboring countries over territory. In 1969 there was a military clash between China and the Soviet Union (another socialist nation) over Damansky Island, a sandbar in the Ussuri River. China also fought with India over the Kashmir region in the Sino-Indian Border Conflict of 1962. During the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, China (which supported Pol Pot) declared war against and invaded Vietnam for invading Cambodia and toppling the Pol Pot administration. China experienced severe damage and withdrew after about one month. Vietnam defeated France in the First Indochina War started in 1946, bested the U.S. in the Vietnam War that began in 1965, and safeguarded its territory by driving China out in the Sino-Vietnamese War. All countries are willing to wage war to protect their territories.
If China ever did achieve effective control of the Senkaku Islands, we could not regain them through negotiation – I think a military recovery would be the only way. The U.S. Armed Forces would not fight on behalf of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to regain the Senkaku Islands, regardless of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. I believe the JSDF would have to fight with the American military providing backup. We need to urgently take action to prevent China from unlawfully occupying the islands – and gain a military force that would make this possible – to prevent a repeat of what happened at Takeshima.
Peace is only achieved through a balance of power, which is why we absolutely need military force to provide deterrence. Promises between countries are not kept simply through agreements. Even when one appeals to an international court of arbitration, it is not necessarily the case that all nations will abide by what the court decides. For instance, the Court of Arbitration in The Hague determined in 2016 that it would not recognize China’s rights in the South China Sea. China has ignored this decision. Looking at the world at large, it makes no sense to think that our peace constitution prevents being drawn into war. Russia has not yet returned the four Northern Territories islands because Japan has warped views of diplomacy and territory in the postwar era. To prevent other territories from being stolen we must have a stronger awareness of defending the Senkaku Islands, in both the public and private sectors, such as permanently stationing people on the islands. In particular, the media should report in more depth on China’s current actions in the Senkaku area. China has its eyes on the Senkaku Islands, and is watching the news and public opinion in search of opportunities.
Many Japanese people have totally forgotten that peace only occurs between wars, in all eras and nations. In every country, the people should have a spirit of protecting their nation and preparing for emergencies in times of peace. If we forget this spirit, Japan’s territories will be infringed upon by other countries – not just the Senkaku Islands, but also Okinawa, Tsushima, and other territories. Japanese people must have a maximum level of wariness towards China and think about ways to counter it today.
April 15 (Thursday), 10:30 a.m.