Detainees in the vast network of political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are given an hour or so to “cry” every two weeks, according to a young ethnic Kazakh woman who was held at one of the facilities.
Since April 2017, authorities in the XUAR have held an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the camps, which China claims are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training.
Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
Guzire Awulqanqizi, a Kazakh woman who was held at the Dongmehle Re-education Camp in Ili Kazakh (in Chinese, Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Ghulja (Yining) city from July 2017 to October 2018, recently told RFA in an interview that detainees dealing with the stress of 14-hour days of political study are given a “crying session” every two weeks.
“They say, ‘Now you can cry,’ but if we cry at other times when we feel the need, they criticize and threaten us, saying they will move us to a different camp,” said Awulqanqizi, who now lives in exile in Almaty, in neighboring Kazakhstan.
“When we feel sad and cry, they say, ‘You cannot cry now—you can only cry when it is your allotted crying hour.’ At the crying hour, they shout at us, ‘Now you cry!’”
According to Awulqanqizi, authorities in the camps have established a crying hour because “they know we were suffering,” but even when detainees are permitted to express their emotions, “we have to cry quietly” while monitored by camp officials.
“They stayed and watched us,” she said, adding that each classroom was observed by five teachers and two police officers.
Classroom monitors would threaten detainees with electric batons and verbally abuse them if they cried outside of permitted crying times.