China’s Religious Persecution in the Time of Coronavirus

China’s Religious Persecution in the Time of Coronavirus By Susan Crabtree for Real Clear Politics

It’s a portrait of contrasts in the age of pandemic. In the United States, small but passionate protests have broken out in recent weeks as some workers and worshipers chafe at being quarantined — even as most federal and state governments caution against full and abrupt re-openings.

Meanwhile, in the People’s Republic of China, where the coronavirus originated, citizens live in abject fear over voicing the mildest of criticism about their government’s response to the outbreak and aftermath, including government actions designed to place ethnic and religious minorities in harm’s way.

Among the abuses: Chinese authorities are continuing to operate some factories by forcing Uyghurs, Muslims from a Central Asian ethnic group, to fill in for workers sidelined by COVID-19. To groups monitoring religious freedom, this was merely the latest example of official persecution of the Uyghurs, predominantly Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslims who number more than 10 million and live in the northwest area of the country known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region. Uyghurs consider Beijing as a colonizing power and have pushed for a separate homeland or, at least, greater autonomy for their region. In recent years, China has tightened its grip on the region, forcing at least 1 million Uyghurs into 85 identified detention camps.

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The pandemic has also increased levels of mistreatment against other groups. African residents of Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub, have been force-tested for the virus, evicted from their homes and hotels, and corralled into quarantined areas with few resources. Images on social media have showed groups of black residents sleeping on a sidewalk, visibly shaking from the cold and wearing surgical masks to protect themselves. Several African ambassadors wrote a letter to China’s foreign minister earlier this month complaining that these people were being mistreated and falsely blamed for the spread of the virus to China.

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