Coronavirus Threatens Millions of Uyghurs in Chinese Concentration Camps

Torchlight Uyghur Group

(January 27, 2020)

As of January 23, 2020, the occupied East Turkestan was one of the few places where 2019 Novel Coronavirus had not reached yet in China. In the city of Wuhan where the virus was first detected, people were desperate to flee out of the city and death toll was increasing rapidly. Wuhan was shut down to the outside world and all the flights were cancelled, except for the ones to Urumchi, the capital of East Turkestan. Thousands of people from Wuhan arrived in Urumchi on January 23, 2020 and the first case of Coronavirus in East Turkestan was reported soon after their arrival.

The flight information in Wuhan airport on the 23rd of January showed that only those flights going to Urumchi from Wuhan took off on time. The Chinese government’s ignorance to leave Urumchi open for thousands of potentially infected people from Wuhan sparked great concern among the Uyghur people in diaspora. Tik Tok videos originated from Urumchi indicated that thousands of people from Wuhan arrived in Urumchi since the 23rd of January and they then travelled across East Turkestan. The Chinese government is hiding real situation about the Coronavirus in East Turkestan and it has not implemented efficient measures to control the deadly virus. The most concerning situation is how to protect millions of Uyghurs, especially those in the concentration camps from the deadly epidemic now.

Before the whole Coronavirus epidemic started, China was in the limelight because of the Chinese concentration camps that housed millions of Uyghurs. Now, the two has collided as the Wuhan Coronavirus has made its way to East Turkestan. It was reported by Radio Free Asia that two men, aged 52 and 47 had been confirmed to be infected on Thursday (January 23rd). According to Business Insider, this has prompted fears about the fate of millions of detainees in the camps as they are vulnerable to the deadly virus due to their long time suffering in concentration camps.

There are more than 1200 concentration camps throughout East Turkestan according to experts such as Adrian Zenz. Reported poor camp conditions and poor infrastructure make it an ideal place for spreading disease and infection. The residents there are said to have plastic bins as toilets and have small rooms, so they need to take turns to sleep. If the virus spreads in East Turkestan it could leave the estimated 5 million Uyghurs detained in prison camps across the region highly vulnerable to infection.

If the Wuhan Coronavirus makes its way into the camps it will have “serious implications” for the detainees, Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, told RFA, warning “the lives of millions of people will be at stake.” James Millward, professor of Chinese and Central Asian history at Georgetown University, tweeted that “cramped conditions, poor hygiene, cold, stressed immune systems” could result in “a massive disaster.”

We call the Chinese government to be transparent about the situation in East Turkestan and allow international health organizations to be there in the field to help control the deadly epidemic before it is out of control.

We demand the international community to pay close attention to the situation in East Turkestan and do not let the Chinese government destroy more Uyghurs by exploiting the deadly virus.

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