A harrowing tale of mass imprisonment, torture and systematic rape comes from China's Xinjiang region bordering Kazakhstan. It is an area inhabited by Uighurs, who once formed a huge majority but are now locked into a losing contest against President Xi Jinping's modernization. He has brought them bullet trains, incoming migrants and factories in what he calls development ... plus racism from the newcomers.
The influx of Han Chinese whose numbers have increased from 6 to 40 percent of the population is deeply resented. And the occasional knife attack on the Chinese by frustrated and powerless Uighurs met a draconian response. Re-education camps have been established with orders to do what is necessary, and an estimated million Uighurs have been detained in them.
For several years now, Amnesty International has documented a Chinese campaign of mass internment. Uighurs who had escaped to the West report on an intensifying claustrophobia since a "Regulation on De-extremification" took effect in 2017. Religious or cultural practises are frowned upon. These can include wearing a head scarf or veil, growing a culturally identifying beard, avoiding alcohol (forbidden in Islam), fasting during Ramadan, and even regular prayer.
In November 2019, 400 pages of leaked documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) disclosed the original framework for the facilities that have led to the abuse of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. The ill treatment has been significantly worse than "brainwashing." Although innocuously classified as "vocational training" or "transformation-through-
The Chinese government at first denied even the existence of the camps but then declared they were designed to train Uighurs for jobs and rid them of "extremist thoughts". However, the government still refuses to allow independent monitors to verify their claims.
Ethnic Uighurs are systematically discriminated against and considered inferior by the Han Chinese, while the locals find themselves treated as second-class citizens in their own land. A sullen and angry population occasionally erupts. Do what you need to, said Mr. Xi, meaning to pacify them. And they have.
In July 2020, the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused China of "gross and egregious" human rights abuses against the Uighurs. So reports the BBC. He added that reports of forced sterilization and the wide persecution of this Muslim group were "reminiscent of something not seen for a long time."
"Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever," says Tursunnay Ziawudun. She spent nine months in detention centers before she fled to the US. The BBC also interviewed a Kazakh woman, Gulzira Auelkhan, who was also from Xinjiang and was detained for 18 months in the camp system. "My job was to remove their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they could not move. Then I would leave the room and a man would enter -- some Chinese man from outside or policeman." (BBC Investigative Report.)
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