China & Uighurs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

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China & Uighurs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

moving on our main story tonight concerns eyelashes among other things the reasons that camels are so sexy look without those luscious lashes they’d just be lumpy horses with furry back boobs but then you see those eyes and you remember oh yeah i’d totally a camel and by the way i’m serious we’re gonna talk about eyelashes look it’s the summer there’s a pandemic raging and frankly i think we’ve all earned a deep dive on how to best make your eyelashes pop and to that end there’s a tick tock makeup tutorial that i’d like you to take a look at hi guys so i’m going to teach you guys how to get long lashes so the first thing you need to do is grab your lash color curl your lashes obviously then you’re going to put them down and use your phone that you’re using right now to search up what’s happening in china how they’re getting concentration camps throwing innocent muslims in there separating their families from each other hold up hold on that took quite a turn there she went from promising longer lashes to discussing concentration camps in just 12 seconds and that’s genuinely impressive look i’m a bit of an expert at taking something fun and quickly ruining it so this is game recognizing game here but she is right a lash curler is a vital tool in anyone’s beauty arsenal and there’s an ethnic group in china being systematically surveilled and imprisoned in an attempt to essentially wipe their culture off the map and you know what let’s hold the eyelash story for another week and instead let’s talk about this because the people in question are the uyghurs they’re a mostly muslim ethnic minority in a region of china called xinjiang and the chinese government has been treating them absolutely terribly a u.n panel says the region resembles a massive internment camp where more than one million muslim minorities have been rounded up detained and forcibly indoctrinated by the chinese regime witness accounts satellite imagery and communist party documents reveal what appears to be the largest imprisonment of people on the basis of religion since the holocaust wow saying anything is the largest since the holocaust automatically makes whatever you just said worse the largest collection of shoes fun the largest collection of shoes since the holocaust oh boy all of a sudden really really not fun and if this is the first time that you’re hearing about an estimated million people who’ve been held in detention camps mostly uyghurs but also kazakhs and other ethnic minorities you are not alone and it’s probably because china has done its level best to keep this story from getting out but it may be getting harder to ignore just this week we learned that you may actually have a personal connection to this without even knowing it because it turns out uyghurs are being shipped and not always willingly to work in factories across china and some of the products they’ve been making may be right in front of your face if you are one of the millions of people around the world wearing a face mask because of the coronavirus pandemic this footage may concern you it shows a group of uyghurs arriving at a textile company that started producing masks in response to the pandemic we identified several chinese companies that use weaker labor to produce ppe and we tracked some of their shipments to consumers in the u.s and around the world yeah it’s true the very masks that some in this country see as unacceptable infringement on their personal liberty may be getting made by people who would absolutely love for their worst infringement to be getting politely asked to leave a costco and while there is clearly nothing new about horrific practices being hidden deep in the supply chain of global capitalism what is happening to the uyghurs is particularly appalling so tonight let’s talk about them who they are what’s been happening to them and why and let’s start with a bit of context about 11 million uighurs live in xinjiang in the far northwest corner of china it’s resource rich and it’s strategically important but weakers have always had an uncomfortable relationship with the authorities in beijing they have their own language and are culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of china’s population which is more than 90 percent han chinese on top of which there’s the fact that uyghurs are muslim in a country that is aggressively secular so much so that a few years ago a chinese reality show went to dubai and state tv centered all depictions of a woman in a headscarf in the weirdest possible way covering it with a cartoon helmet and a shock of yellow hair with a ghost in it and covering her hijab by obscuring her completely with a cactus in a santa hat even doing that when she was reflected in another person’s sunglasses and look setting aside the issue of religious freedom for a second that’s an amazing way to censor someone out of a tv show i’m just saying watching old episodes of house of cards would be much less uncomfortable if it looked like this instead why did you ask him to leave because i just wanted to look in your eyes

