• The Chinese Communist Party’s regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir claimed that “trainees” from its “vocational training centers” had “graduated” and found stable employment
  • He accused the United States of  "ideological prejudice"
  • China is taking heat from all fronts on this issue including social media outlets like Twitter

On Monday, in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, the Chinese Communist Party’s regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir claimed that “trainees” from its “vocational training centers” had “graduated” and found stable employment. He also accused the United States of "ideological prejudice".

Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, was quick to dispel this Chinese version of a Norman Rockwell like image of happy graduates with job offers in hand. He said, “The Chinese government’s claim that everyone in Xinjiang’s modern-day concentration camps has 'graduated' is a ludicrous attempt to ease or deflect international pressure.”

Beijing might be stepping up its defense of its mass internment measures targeting Uyghur Muslims because simply denying that they are doing anything wrong is not changing anyone’s minds, particularly with foreign governments and international human rights watchdogs.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill called the UIGHUR Act, authored by Rubio in September. Now, they are studying a substantially stronger version already approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 407 to 1. In a politically divided America, this is an overwhelming message to the Chinese Communist Party.

The UIGHUR Act comes on the heels of other human rights legislation focused on the events in Hong Kong where pro-democracy protesters are battling against the pro-Chinese government and police force.

China Uyghur
Ethnic Uighur demonstrators, waving Turkish and blue East Turkestan flags, set fire to a Chinese flag during a protest against China near the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul July 21, 2011. Reuters

Uyghurs living outside China are wondering why they have not heard from relatives with good news concerning their newly found education and employment. Instead, they have heard nothing indicating to some that their kinfolk are still being detained or restricted in some manner.

Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism, said, “It is, of course, quite the timing for them to put this [defense of the internment facilities] out right now in the heat of criticism.” Zenz’s research into the mass internment camps, based largely on government documents, has shed light on the scale and objectives of the campaign.

Zenz commented further at a recent panel event on Capitol Hill, home to some of the international community’s loudest voices. He said the Chinese know they are not getting away with a simple denial and, “The problem is they’re also not getting away with the claim that everybody has been released…. because it’s simply not credible.”

China is taking heat from all fronts on this issue including social media outlets like Twitter and with personal acts from activists like 22-year-old Arfat Erkin, who took two days’ leave from his job in southern Virginia to travel to Washington and join dozens of other Uyghurs knocking on senators’ doors.

Zakir, reserved his strongest words for Washington, calling the U.S. lawmakers guilty of breaking “international law” and of “ideological prejudice.” Zakir is also the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) deputy secretary for Xinjiang.

The only thing that might slow down the growing disdain of China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims is the U.S. legislative process. The new year is a U.S. presidential election year and a third of the Senate seats are up for election as well. Other high-profile events may supersede any actions on behalf of the Uyghurs like the ongoing trade war between China and the U.S. or the impending impeachment trial in the Senate to remove Trump from office. That will move the Uyghur issue to the proverbial back burner.