Category Archives: Human rights

RFA: Xinjiang Re-education Camp Detainees Appointed ‘Crying Time’ Every Two Weeks

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.


UHRP: Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism: Abduweli Ayup and the Movement for Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has published a new special report: Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism: Abduweli Ayup and the Movement for Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education. The report focuses on the Chinese government’s deliberate campaign to marginalize the Uyghur language in the Uyghur homeland. Motivated by a combination of geopolitical ambition and policies to eradicate the ethnic identity of the Uyghur people, the Chinese authorities are removing the relevance of Uyghur from the education system and public life.

The report includes a section on the struggles of Uyghur scholar and linguist Abduweli Ayup to protect the Uyghur language from state erasure through grassroots initiatives. The account of Abduweli’s life, including his unjust imprisonment for his efforts, illustrate the extent to which Chinese officials will go to ensure a Uyghur-led definition of identity and language is unable to flourish in the Uyghur homeland. Upon publication of the report, Abdulweli Ayup said in a statement:

This special report will be of interest to academics, human rights activists, and ethnic minority communities of East Turkestan, who are concerned with language maintenance and resisting Chinese linguistic imperialism. By piecing together evidence from a variety of sources, UHRP has demonstrated how the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] campaign to achieve Mandarin language assimilation includes a shift from tolerance to the prohibition of minority languages indigenous to East Turkestan. This report also contains my authorized biography to date, where readers can learn about my experience in setting up schools that provided mother tongue-based multilingual education. Although scholars support this mode of education, which builds upon the linguistic repertoire and cultural knowledge of students, the CCP terminated my schools because they conflicted with the Chinese government’s imperative to eradicate markers of ethnic minority identity.

I hope that ethnic minority communities in East Turkestan actualize the recommendations made in this report, to form a strong family language policy, so that Uyghur and other non-Mandarin indigenous languages are maintained. The CCP is making every effort to erase our culture. This report serves as documentation of this effort and provides guidance on resisting the Chinese government’s attempt at linguicide.

Chinese officials have portrayed the Uyghur language as incompatible with modernity. Following a pattern of broader development policy that has promoted the adoption of Han civilization as central to modernization, China has moved to diminish the status of the Uyghur language in society.


RFA: ‘At Least One Million People in the Camps Full Time’: Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby

Scott Busby, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, recently spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service about persecution under Chinese rule in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where authorities have held an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in a network of political “re-education camps” since April 2017.

During an interview with Mamatjan Juma at the State Department in Washington, Busby discussed inconsistencies in the way China has represented the camp system, what the U.S. has done to raise awareness of the situation in the XUAR, and why other countries have failed to speak out against or even defended China’s policies in the region. He also pledged continued U.S. support for the Uyghurs, saying that Washington will exert pressure on China for as long as people are being detained in the camps because of their ethnic background, and religious and cultural traditions.

RFA: What kind of concrete action has been taken to close [the camps] or release the detainees from the camps in China?

Busby: One of the things we’ve spent a lot of time on is trying to get the word out about what’s happening in Xinjiang. We have been sharing information with many other governments around the world, we’ve been doing public events talking about Xinjiang. We hosted—along with several other governments—a side event in Geneva, Switzerland on the margins of the U.N. Human Rights Council specifically devoted to the issue of the abuses taking place in Xinjiang … Secretary Pompeo, as you know, has met with several Uyghur individuals to hear about their experiences or the experience of their loved ones in the camps. So we have been focused, primarily to date, on getting the word out about the situation in Xinjiang, and I think the world now knows how horrible the situation is. There are other measures that we’re considering, but I can’t get into the details of the internal deliberations of the U.S. government at this point.


