China’s Machiavellian policy for Muslims is neither keeping them close nor distant from them. China’s influence in Pakistan is limited but significant, and in Afghanistan, it is very modest. China is seriously concerned about Pakistan’s, instability and the inability to control extremists. Beijing is worried, that in near future Islamic radicals, having foreign support may give a further flip to separatist forces in Xinjiang. Chinese leaders do recognize that the country’s westernmost regions are poorly defended and vulnerable to internal dissent and external threats. The success of Afghans against the former Soviet Union has certainly encouraged Uyghurs, the Islamist groups in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang having a population of 2.18 crores is spread over 1.6 million km(in size to Iran), one-sixth of China. Xinjiang borders the Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Leh District to the south and Qinghai and Gansu provinces to the southeast, Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India to the west.
Muslim population in China is divided into two large groups: Hui—- who are descendants from Central Asia, Arab, and Persian Muslim immigrants who intermarried with Han Chinese and Turkic Muslim group of China’s Western province. These include Uighur, Kazak, Tajik, and Kyrgyz groups. Muslims of Turkic origin Muslim primarily live in Xinjiang (“the new frontier,” in Chinese). The area was formally annexed to China in 1884 and was called Xinjiang. The Uyghurs maintained their religious identity throughout the long occupation by China and simultaneously kept their aspiration to become independent alive.
China experienced Muslim unrest in the latter half of the 19th century. The various Chinese government’s attitude toward Muslims in China remained oscillated “between a policy of absorption and autonomy that resulted in hardship for the Muslims and their continued mistrust of the administrations.
Keeping the extremist and separatist threats to China’s territorial integrity, and its population, they have detained about eight hundred thousand to two million Uighurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, inXinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region concentration camps, since April 2017.In March 2019,officially these camps were named as “vocational training centers,”. Xinjiang’s governor, Shohrat Zakir, described them as “boarding schools” and after receiving the training they are allowed to leave the camps. But documents leaked in late 2019 proved how China government repress Uyghurs, lock them in camps, and prevent them from leaving.
The world community has condemned China’s detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang. The UN human rights chief and other human rights organizations have urged China to immediately shut down the camps and answer questions about disappeared Uighurs. European Union has also demanded to respect religious freedom and change its policies in Xinjiang.But China has turned a deaf ear to everyone. In 2019, Turkey was the only Muslim-majority country to raise its voice in a UN Human Rights Council sessionto ensure “the full protection of the cultural identities of the Uighurs and other Muslims”.
In 2011, after attacks in Xinjiang, it was claimed thatUyghurs behind those acts were trained in Pakistan. The attackers were reported to belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an Uyghur Islamist and anti-Chinese organization, which has some of its members hiding in Pakistan. The Islamic radicals issue was obviously, disturbing the relations between Islamabad and Beijing. But the issue was best talked about behind the closed doors and decided to deal with it covertly. Pakistan’sPrime Minister Imran Khan has consistently dodged the questions when asked about this issue. Beijing has been hushing up Pakistan’s link in terror attacks in Xinjiang, with purpose.
Surprisingly, many Muslim nations have maintained silenceover Uyghurs Muslim in Xinjiang. Because they prioritize their economic ties and strategic relationships with China, many governments have ignored the human rights abuses. When the role of liberator of Muslims, particularlyPakistani Taliban, and other radical Sunni Pakistani organizations of Muslims are convened, they never mentioned about the plight of Uyghurs. Hafiz Saeed, chief ofJamaat ul-Dawaa later president of political party Milli Muslim League gave a clean chit to Beijing thatMuslim citizens there are treated in a “moderate” way. Only radical Islamic outfits in Pakistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT), did raise its voice for Uyghurs. HU is an international Muslim organization, known to be hostile to the Islamabad government.