Gerry Shih on China’s Uyghur Muslims, under pressure at home and abroad


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Associated Press (AP) reporter Gerry Shih was hard at work in 2017 writing a remarkable series of articles on China’s Uyghur Muslim minority. By traveling not just to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where 10 to 15 million Uyghurs live, but also to Syria, where some have fled and taken up arms with militant groups, he sought to answer the most politicized and consequential questions about the ethnic group. These include:

  • How long and to what extent have authorities in Xinjiang forced Uyghurs into indoctrination camps?
  • How long and to what extent have they compelled residents to give DNA samples to the state?
  • What role has Chen Quanguo 陈全国 had in building Xinjiang’s new digital police state, and will he succeed in subjugating separatist thought?
  • Are China’s Uyghurs involved in global jihadi terrorism? Where and how do they get recruited, and how does China try to influence Uyghurs overseas?

His four articles released in December were as follows:

They are part of a larger AP series titled “China’s Uighurs on edge,” comprising 12 stories that seek “to flesh out the profile of a people whose voices have largely been silenced or gone unheard under the blanket of security in the region.” They also were published around the same time that the Wall Street Journal (paywall) and BuzzFeed published similarly alarming stories about the police state in Xinjiang.

For more on Muslims in China, check out a previous Sinica Podcast titled “Islamophobia in China, explained by Alice Su and Ma Tianjie,” and an article on SupChina that seeks to answer the question “Where does Chinese Islamophobia come from?


Jeremy: A re-recommendation for Birding Beijing, a great site if you’re interested in birds in China. It is now in the second year of tracking cuckoos who fly all the way from Africa to China to migrate. (Also listen to a Sinica Podcast and read a SupChina Q&A with the website’s founder, Terry Townshend.)

Gerry: The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, by Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. With Belt and Road’s rising importance, it is a must-read, Gerry says.

Kaiser:, a place for online debate that’s supposed to help people bridge contentious issues. It enforces ground rules, limits the number of words you can use, and crowdsources the most compelling arguments on both sides for each claim.