Why Gaza Gets More Attention Than Xinjiang

(MENAFN- Asia Times) Condemnation of Israel's invasion of Gaza has dominated the news, mobilized civil society groups to launch
protests , and drawn rebukes from world leaders.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called the death and destruction in Gaza“unprecedented.” On June 10, the foreign ministers of the BRICS countries similarly criticized the“unprecedented escalation of violence” in Gaza and“Israel's continued blatant disregard of international law.”

In December 2023, the UN overwhelmingly approved a demand for a humanitarian cease-fire. On May 10, by a vote of 143 to 9, the UN General Assembly voted to urge the Security Council to upgrade Palestine from an observer to a UN member state. (The US voted against both measures.)

This contrasts with the world's reaction to another case of“blatant disregard” for the human rights of a colonized population: China's mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minority peoples in Xinjiang Province.

In October 2022, by a vote of 19 to 17 (with 11 abstentions), UN member states
the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from debating the issue of PRC government policy in Xinjiang.
Of the 19 countries that voted against debate, nine are Muslim-majority and two others are nearly half Muslim.

The relatively lower levels of global visibility of and outrage over Xinjiang versus Gaza are explained by two features of today's international political landscape:

  • the ideological fault line between the democracies and the Global South; and
  • China's ability to leverage its economic and diplomatic power to support Beijing's foreign policy goals.

The severe and widespread mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang by the Chinese government is well –documented . The crackdown stemmed from Beijing's conclusion that politicized Islam was radicalizing Uighurs to favor separatism and to commit terrorist acts in China.

The Chinese government's response includes the mass incarceration of one to two million Muslims, often on flimsy pretexts . There are many allegations of forced labor, rape and torture of detainees. The Chinese government is also trying by various means to eradicate core Islamic religious beliefs and practices.

There is evidence of unusually large numbers of deaths of Uighurs in detention. The number of fatalities caused by PRC officials is likely in the thousands and could plausibly be higher than the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza war.

An important difference, however, is that the Hamas government in Gaza has an interest in reporting and even inflating the number of Palestinians killed in the war, while the Chinese government has every incentive to hide the deaths of incarcerated Uighurs.

Sympathy for the Uighurs fits into the pre-existing agenda of the industrialized democracies.
These governments have a decades-old project to promote liberal values globally and to exert pressure on illiberal regimes to comply with international laws, treaties and covenants based on liberal norms.

They expect bad behavior by the authoritarian states, and have built up systems to monitor and publicize it.
They view the PRC as a habitual human rights abuser.
The discovery by Western human rights activists and journalists of large-scale persecution of Uighurs beginning around 2014 was only the latest case in a familiar pattern.


Asia Times

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