China Conducts a 100-Day Strike-Hard Campaign Against Uyghurs
South and East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
China has regularly been conducting strike-hard campaigns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) which include police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions towards Islamic practices, as well as attempts to erase the culture and language of the ethnic minority group. The latest campaign has seen the cracking down of any social gatherings in at least 30 cases, while according to authorities, the campaign will last for 100 days (Mehriban, 2023).
The strike hard campaign dates back to 2014 when Xi Jinping attempted to launch a series of crimes against humanity towards the Uyghur ethnic minority under the label of ‘Strike hard campaign against Violent Terrorism’. Despite the fact that discriminatory policies against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims can be traced back decades ago, China’s attempt to eradicate the minority has intensified after the initiation of the campaign during that year (HRW, 2021).
The Chinese social media app Douyin, reported about the beginning of a new campaign on July 3rd, claiming that it was being implemented across the Hotan prefecture, which is in southern Xinjiang. Based on a Chinese media report “The Hotan Prefecture Security Bureau will implement summer strikes starting from June 25 till September 30 in order to ensure the protection of security in that region’’. Similar news was announced by other media from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and Korla, the second-largest city in the region (Mehriban, 2023).
The local public security bureaus have initiated the operation in their respective prefectures, aiming to stop crimes which deem to pose a threat to the Chinese order. These illegal activities include “stirring up trouble, engaging in group fights, bullying the public, blackmailing, monopolizing the market, participating in illegal gatherings, and spreading rumors with malicious intent.” Authorities also will target "illegal mafias and criminal organizations” (Mehriban, 2023).
The concept of crimes against humanity dates to at least 1915. It was further developed as part of the 1945 Charter of the International Military Tribunal that hosted the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after the Second World War. While there is no international treaty on crimes against humanity, in 1997 the term was codified as part of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Since at least 2014, the Chinese government has subjected Turkic Muslims to various crimes against humanity, including mass arbitrary detention, torture and deaths in detention, and enforced disappearances (HRW, 2021).
China has used similar strike-hard campaigns in the past in the cases of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), and Inner Mongolia. In regards to the Inner Mongolian case, in 2013, 53 Mongolians got detained by Chinese authorities, who were linked with internet posts spreading rumors against the Chinese government amid clashes between ethnic minority herders and Chinese mining companies (RFA, 2020). On the other hand, since 1996, Chinese authorities have been trying to repress ‘splittists’ of the TAR, amid fears of strengthened independence sentiment. The strike-hard campaign has targeted freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and religion, and has expelled monks who did not comply with the altered Chinese version of the history of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. (HRW, 1998).
China launches “Strike Hard” Anti-Rumor campaign in Inner Mongolia. (2020, October 11). Radio Free Asia. Retrieved August 7, 2023, from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/launches-09052013110502.html
Human Rights Watch. (2021, April 19). “Break their lineage, break their roots.” Retrieved July 20, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/node/378448/printable/print
Mehriban. (2023, July 14). China conducts a 100-day ‘strike hard’ campaign against Uyghurs. Radio Free Asia. Retrieved July 20, 2023, from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/strike-hard-07142023161647.html
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE CLINTON CHINA VISIT A HUMAN RIGHTS SUCCESS? (1998, June). Retrieved August 7, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/legacy/campaigns/china-98/tibet.htm