The Uyghurs’ Tragedies and the CCP’s Crimes against Humanity

Torchlight Uyghur Group

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Uighur detainees listening to a “deradicalization” presentation at a reeducation camp, in a photo posted to the Xinjiang Judicial Administration’s WeChat account, Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang, 2017

  • US: The United States said China has put well more than a million minority Muslims in “concentration camps” (Reuters, 3 May 2019).
  • Randall Schriver, who leads Asia policy at the U.S. Defense Department, said “The (Chinese) Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” in a Pentagon briefing during a broader discussion about China’s military, estimating that the number of detained Muslims could be “closer to 3 million citizens.” (Reuters, 3 May 2019)
  • 500,000 children have been taken by force to children camps or so-called “orphanage centers.”
  • In 2017, the Chinese army flattened the 3 villages by killing all of their Uyghur residents, an estimated 10,000 Uyghurs, in Korla Prefecture of Xinjiang. The government did so to make space to build “A Free Trade Center” for Central Asia, Middle East and Europe.
  • The Chinese government has admitted that it has placed one million communists in Uyghur homes (China File, 24 Oct 2018)
  • The detainees are not guilty of anything, use overflowing toilets in overcrowded cells, live with food and sleep deprivation, receive forced injections and the most severe torture inside the camp. (CNN, 9 May 2019)
  • Sinicization or “changing ethnicity” of the Uyghurs is now underway in China. Top Chinese central government officials said, “We will turn the best of them into Hans, while repressing and destroying the bad.” Those who cannot learn fast enough or meet daily goals are deprived of food. The food itself is so bad. For three meals the detainees are given rice porridge, one ladle of it, and one piece of bread. They are also subject to sleep deprivation.” (CNN, 9 May 2019)
  • Most of the female detainees are young and unmarried, usually around age 20. “[The guards] take away girls from there and after some prolonged time they bring them back, sometimes in the middle of the night. When they bring them, any normal person can see that what kind of torture they have been through. When they come back, they turn into a different person. The guards do all kinds of torture to them and sexually abuse them. (CNN, 9 May 2019)
  • “Western governments, including the US, and rights groups have said the camps are nothing more than arbitrary detention centers,designed to eradicate Uyghur culture and Islamic practices from China’s westernmost province.” S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 1st used the term re-education camps to describe the sites and said Chinese activity was “reminiscent of the 1930s.” (Reuters, 3 May 2019)
  • “According to sources in Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the provinces of Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Heilongjiang, and others have been assigned quotas of detainees to take. At present, sources have reported that Shaanxi Provincein central China was issued a quota of about 25,000 people. An estimated 500,000 Uyghur Muslims will be dispersed and detained throughout China.” (Bitter Winter, 17 Dec. 2018)
  • Uyghurs are dying even during the transfer process. Most of the Uyghurs dispersed to Han provinces are men. Detainees’ living conditions are difficult and traumatizing. Local prisoners are allowed to go outside every day for exercise and fresh air, but the Uyghurs are not. They are not allowed to communicate verbally or through gestures. Even the people in the surrounding areas of the prisons do not know that these prisons hold Uyghurs. If the Uyghur prisoners die, nobody outside knows about it. The detained are given only one meal per day. “Serious criminals” are kept inside special, square-shaped steel bar cages just over one meter tall. They are unable to stand or fully stretch and are restricted to eating and relieving themselves only inside the cage. One insider described that these Uyghurs “are left to perish on their own.” (Bitter Winter, 17 Dec. 2018 – 2 Apr. 2019)
  • Xi’s government is forcing some Uyghur detainees to sing: “Xi is the father of China, Xi is the father of the world.” China’s “Belt and Road” projects are actually debt trap and are aimed at soft colonization of the other parts of the world. Uyghurs’ today may become other peoples’ tomorrow
  • Please call your Congressperson & Senators now to pass S. 178 & H.R. 649


[1] China putting minority Muslims in ‘concentration camps,’ U.S. says (May 3, 2019)

[2] Former Xinjiang teacher claims brainwashing and abuse inside mass detention centers (9 May 2019)

[3] Uyghurs Secretly Moved to Hide Mass Detentions (17 Dec 2018)

[4] Uyghur Dispersion and Detention – Worse Than We Thought (18 Dec 2018)

[5] How to Hide Illegal Detentions? China Gets Creative (19 Dec 2018)

[6] New Details of Secret Transfer of Uyghurs (27 Dec 2018)

 [7] Inside the Transfer of Xinjiang Muslims (2 Feb 2019)

[8] Thousands of Uyghurs Detained in a Gansu Prison (2 April 2019)

[9] China’s Government Has Ordered a Million Citizens to Occupy Uighur Homes. Here’s What They Think They’re Doing

USA Today: I’ve fought China’s slow-motion genocide of Uighur Muslims. Now, my family are victims.

