A wave of Islamic countries started to stand up to China over its persecution of its Muslim minority. But then they all got spooked.
  • Mon, 04/08/2019 - 20:45

Alexandra Ma
Apr. 6, 2019, 3:19 AM

  • China is spying on millions of Uighurs, a Muslim-majority ethnic minority, and detaining at least a million of them.
  • Beijing has gone above and beyond to prevent Muslim countries from standing up for the Uighurs — and the strategy is working.
  • Over the past few months many countries in the Islamic world have criticized China, then abruptly rowed back their comments.
  • Experts say this is a result of Chinese threats against the countries if they do speak up.

China is waging a global campaign against the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority concentrated in its western frontier of Xinjiang.

In the last two years the country has ordered tech companies to spy on their phones, outlawed Muslim practices like wearing a beard or going to prayers, and detained at least one million of them in prison-like detention centers.

Activists and politicians in places like the US and UN regularly slam China over the crackdown. Beijing continually tells its Western critics to back off, but goes above and beyond to prevent Muslim countries from standing up for Uighurs.

The strategy is working. Some Muslim-majority nations appear to be increasingly silent over China's Xinjiang policy, suggesting a fear of incurring Beijing's wrath.

A pattern of speaking up, then rowing back

In December, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — a 57-country consortium that calls itself "the collective voice of the Muslim world" — acknowledged "disturbing reports" of China's Muslim crackdown in a series of tweets.

Though the phrase was coined by the group's independent human rights commission, rather than the OIC itself, activists welcomed the declaration as an important Muslim voice against China's Xinjiang policy.

Many Muslim-majority countries, which are in the OIC, are located near infrastructure projects subsumed under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, a massive trade project that aims to connect China with dozens of countries around the world.