one more time before we do this francis we’re doing this see that’s just objectively much better and now you can enjoy house of cards just as much as you used to which was a bit so there was that baseline difference there on top of which some han chinese have held bigoted views about the weakest in fact just listen to this interview from back in 2008 here in beijing uyghurs are dispersed across the city many work at restaurants and street stalls they stand out because of their different features and dress some han chinese are blatantly prejudiced against them the people from xinjiang are not very good and thief wow robbers and thieves that is not an acceptable way to describe an entire ethnic group it’s barely an acceptable way to describe all raccoons i mean yeah they are essentially just kleptomaniac possums who steal your trash with their spooky little doll hands but that’s not all that they are and all of this was exacerbated by the chinese government encouraging han people to migrate to xinjiang with them often being favored over uighurs for top jobs and these tensions and resentments amid an overall atmosphere of extreme discrimination finally boiled over in 2009 with riots in the capital that killed 200 people mostly han chinese but rather than address the complex underlying factors behind those riots and other incidents the chinese government simply painted them as religious terrorism beginning a decade-long crackdown that escalated steadily especially after china’s president xi jinping came to power and instituted what was called the strike hard campaign against violent terrorism in 2014 and think of it as the patriot act on steroids because all of a sudden uyghurs started being treated like they were all potential terrorists in fact xinjiang is now one of the most heavily policed areas in the world with the authority surveilling things that most people would find utterly meaningless if you go through weaker neighborhoods or suburbs you see cameras over literally every house entrance so the government can see who enters and who leaves how low is the bar for being highlighted by the system are you socializing more or less with your neighbors have you put gas in somebody else’s car are you going out the front door of your house instead of the back door of your house that’s how low the bar is oh it goes even further the government has a list of 75 behavioral indications of religious extremism with some as vague as people who store large amounts of food those who smoke and drink but quit doing so quite suddenly and those who buy or store equipment such as dumbbells without obvious reasons although that last one clearly would not be an issue for me because i’ve got two pretty obvious reasons for dumbbell ownership right here it’s not called a workout if you don’t put the work in bro seth bron rad trust me they call me the lunch lady because from the hours of 11 to 1 i don’t stop stacking plates i call this one john and this one taffa because together they lift up bars but look china doesn’t just collect this information it feeds it into a predictive policing system that monitors four potential threats in one week it flagged the names of 24 000 people as suspicious 15 000 of whom were then sent to re-education camps and when pressed on whether any of this is strictly necessary chinese officials will argue that they are simply being proactive some people before they commit murder already show they are capable of it should we wait for them to commit a crime or prevent it from happening okay that is both insane logic and also the exact plot of minority report which if you haven’t seen it very briefly the years 2054 tom cruise’s john anderton is chief of washington dc’s pre-crime police department where murders are stopped before they happen now ethically there are some questions about the system for instance can you really be sure an individual will commit to the crimes that the pre-cogs say they’ll commit oh yeah the precogs they are balls freaks who sleep in an indoor swimming pool and they scream whenever they visualize a future murder i think they’re all siblings or aliens or babies i can’t remember but basically the murder rate in the city is zero anderson’s doing well and so the status quo remains now one day the pre-cults generate a prediction john anderson will murder a man he doesn’t even know in just 36 hours but it couldn’t be that’s our hero isn’t it so he stages an escape gets an eye transplant so he can’t be detected by the city’s eye-based surveillance system finds out he’s being framed then finds out that max von siddow oh yeah by the way he’s in this too is going to kill anderson but decides not to and anderson doesn’t kill the person that he supposedly was going to disproving the very basis of the pre-crime system and proving that people do have free choice so in the end they shut down the program and send the precogs away to live on a farm but not the death kind we assume anyway it’s scary but it’s pretty good i’d say three stars but the bigger point is

people in xinjiang have been arrested and thrown in camps despite having committed no crimes which is chilling a million uyghurs were at one point being held extra judicially many for acts as innocuous as growing a beard fasting or applying for a passport and this is a very sore subject for the chinese government which initially denied the existence of the camps at all before shifting to arguing that they are merely vocational training facilities although even the heavily orchestrated media tours suggest their primary purpose might be something else authorities recently took some diplomats and journalists on a carefully supervised tour of some of these facilities some detainees told journalists the camps re-educate them and luckily enough the communist party and the government offer this kind of school to us for free holy that might be the single creepiest sing-along i’ve ever heard that doesn’t involve barney a dinosaur who is clearly aware of clothing he’s wearing a hat and yet still actively chooses to go bottomless around children you are an absolute monster and for all the chinese government’s talk of vocational training these camps sure seem prison-like leaked classified documents have shown that staff at these facilities were told to prevent students from freely contacting the outside world and that they should strictly manage and control student activities to prevent escapes and the phrase prevent escapes is something of a tell there if your employee handbook says prevent escape you’re probably working at a prison or at the very least a scientology picnic hey we’re just here to grill some dogs play some tunes and if anyone asks where shelley is do not let them escape and look if that weren’t enough to make it clear what these camps really are just listen to one former detainee describe what she went through each woman gets two minutes to go to the toilet they tell you to be quick quick quick if you’re not quick enough they shock you with an electric baton on the back of your head it really hurt and they did it a lot even after being shocked we had to say thank you teacher we will not be late next time that is clearly absolutely appalling i didn’t think people had to publicly thank abusers anymore now that harvey weinstein doesn’t go to award shows and look i’m not even getting into the reports of forced abortions and sterilizations of uyghur women which are absolutely horrific and china will argue that this is all about economic opportunity and attempting to assimilate a historically ostracized minority but assimilation when forced is cultural erasure because in addition to using mass detention to keep families apart there are also rules that seem to be trying to break the chain by which families hand down a culture and faith across generations from laws preventing kids from going to mosques to a ban on baby names that are considered to islamic to the creation of state-run boarding schools for weaker children now other moves by china have been even more on the nose like the destruction of uyghur cemeteries the government actually turned an enormous graveyard where a prominent uyghur poet was buried into something called happiness park complete with fake pandas children’s rides and a man-made lake and look i’m not saying that this is the most important thing but this is one of the pandas in question and frankly i have never had more questions why is he holding a lollipop why does he have the posture of a startled gopher why does he have an expression that screams i just had a lobotomy but it turns out i’m both happy about it and surprisingly horny frustratingly we may never know the answers now thankfully as criticism of china’s camps has intensified in recent years the government seems to be closing some of them unfortunately though they seem to have shifted to staging sham trials and transferring many uyghurs to prisons that aren’t even pretending to be training centers anymore china’s also created a system of mass labor transfers that sends weakers and other ethnic minorities into factory and service jobs sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles from home that is how those masks that we mentioned at the start of this piece are getting made and chinese state media presents this as a positive showing weaker workers arriving at a train station then being taken on a bus to their new accommodations all with upbeat narration like this up to now has organized transfers for around 178 000 workers providing them a stable employment rate of over 92 percent yeah you can’t celebrate a stable workforce when it is forced labor any more than you give me credit for spending a lot of time with

