Kazakh and Uyghur held in political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are being forced to consume pork, despite the dietary restrictions of their Muslim faith, in a bid by authorities to assimilate them into Chinese culture, according to three former detainees.
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.
Gulzire Awulqanqizi, an ethnic Kazakh Muslim 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 are told they must eat pork, or face punishment.
Awulqanqizi said she and other detainees were initially given pork at a meal without their knowledge.
“They simply said it was a ‘friendly feast,’ but we could tell there was pork, which we can’t stand to eat,” she said.
Later, Awulqanqizi said, authorities at the camp would serve pork for dinner more regularly, but only after stressing the importance of creating “unity among nationalities” and getting along with members of the Han Chinese majority when detainees are released.
Awulqanqizi told RFA that she vomited after eating pork the first time.
But instead of helping her, camp officials told Awulqanqizi that her distaste for pork was all in her head and threatened to send her to a different camp if she continued to get sick from eating it.
Awulqanqizi forced herself to eat pork whenever it was served until she left the camp last year.