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Uighur Muslims 'forced to eat pork' in detention camps as China expands Xinjiang pig farms

Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich territory [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 December, 2020

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China has been forcing Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to consume pork, a meat that is strictly prohibited in Islam, mostly in “re-education” camps and detention centres.
Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been forced to eat pork meat by the Chinese government, a report by Al Jazeera revealed on Friday.

Sayragul Sautbay, a Chinese doctor and whistle-blower for China's minorities, who herself was released from a detention camp in the autonomous territory in northwest China, told Al Jazeera that detained Muslims were forced every Friday to consume pork, a meat that is strictly prohibited in Islam.

"Every Friday, we were forced to eat pork meat," she told the outlet. "They have intentionally chosen a day that is holy for the Muslims. And if you reject it, you would get a harsh punishment."

Sautbay says the policy was designed to "inflict shame and guilt on the Muslim detainees". She added that it was difficult for her to explain the emotions in words that she had every time she was forced to eat pork.

"I was feeling like I was a different person. All around me got dark. It was really difficult to accept," she said. 

Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich territory, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps in a bid to forcibly integrate the community and root out its Islamic heritage. 

China has denied the numbers and describes the camps as vocational centres that teach skills to prevent the allure of Islamic radicalism following a series of attacks.

Read also: Uighur exiles in Turkey 'blackmailed into spying for China'

In its investigation, Al Jazeera also revealed that China’s agricultural development has been reflecting its policy of "secularisation".

There is an "active" effort to promote and expand pig farming in Xinjiang, German anthropologist and Uighur scholar Adrian Zenz told the news outlet. 

A new farm in the southern Kashgar area is working to produce 40,000 pigs every year, Zenz said. 

"This is part of the attempt to completely eradicate the culture and religion of the people in Xinjiang," he said.

"It is part of the strategy of secularisation, of turning the Uighurs secular and indoctrinating them to follow the communist party and become agnostic or atheist," he added.

In November 2019, Xinjiang's top administrator, Shohrat Zakir, that the autonomous region would be turned into a "pig-raising hub" - a move that Uighurs say is an affront to their way of life.

The US, Japan, many EU states and other nations have urged China to respect the human rights of its Muslim ethnic minorities.

In his election campaigns, US President-elect Joe Biden referred to China's abuse and mistreatment of the Uighurs and other minorities as "genocide".

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