my kids over the past few months believe me if i had any other choice i wouldn’t be because as you’ve probably guessed this isn’t just a benevolent jobs program the idea as one local government report put it is that sending uighurs far from home will allow for distancing them from religiously extreme views and educating them and a lot of people have been distanced one australian think tank that investigated forced labour estimated that conservatively over just a two-year period more than 80 000 uyghurs were transferred out of xinjiang to work in factories across china they also found over 80 companies directly or indirectly benefiting from uighur labor in their supply chain some of them big international brands like nike when the washington post visited the factory of one of nike suppliers it found weaker workers were forced to attend patriotic education and mandarin classes and living dormitories under constant supervision with one worker saying we can walk around but we can’t go back to xinjiang on our own now nike has claimed that this factory no longer employs weaker workers and they told us that they take any reports about forced labor seriously and they’re conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in china which given what the post found feels like their policy on oversight is less just do it than just talk about doing it and hope people eventually stop asking and look it’s not just nike another company on the list is volkswagen which told us they found no indications of forced labor in their supply chain though it is worth noting that last year their ceo was challenged about whether china’s treatment of the uyghurs gave him pause and this was his response i’m we are absolutely proud to also create workplaces in that region which we think is very useful but xinjiang is something you’re not proud to be associated with in terms of what the chinese government is doing to weaker people i can’t uh judge this sorry you can’t judge it no but you know about it i don’t know what you’re referring to you don’t know about china’s re-education camps for a million weaker people that is it has referred to as re-education camps as part of its counter-terror threat in the west of this country you don’t know about that i’m not aware of that wow finding out that volkswagen is overlooking a massive human rights crisis is kind of a lot like finding out your grandparents are still having sex sure it’s completely horrifying but it really shouldn’t be too shocking after all they’ve been doing it since world war ii and look i can understand why companies and others might want to turn away from what’s going on in xinjiang because it’s harrowing remember that woman who got electric shocks for taking too long in the bathroom she was in two different camps then was transferred into forced labor at a glove factory all while separated from her family for two years and while they were eventually reunited they are understandably still haunted to this day for two years you didn’t see your mom that is heartbreaking and completely indefensible and whenever pressed on this the chinese government has been quick to use what about ism they responded to us criticism by invoking atrocities ranging from the genocide of native americans to a statement that read george floyd’s death shows that u.s systemic racism has choked ethnic minorities so hard that they can’t breathe and look those are fair hits those are fair points right there but it’s also completely possible for two things to be wrong at the same time and i know the u.s china relationship is complicated particularly right now and too often it descends into reductive xenophobic us versus them stereotypes but human rights should be completely non-negotiable and i will say the us has taken some small steps here like imposing sanctions against top chinese officials and congress even passed the uyghur human rights policy act earlier this year but although trump signed it he also reportedly told xi jinping that he should go ahead with building the camps because he thought it was exactly the right thing to do which from a foreign policy perspective a human rights perspective a political perspective and even an interpersonal perspective is exactly the wrong thing to do but look this clearly isn’t just about trump is it going forward the entire global community needs to do more the un should have independent investigators looking into what china has done in xinjiang governments around the world should be speaking out about the treatment of the uyghurs without bending to china’s economic influence and big multinational companies like nike and vw should not only be working to clean up their supply chains but also actively using their financial leverage to pressure the chinese government to end these abuses but none of that is going to happen unless people pay attention and look i know that raising awareness is often a solution that doesn’t really solve a problem but there can be a real benefit to awareness

even if it is coming through a tick-tock makeup tutorial or let’s say the exact opposite of one because in this instance awareness is actually a necessary precondition for action and i know there is a lot to worry about right now from a raging pandemic to an ugly presidential election to a purple pervert who couldn’t give a about pants but we have to make sure that the treatment of uyghurs is also on that list because when you’re dealing with a concerted campaign centered on cultural erasure one of the most important things we can do is continue to pay attention at the very least so that if an entire culture is replaced by a horny lobotomized panda will know to stand up and say something you