Rushan Abbas, Opinion contributor Published 5:00 a.m. ET May 9, 2019 | Updated 4:57 p.m. ET May 9, 2019

The world is finally waking up to the ongoing and terrifying violations of human rights against the Uighurs — a Muslim minority in Northwest China. My own family is victim to these violations. As both an American citizen and a Uighur, this disaster has ravaged my heart, and shaken me to my very core.

Last September, six days after I spoke about China’s human rights abuses at the Hudson Institute, Chinese police abducted my sister and aunt from their homes. My family members, who both live in Xinjiang but hundreds of miles apart, were abducted on the same day, as a tactic to silence me and stop my activism in the United States. The government has seized the family members of other Uighur Americans who speak out about their human rights violations — attempting to control and silence us in the United States, as they control and silence our families in China.

My Uighur American niece and I found out about the abductions through some of our remaining contacts in Xinjiang, but members of my family are not the only ones suffering.

China’s long history of repression

I grew up within the rich culture of the Uighurs, in a region occupied by Communist China known as Xinjiang (also known as East Turkestan). I witnessed the repression of the Cultural Revolution at a young age — my grandfather was jailed and my father was taken to a reeducation camp. As a student in Xinjiang University, I was one of the organizers in pro-democracy demonstrations in the mid- and late-1980s. When I came to America in 1989, I brought my ideals and experiences with me. Since then, I have consistently campaigned for the human rights of my people by dedicating much of my life to writing and advocating on their behalf.

In Xinjiang, our mosques and religious sites have been bulldozed by a government committed to eradicating our culture. Parents are banned from naming their children traditional Muslim names, and Muslim men are forced to shave their beards. Uighurs are threatened even after death: In an attempt to eradicate our burial and funeral traditions, the Chinese government is building crematoriums.

As many as 3 million people, out of a population of about 11 million, may be imprisoned in concentration camps in Xinjiang, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The Chinese government claims that these facilities (there could be as many as 44 camps) are vocational training centers teaching courses such as tailoring, electronic assembly and the Chinese language. But the truth is these are nothing less than modern concentration camps, complete with armed guards, forced labor and barbed-wire fences. Inside, prisoners are indoctrinated with Communist Party propaganda, forced to renounce Islam, and have been forced to eat pork and drink alcohol in violation of their religious beliefs.


RFA: Jailed Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti Receives Freedom House’s ‘Freedom Award’

Jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti was honored on Wednesday at a ceremony in Washington D.C., where he was given the Freedom Award in absentia by the democracy watchdog group Freedom House.

Accepting the award on her father’s behalf at the May 8 gathering at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Tohti’s daughter Jewher Tohti said that she wished her father could have been present to accept his award in person.

“[And] I wish that this recognition were unnecessary,” Jewher Tohti said, “because that would mean that the Uyghur people were free.”

Ilham Tohti is someone who sees political and cultural oppression as a problem to be fixed, Jewher Tohti said, adding that China’s treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, the Uyghurs’ historic homeland, “was always causing bigger societal damage.”

“Even before the horrendous crackdown, the camps, the torture of innocent people, China was creating larger, longer-term problems between groups of people,” she said.

“When people are treated and labeled as separate or different, as wrong or bad, human connection cannot happen.”

In remarks introducing the granting of the award, U.S. Senator from Colorado Cory Gardner said that Ilham Tohti knew that he would someday be jailed for “telling the story of his community, the Uyghurs.”

“He expected that his peaceful calls for connection and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese would need to be silenced,” Gardner said.

“Like other historic champions of freedom and human rights, Ilham Tohti embodies a fearlessness to which we all aspire,” Gardner said, adding, “To put the cause of human liberty ahead of your own life is the ultimate act of courage,” Gardner said.


RFA: Missing Uyghur Professor Presumed Detained in Xinjiang Political ‘Re-education Camp’

A Uyghur professor and founder of a Uyghur language software firm has been missing for more than a year and is presumed detained in a political “re-education camp” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to sources.

A group of Uyghur intellectuals living in exile recently posted to social media a list of colleagues they believe are interned in the XUAR’s vast network of 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.

Among those on the list is Alim Ahet, a faculty member at the School of Mathematics and System Science at Xinjiang University in the XUAR capital Urumqi, who the exiled intellectuals noted had “disappeared” from their WeChat group in January 2018.

Since then, they said, Ahet’s overseas contacts have been unable to communicate with him and believe he has been arrested.

Ahet had partnered with Microsoft while working as a lecturer at Xinjiang University and in 1998 formed Urumqi UighurSoft Computer Ltd.—the first company to produce software in the Uyghur, Kazakh and Kirgiz languages.

UighurSoft also produced dictionary software used by speakers of Uyghur, Kazakh and Kirgiz to study Chinese, as well as the first software to include a spell checking function for the three languages.

Ahet’s firm gained him recognition as a ground breaking software developer and in 2011, Chinese officials recognized him with an award as a “top ten innovator of China.”


RFA: Uyghurs Face Tight Ramadan Curbs as China Bristles at ‘Concentration Camps’ Remark

As Muslims worldwide began a month of abstaining from food or drink from dawn until sunset for Ramadan Monday, Uyghurs chafed under tough Chinese controls over observations of the annual Muslim holy month in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Activists and U.S. politicians meanwhile called for greater world attention to and condemnation of China’s network of political “re-education camps” that have held up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.

Authorities in Xinjiang have typically forced restaurants to stay open and restricted access to mosques during Ramadan to discourage traditional observation of the holy month, and in recent years authorities’ have tried to ban fasting among Uyghurs, drawing widespread criticism from rights groups.

“The entire Muslim world has started fasting and praying. But unfortunately the Uyghur Muslims under China’s draconian rule can neither fast nor pray during this Ramadan,” said Ilshat Hassan, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association.

“It is not just Uyghurs’ Islamic faith that is under Chinese attack but also their very existence as a unique indigenous people,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“The international community needs to take action for China locking up millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps. And the Muslim world, especially OIC, should hold China accountable for its anti-Islamic policy and crimes against humanity,” added Hassan.

“While the Muslims around the world are enjoying their religious freedom and peacefully celebrating Ramadan, the Uyghur Muslims of East Turkestan have been denied by China their legitimate right to celebrate, pray and fast,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.

“This is the third consecutive year that Uyghur people, who accepted Islam as a state religion more than a thousand year ago, have not been able to celebrate Ramadan because of Chinese government’s anti-Islamic and anti-Uyghur policies,” he said, and echoed Hassan’s calls for international pressure on China to ease its policies.


RFA: Rights Group Details How China Uses a Mobile App to Spy on Uyghurs

China is using a mobile app to gather and store data on 13 million ethnic minority Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Thursday.

The report, “China’s Algorithms of Repression: Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App,” analyzes how a Chinese-made mobile app helps XUAR authorities conduct “illegal mass surveillance and arbitrary detention of Muslims.”

The New York-based watchdog group worked for 14 months with German security firm Cure53 to reverse engineer the mobile app that officials use to connect to the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), a Xinjiang policing program that flags people deemed potentially threatening.

“The goal is apparently to identify patterns of, and predict, the everyday life and resistance of its population, and, ultimately, to engineer and control reality,” HRW said in the report.

“The IJOP platform tracks everyone in Xinjiang. It monitors people’s movements by tracing their phones, vehicles, and ID cards. It keeps track of people’s use of electricity and gas stations,” said the report.

The government’s “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” (Strike Hard Campaign) “has turned Xinjiang into one of China’s major centers for using innovative technologies for social control,” HRW said.

“Many—perhaps all—of the mass surveillance practices described in this report appear to be contrary to Chinese law. They violate the internationally guaranteed rights to privacy, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and to freedom of association and movement,” HRW said in a statement.

“Their impact on other rights, such as freedom of expression and religion, is profound,” the group said.


HRW: China’s Algorithms of Repression Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App

Since late 2016, the Chinese government has subjected the 13 million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to mass arbitrary detention, forced political indoctrination, restrictions on movement, and religious oppression. Credible estimates indicate that under this heightened repression, up to one million people are being held in “political education” camps. The government’s “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” (Strike Hard Campaign) has turned Xinjiang into one of China’s major centers for using innovative technologies for social control.

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