A triumph of truth about China’s detention camps

Secret documents from the Communist Party reveal strong party dissent over the repression of an innocent minority. Officials with a conscience are exposing the party’s fears and tactics.

Reuters
Workers walk outside what is officially known as an education center in the Uighur Autonomous Region.

China has many prisoners of conscience but perhaps none like Wang Yongzhi. Five years ago, according to newly leaked documents, the Communist Party official was assigned the task of forcing tens of thousands of minority Uyghurs into indoctrination camps in western China. The party leaders wanted to eradicate Muslim culture and to show “absolutely no mercy” in doing so.

“Wipe them out completely,” Mr. Wang told subordinates. “Destroy them root and branch.”

But then, in a change of heart, Mr. Wang did feel mercy, especially after more than a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities were held in camps in Xinjiang region and mistreated.

Worried about the harm to relations between China’s Han majority and its minorities, he told others it was OK for Muslims to read the Quran and that party officials should read it to understand Uyghur culture. He quietly released more than 7,000 of the detainees. Later he was arrested and prosecuted. Since 2017, Mr. Wang’s whereabouts have been unknown.

“He refused,” one document said, “to round up everyone who should be rounded up.”

We know this story because another party official, equally courageous, secretly released 403 pages of internal party documents to The New York Times. That anonymous official was also motivated to end what is now called a cultural cleansing of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. The documents give a behind-the-scenes picture of a party so fearful for its survival that it is willing to paint any group as an enemy to stay in power.

In all, at least 12,000 party members were investigated for allegedly not doing their job in this repression It remains unclear what has happened to them. Yet the fact remains that many if not most displayed a conscience about helping innocent people avoid harsh treatment in concentration camps.

More than 70 years ago, George Kennan, an American diplomat and Russia expert, wrote that the Soviet Union, whose regime he said was driven mainly by fear for its survival, would eventually weaken and collapse. His prediction was prophetic. Within the ruling Communist Party, internal dissent over evil acts helped end the Soviet empire.

China’s ruling party may be in a similar place. As it keeps cracking down on innocent groups, such as pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, it risks having its underlying fears and its evil acts exposed by its own officials. Such courage in recognizing the right of individual conscience is what challenges the party’s motives and actions from within.  As with those 7,000 Uyghurs freed by Mr. Wang, what is right has triumphed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A triumph of truth about China’s detention camps
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2019/1119/A-triumph-of-truth-about-China-s-detention-camps
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe