Category Archives: Human rights

RFA: Uyghur Detainees from Xinjiang ‘Placed in Nearly Every Prison’ in Shandong Province

Ethnic Uyghurs held in political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) are being sent to jail in Shandong province, prison officials have confirmed, as new details emerge of the system authorities use to transfer detainees out of the region.

In October last year, RFA’s Uyghur Service reported that authorities in the XUAR had begun covertly sending detainees to prisons in Heilongjiang province and other parts of China to address an “overflow” in overcrowded camps, where up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017.

And last month, RFA spoke to officials in both Shaanxi province and neighboring Gansu province, who confirmed that Uyghur and other Muslim detainees from the XUAR had been sent to prisons there, although they were unable to provide specific numbers or dates for when they had been transferred.

As global condemnation over the camp network has grown, including calls for international observers to be allowed into the XUAR to investigate the situation there, reports suggest that authorities may be transferring detainees to other parts of China as part of a bid to obfuscate the scale of detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region.

After receiving information from an RFA listener who said that Uyghurs were also being relocated from the XUAR to detention centers in Shandong province on China’s eastern coast, RFA contacted a provincial prison official who confirmed the claim.


RFA: New Zealand Shooting Suspect Praised China For ‘Lacking Diversity’

The white supremacist suspect in last Friday’s massacre of worshippers at two New Zealand mosques praised the policies of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has incarcerated more than a million ethnic minority Muslims in camps in Xinjiang.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that her government will introduce new gun laws after Australian Brenton Tarrant was arrested on suspicion of killing 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

She had earlier received an email from the suspect, warning of the impending attack and containing a confused outpouring of racist ideology, which included support for China’s lack of “diversity.”

“The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China,” the document said.


RFA: UN Calls For Probe Into Activist’s Death As Beijing Rejects Rights Report

Experts at the United Nations have called on Beijing to launch an independent investigation into the death of a Chinese human rights activist in a police detention center five years ago, as Beijing faces growing pressure over international criticism of its rights record.

“Cao Shunli’s case is emblematic of the struggle that many human rights defenders in China face,” the experts said in a statement on Thursday.

They said Cao, who was detained as she set out for Switzerland to take part in a U.N. Human Rights Council review in September 2013, had “paid the ultimate price” for her activism.

Cao died aged 52 on March 14, 2014, after being denied medical treatment for months while in detention, according to her brother and fellow activists who blasted the government for using medical care as leverage to silence critics.

Her lawyers had made repeated requests for her release to allow her to receive medical treatment, but no action was taken until she was seriously ill. She suffered from tuberculosis in both her lungs, cirrhosis of the liver, and uterine fibroids.

“Today, on the fifth anniversary of her death, we renew our call for an independent, impartial, and comprehensive investigation into her death, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice,” the U.N. experts said.

Rights groups and the U.S. State Department have pointed to the growing use by the ruling Chinese Communist Party of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and medical neglect of detainees in custody.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that China “is in a league of its own” when it comes to human rights abuses, citing mass detentions of an estimated 1 million Muslims and the repression of Christians, Tibetans, and other religious minorities.


RFA: US State Department Decries China’s ‘Remarkably Awful’ Treatment of Uyghurs

China’s treatment of its Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities puts it “in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations,” top U.S. diplomat Mike Pompeo said Wednesday as the U.S. State Department issued its global survey of rights conditions.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo noted that the annual report highlighted abuses in Iran, South Sudan, Nicaragua and many other nations, including some U.S. allies.

“But then there’s China, which is in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations,” he said.

“In just 2018, China intensified its campaign of detaining Muslim minority groups at record levels. Today, more than 1 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims are interned in reeducation camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities,” added Pompeo.

A second U.S. official briefing reporters on the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” which covers 2018, had even sharper words for China’s policies in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“For me, you haven’t seen things like this since the 1930s,” said Michael Kozak, the head of the State Department’s human rights and democracy bureau, in an apparent reference to the policies of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

“Rounding up, in some estimations … in the millions of people, putting them into camps, and torturing them, abusing them, and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion and so on from their DNA. It’s just remarkably awful.”

“It is one of the most serious human rights violations in the world today,” he said.


RFA: Activist Under House Arrest in Kazakhstan, Prompting Fears of Pressure From China

Authorities in Kazakhstan have placed activist Serikzhan Bilash under house arrest for two months on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” after he campaigned for the release of fellow ethnic Kazakhs from detention in China, prompting concerns the move was made in response to pressure from Beijing.

A Kazakh citizen born in neighboring China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Bilash and his group Atajurt work to release ethnic Kazakhs from political “re-education camps,” where authorities in the XUAR are believed to have detained more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.

Reuters news agency cited Atajurt in a report, saying security forces had broken into Bilash’s hotel room in Almaty early on Sunday, detained him and quickly flown him to the Kazakh capital Astana.

On Monday, Agence France-Presse cited Bilash’s lawyer Aiman Umarova as saying a court had ruled that her client be released to house arrest for two months until he is tried for “inciting ethnic hatred.” Under the terms of the arrangement, he will not be permitted to engage in activism.

RFA’s Uyghur Service confirmed the reports through one of Bilash’s associates on Monday.

According to AFP, police have sealed Atajurt’s office, confiscating computers and other equipment activists said contained data about re-education camp detainees in the XUAR, and have refused to return the key to the building.


RFA: Three Uyghur Journalists Among 33 Women Jailed Globally For Reporting: Media Watchdog

New York-based media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) marked International Women’s Day Friday by highlighting nearly three dozen women imprisoned around the world for their work as reporters—three of whom are Uyghurs from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

In a blog post, CPJ said that at least 33 of 251 journalists in jail at the time of its global prison census in December were women.

Among the 33 are ethnic Uyghur reporters Gulmire Imin, who is serving a life sentence for “separatism, leaking state secrets and organizing an illegal demonstration,” Atikem Rozi, one of several students detained for their work on, a website started by imprisoned Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, and editor Chimengul Awut, who is being detained for producing “dangerous” books.

Imin, a former local official in the XUAR capital Urumqi, was arrested following July 2009 ethnic violence in the city and sentenced in August 2010 to life in jail. She was accused of organizing demonstrations on July 5, 2009 through the cultural website Salkin and leaking state secrets to her husband, who lives in Norway.

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress exile group has confirmed that Imin was being held in the Xinjiang Women’s Prison in Urumqi, but the state of her health is currently unknown.

Rozi, who wrote for, was convicted on unspecified charges along with six other students at a secret trial in November 2014. The seven students received sentences of between three and eight years, according to state media, although the length of sentence for each and where they are being held is unclear.

Tohti, the website’s founder, was sentenced to life in prison on Sept. 23, 2014 following a two-day show trial on charges of promoting separatism.


RFA: Xinjiang ‘Re-education Camps’ Target Cultural, Religious Identity of Uyghurs: US Envoy

Political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) were “created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity” of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of Beijing’s wider “war with faith,” U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Friday.

Delivering remarks on religious freedom at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, Brownback noted that authorities in the XUAR have detained more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the camp network since April 2017, often for common religious practices, including praying and attending services.

Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the XUAR, told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.

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.

On Friday, Brownback suggested that it is time to “call these camps what they are—they’re internment camps created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities.”

“Authorities force innocent people into these camps often based primarily on their religious beliefs and ethnic identity … They are then held for an indeterminate amount of time and subjected to physical and psychological torture, intense political indoctrination, and forced labor.”


RFA: Canadian Police Probe Online Abuse of Ethnic Tibetan Student Union President

Canadian police are investigating whether a torrent of online abuse and harassment of a Tibetan woman studying at the University of Toronto last month constitutes a crime.

“The Toronto police are currently investigating the threatening online messages sent to Chemi Lhamo,” police spokeswoman Jenifferjit Sidhu told reporters.

“The investigation began on Feb. 26, and is still ongoing,” she said. “We won’t be able to take the next step yet, as we are still gathering more evidence.”

Chemi Lhamo, who was born in India and is a vocal supporter of Students For a Free Tibet, started getting hate mail after being elected President of Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) on Feb. 9.

One comment read: “China is your daddy—you better know this,” while another threatened her, saying “we will make sure things get done so u won’t survive a day. Peace RIP.”

Meanwhile, a petition calling on Lhamo to step down garnered nearly 10,000 signatures, and screenshots calling Lhamo a “Tibetan separatist” were shared via social media.

Lhamo issued a statement saying she wouldn’t be influenced by the hate mail, and blaming the abuse on on Chinese government infiltration of Canadian universities.

Now, Toronto police are scrolling through around 15,000 comments in different languages on various social media sites, to determine whether any of the messages broke Canadian law.

Lhamo is also reporting to campus police on an hourly basis to ensure her safety, the National Post newspaper reported.


RFA: Taiwan ‘Would Welcome’ Visit From The Dalai Lama: Ruling Party Chief

The democratic island of Taiwan would welcome a visit from exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the leader of its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said.

DPP secretary-general Lo Wen-jia told Tibetan and human rights activists in Taipei on Thursday that the Dalai Lama should be free to visit anywhere he wants, including Tibet.

“We would welcome the Dalai Lama if he is able to visit Taiwan,” Lo said. “Actually, he should have the right to visit anywhere he chooses, including his homeland [of Tibet].”

Lo’s remarks came ahead of a planned march in Taipei to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese Communist Party rule.

He also used the example of China’s suppression of Tibetan religion and culture over the past 60 years to warn against heeding Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Jan. 2 call for “peaceful unification” with Taiwan.

After the Chinese Communist regime signed 17 agreements with Tibet, the agreements were torn up and their army entered Tibet, he said.

During the occupation, 1.2 million Tibetans died of unnatural causes, more than 6,000 Buddhist holy sites were destroyed, and countless Tibetans were exiled overseas, he said.

“I believe that there should be no grey areas between democracy and dictatorship, human rights and totalitarianism,” Lo told reporters.

“I hope that [any of our politicians] will be able to make it clear which side they are on.”

He said there should be “no illusions” when dealing with Beijing.

“We should have no illusions about any dictatorship,” Lo said. “Peace agreements will never bring peace; only massacres and persecution.”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen rejected Xi’s proposal, saying the island’s government wouldn’t negotiate unless China itself became democratic, and that Taiwan had no intention of giving up its sovereignty as the Republic of China, which dates back to Sun Yat-sen’s 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Lo also hit out at the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other minority ethnic Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“How is this different from the Nazis in the Second World War?,” Lo said.


RFA: New Pressure Builds For Action on Uyghurs as UN Rights Chief Calls For Access to Xinjiang

China is facing mounting pressure from the international community to account for its policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where an estimated one million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been held in a sprawling system of political “re-education camps.”

On Wednesday, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she had called on China to allow international monitors access to the region to verify reports of arbitrary detentions in the camps, where authorities have held Uyghurs and other Muslims accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.

“My office seeks to engage on this issue with the government for full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” Bachelet said, marking her second request for access to the region in six months at the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC).

Bachelet’s statement came a day after U.N. religious freedom investigator Ahmed Shaheed told the media that he had also requested access to the XUAR in February to investigate concerns over China’s “de-extremification” law.

Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the XUAR, told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.

China recently organized two visits to monitor re-education camps in the XUAR—one for a small group of foreign journalists, and another for diplomats from non-Western countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Thailand—during which officials dismissed claims about mistreatment and poor conditions in the facilities as “slanderous lies.”

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.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that China has invited “many groups from overseas” to visit the XUAR, and welcomes all parties to the region, “if they act in compliance with the Chinese law,” according to a report by the state-owned China Global Television Network group.

“China does not welcome organizations which visit Xinjiang with political purposes and attempt to harm China’s interests,” the report said, citing Lu.

Lu also urged the HRC and other relevant departments to “adhere to the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, and respect the human rights of member states when performing their duties,” it said.