What’s Happening in Xinjiang and Why Is It Important?

China’s Xinjiang Province is designated as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) because of its rich natural gas reserves. And it is a key region in China’s international Belt and Road Initiative. Xinjiang is also home to 11 million Uighurs, Muslims of Turkish ancestry who populated the area long before the Chinese government of the Chinese Communist Party took control of the region in 1949. Beginning in 2017, the Chinese government began targeting the Uighurs as a national security threat, citing “extremist views.” These government measures have escalated over the years, including forced detention of Uighurs, which has been condemned by global organizations and governments around the world.