Last Week Tonight Host John Oliver Tackles China's Uighur Camps

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host touched on China's deculturization efforts against the Uighur people from the northwest Xinjiang region if the country. Oliver claims The Uighurs, along with other ethnic minorities, are forced to live in re-education camps while also undergoing forced labor. Among the many items manufactured are disposable masks globally circulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. "If this is the first time that you're hearing about an estimated million people who've been held in detention camps – mostly Uighurs but also Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities – you are not alone," Oliver said. "And it's probably because China has done its level best to keep this story from getting out."

China & Uighurs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
China & Uighurs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Uighurs make up 10 percent of the Chinese population whereas the other 90 consists of the Han. The crackdowns and forced labor stemmed from Chinese president Xi Jinping, who instituted the "Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism" following riots in 2009 that resulted in more than 200 dead Han in the Xinjiang capital. Due to a majority of Uighurs being predominantly Muslim, discrimination continues to be rampant. "Xinjiang is now one of the most heavily policed areas in the world, with authorities surveilling things that most people would find utterly meaningless", Oliver said. The host pointed out examples such as growing a beard or applying for a passport. "Flagged individuals are entered into a predictive policing system which, according to one 2019 data leak, sent 15,000 Uighurs to 'brainwashing camps' during just one week in 2017," he continued. To better articulate what's happened to the Uighurs, Oliver summarized the plot to the 2002 film Minority Report focusing on its themes of free will.

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of Uighur labor are Nike and Volkswagen. When confronted, Nike responded they're no longer using the exploited labor and representatives are "conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China." "It feels like their policy on oversight is less 'just do it', and more 'just talk about doing it and hope people eventually stop asking,'" Oliver snapped back. When the series featured a clip of Volkswagen executive Herbert Diess played dumb saying he's not "aware" of the company's actions. With the controversy, Oliver remained cognizant of China's ability to deflect their own atrocities by retorting the ongoing racial injustices in the US stemming from the death of George Floyd. "It's also completely possible for two things to be wrong at the same time," he said adding, "Human rights should be completely non-negotiable." Last Week Tonight airs Sundays on HBO.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.

twitter   facebook square   instagram   envelope   globe