This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Another example of the Chinese government’s mistreatment of Uighur minorities has been discovered.
Research by AFP and satellite imagery by Earthrise Alliance released yesterday found that Uighur burial grounds in Xinjiang have been destroyed, leaving shattered tombs and bones behind. Forty-five Uighur cemeteries have been dugout since 2014, including 30 in just the past two years.
Official explanations said that this was done to make way for urban development and are part of a “standardisation” of old graves. Satellite images show that some cemeteries were turned into car parks and playgrounds.
In Aksu, a Uighur graveyard was turned into a “happiness park” with a man-made lake, rides, and fake pandas. Lutpulla Mutellip, a notable Uigur poet, was buried there. The graves were moved to an industrial zone in the desert.
In Shayar, where reporters spotted unearthed human bones left in three sites, the local government built new cemeteries near old sites. Kadier Kasimu, deputy director of Shayar's cultural affairs bureau told AFP that "The new cemeteries are standardised, clean, and they're convenient for residents."
But for Uighurs, this is just another example of the discrimination they experience in China.
Salih Hudayar, whose great-grandparents' graveyard was demolished, said that destroying the graves are “all part of China's campaign to effectively eradicate any evidence of who we are.”
In the past two years, approximately 1 million Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China, have been placed in “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. VICE undercover investigations released in June found that the Chinese government uses surveillance technology to spy on Uighurs. The police have taken Uighur men away in the middle of the night and children are separated from their families and raised by the state.
On Tuesday, the United States government announced it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials linked to the detention and abuse of Muslim minorities.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pomepo said that China needs to “immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate.”
This decision comes after the US blacklisted 28 organisations for being linked to the oppression in Xinjiang.
However, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuan denied any mistreatment and said on Monday that "There is no such thing as these so-called 'human rights issues' as claimed by the United States."