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China has long feared that Uighurs will attempt to establish their own national homeland in Xinjiang, which they refer to as East Turkestan. In 2009, ethnic riots there resulted in hundreds of deaths, and some radical Uighurs have carried out terrorist attacks in recent years. Chinese officials have claimed that in order to suppress the threat of Uighur separatism and extremism, the government needs to crack down not only on those Uighurs who show signs of having been radicalized, but on a significant swath of the population.
The medical analogy is one way the government tries to justify its policy of large-scale internment: After all, attempting to inoculate a whole population against, say, the flu, requires giving flu shots not just to the already-afflicted few, but to a critical mass of people. In fact, using this rhetoric, China has tried to defend a system of arrest quotas for Uighurs. Police officers confirmed to Radio Free Asia that they are under orders to meet specific population targets when rounding up people for internment. In one township, police officials said they were being ordered to send 40 percent of the local population to the camps.
Government - Language - Attempt - Internments - Interventions
The government also uses this pathologizing language in an attempt to justify lengthy internments and future interventions any time officials deem Islam a threat. “It’s being treated as a mental illness that’s never guaranteed to be completely cured, like addiction or depression,” said Timothy Grose, a China expert at the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. “There’s something mentally wrong that needs to be diagnosed, treated—and followed up with.” Here’s how the Communist Party recording cited above explains this, while alluding to the threat of contagion:
There is always a risk that the illness will manifest itself at any moment, which would cause serious harm to the public. That is why...
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