Unknown pills and forced injections.

Those are not fictional horrors from scary movies, but the reality many Uighurs in mass arbitrary internment are faced with today in China.

In Xinjiang, human rights abuses against Uighur women and children abound.

Uighurs, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic minority in Xinjiang, are being seriously repressed by the Chinese government. Since 2017, more than 1 million Muslim minorities, including Uighurs, have been taken to detention without any proper trials.

Detainees are forced to show their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and deny their Islamic faith. Forced labor and torture are common.

Uighur women testify to the horrors they have endured, including new reports of forced sterilization. One Uighur woman interviewed by French television said she was constantly injected with a substance during her detention that stopped her periods.

Mihrigul Tursun, another Uighur woman now living in exile in the U.S., first testified before the Congressional Executive Commission on China last November. This month, she raised alarm over forced sterilization again at Amnesty International’s conference in Tokyo.

She had been detained in a re-education camp three separate times and said the officials forced the Uighur women to take unknown drugs and drink some kind of white liquid. Those caused them to lose consciousness and sometimes to lose menstruation.

Some of the Uighur women even died from extreme bleeding.

After coming to the U.S., Tursun underwent a proper medical examination, which confirmed her worst fears. She had in fact been sterilized and would never be able to bear children again.

She added triplets that she had given birth to prior to internment underwent an unknown surgery without any consent during her detention. One of them died, and the other two still have health problems.

While reports of human rights violations in the camps are a dime a dozen, Chinese officials continue to insist that they are just re-educating Uighurs to protect the region from Islamist attacks.

Shohrat Zakir, Xinjiang’s Uighur governor, defended the practices as vocational training for Uighurs by comparing them with boarding schools. But these are no boarding schools.

Uighur repression is one component of the Chinese Communist Party’s “Sinicization” policy. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took power, the party has sought to make religion conform to the party’s doctrine and Han-ethnicity customs.  

The Chinese Communist Party also threatens future generations of Uighurs. Children whose parents are detained in the camps are often sent to state-run orphanages and brainwashed to forget their ethnic roots.

Even if their parents are not detained, Uighur children need to move to inner China and immerse themselves into Han culture under the Chinese government’s “Xinjiang classrooms” policy.

The reports of forced sterilization are leading many to fear complete cultural genocide of the Uighur population.

Genocide is defined in both international law and U.S. law as the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic, racial, religious, or political group. According to international law, an attempt to restrict births and forcibly moving children to another group are two methods a country can employ to carry out genocide.

The international community should be alarmed that China is destroying an ethnic minority by infringing on its personal decisions related to family planning and religious freedom.

One of the reasons the U.S. withdrew its funding from the United Nations Population Fund was China’s coercive family-planning policies that restrict the number of children the average Chinese family can have to two.

Driven by concerns that China was using money from the U.N. Population Fund to carry out forced abortions, the Trump administration pulled all U.N. Population Fund funding, as recommended in a Heritage Foundation report.

The U.S. should consider additional steps it can take to respond to the Xinjiang crisis, especially anything that it can do to respond to reports of forced sterilization.

As Tursun mentioned in her testimony, Uighurs “look to the United States as the beacon of hope for the oppressed people around the world.”

Now is the time for the U.S. and the international community to respond to the crisis in Xinjiang with strong resolve.