Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
February 5, 2021


Mr. President:  A harrowing tale of mass imprisonment, torture and systematic rape
comes from China's Xinjiang aregion bordering Kazakhstan.  It is an area inhabited by
Uighurs, who once formed a huge majority but are now locked into a losing contest
against President Xi Jinping's modernization.  He has brought them bullet trains,
incoming migrants and factories in what he calls development ... plus racism from the

The influx of Han Chinese whose numbers have increased from 6 to 40 percent of the
population is deeply resented.  And the occasional knife attack on the Chinese by
frustrated and powerless Uighurs met a draconian response.  Re-education camps
have been established with orders to do what is necessary, and an estimated million
Uighurs have been detained in them.

For several years now, Amnesty International has documented a Chinese campaign
of mass internment.  Uighurs who had escaped to the West report on an intensifying
claustrophobia since a "Regulation on De-dextremification" took effect in 2017.  
Religious or cultural practises are frowned upon.  These can include wearing a head
scarf or veil, growing a culturally identifying beard, avoiding alcohol (forbidden in
Islam), fasting during Ramadan, and even regular prayer.

In November 2019, 400 pages of leaked documents obtained by the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) disclosed the original framework for the
facilities that have led to the abuse of hundreds of thousands of Muslims.  The ill
treatment has been significantly worse than "brainwashing."  Although innocuously
classified as "vocational training" or "transformation-through-education" centers, the
reports trickling out raise suspicions of something far worse.

The Chinese government at first denied even the existence of the camps but then
declared they were designed to train Uighurs for jobs and rid them of "extremist
thoughts".  However, the government still refuses to allow independent monitors to
verify their claims.

Ethnic Uighurs are systematically discriminated against and considered inferior by the
Han Chinese, while the locals find themselves treated as second-class citizens in their
own land.  A sullen and angry population occasionally erupts.  Do what you need to,
said Mr. Xi, meaning to pacify them.  And they have.

In July 2020, the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused China of "gross
and egregious" human rights abuses against the Uighurs.  So reports the BBC.  He
added that reports of forced sterilization and the wide persecution of this Muslim
group were "reminiscent of something not seen for a long time."

"Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever," says Tursunnay
Ziawudun.  She spent nine months in detention centers before she fled to the US.  
The BBC also interviewed a Kazakh woman, Gulzira Auelkhan, who was also from
Xinjiang and was detained for 18 months in the camp system.  "My job was to remove
their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they could not move.  Then I
would leave the room and a man would enter -- some Chinese man from outside or
policeman."  (BBC Investigative Report.)

Adrian Zenz, a leading British expert on China's policies in Xinjiang, has called it,
"some of the most horrendous evidence I have seen since the atrocity began,"
adding, "It provides authoritative and detailed evidence of sexual abuse and torture at
a level clearly greater than what we had assumed."

The Chinese government calls it fake news.