$1.3 trillion And Counting: The Cost That Keeps Muslim Countries Mum on China’s Uyghur Genocide

·5-min read

Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he “accepted” China’s version regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. Khan, a fierce critic of Islamophobia, said China’s version of bringing “improvement in the society” was much better than the model followed by the western democracies. He, in fact, hailed the Chinese Communist Party for it.

China has been calling the mass detention camps where Uyghur and other ethnic minorities are transferred as “vocational education and training centers”. However, the US, the European Union and the United Nations have called these centres as detention camps, which has almost two million Uyghur Muslims, according to different research reports, and accuse China of committing genocide and forcefully assimilating Uyghurs by banning its religious practices and restricting its population growth.

China is also accused of using forced sterilisation techniques on Uyghur women and separating Uyghur children from their families. They are forced to learn Mandarin and are kept away from practicing religious practices. Many investigative reports using satellite imagery have also found that China is destroying Uygur mosques.

China is also accused of using forced sterilisation techniques on Uyghur women and separating Uyghur children from their families. They are forced to learn Mandarin and are kept away from practicing religious practices. Many investigative reports using satellite imagery have also found that China is destroying Uygur mosques.

Also, as detailed in many reports, China has been using Uyghurs Muslims as forced labour. Yet, the Pakistani PM and other Muslim countries laud this model.

In 2019, nearly 37 nations, in a letter sent to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, defended the China’s Xinjiang policy. The letter charged the Uyghur Muslims with spreading terror and extremism and justified China’s actions as counter-terrorism measures aimed at deracializing Uyghur Muslims.

Notably, 16 of the 37 countries have large Muslim population, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Kuwait, Somalia and Sudan. The countries are also the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representing 1.9 billion Muslim people. That explains why even OIC is silent on the Uyghur genocide.

Malaysia in the past has defied requests to extradite Uyghurs back to China and promises to continue with the policy but the government there has seldom been vocal about the Uyghur genocide happening in China. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, again a ‘fierce’ Islamophobia critic, has avoided criticising China on the issue.

Turkey, that has around 50,000 Uyghurs from China has over the years, has changed its Uyghur policy to become pro-China. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom, Turkey was a safe haven for Uyghur refugees in the past but not anymore. Though Turkey’s extradition treaty signed with China is awaiting a final approval, it has already started detaining Uyghurs and putting them under strict surveillance. It has allegedly started deporting Uyghur refugees to China via third countries like Tajikistan — a Muslim majority nation.

But why are these Islamic nations silent on China’s repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang? It is perhaps due to Chinese investments and loans into those countries.

China has roughly invested $1.3 trillion in Muslim majority countries if we add up the investments done in the last 15 years and the current and future economic deals. Also, the calculation here does not include secret loans given by China which borrowers are forced not to reveal, obviously by a confidentiality clause, as shown in a study from Georgetown University.

How does $1.3 trillion add up?

Past investments: According to the statistics available from investment tracker of the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, countries with over 50% of Muslim population have seen $575 billion investment from China between 2005 and 2020.

Most of the investments have been made to several economically poor countries such as Pakistan, Maldives and Sudan and central Asian countries in the form of loans, sometimes paid at higher interest rate, as revealed by different research studies. This also mean the country receiving Chinese investments has to give contracts to the Chinese enterprises only if loans and funds involve infrastructural development.

Muslim nations, such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bangladesh, Iran, Egypt and Turkey have cornered a huge chunk of the $575 billion investment that is, nearly $422 billion. Chinese investments and loans in five central Asian Muslim countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are worth $26.4 billion.

Chinese investments in Muslim countries

Chinese investment in all Gulf countries was worth $83 billion while overall investments in the same period in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, that is dominated again by the Muslim majority nations, was worth $197 billion.

Present, future Chinese investments in Muslim countries: Country-specific media reports reveal China has signed separate bilateral economic deals with Muslim countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Egypt worth $736 billion. And like earlier said, even that list was not comprehensive.

Current and future deals with China
Current and future deals with China

Current and future deals with China

If the past, present and future economic deals in Muslim majority nations are added, China’s investments touch a massive $1,311 billion or $1.311 trillion. China is using the economic leverage to propitiate Muslim majority countries to uphold its stand on Uyghur Muslims. Most Muslim nations look more than willing to comply, even if it means gross human rights violations and repressions of their own community and suppression of their own religion.

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