International 16/06/2021

Amnesty International portrays "dystopian hell" for Uighurs in China

The organization documents the "systematic torture" and other "crimes against humanity" suffered by the Muslim minority

2 min
Uighur women with their children in Kashgar, in China's Xinjiang region, where the majority of the population belongs to this Muslim ethnic minority.

Barcelona"We get up at five in the morning and we have to make the bed, it has to be perfect. Then you do the ceremony of raising the flag and the oath. Then you go to the canteen to have breakfast and go to class. Then lunch and back to class. Then dinner. And another class. Then to bed. Every night two people have to be on duty for two hours [watching the rest of the classmates]. There's not a minute for you. It's exhausting". This is the story of a Uighur woman in one of the "re-education" camps, as the Chinese government defines these internment centers for the Uighur Muslim minority. In fact, all the journeys the woman describes to class or to the canteen are escorted by armed guards, who apply physical punishments if they disobey or if they speak in their language instead of Mandarin Chinese. This woman was detained and taken to the internment camp because she was found to have downloaded the WhatsApp application on her mobile phone.

She is one of 50 witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International for their report 'Like we were enemies in a war': China's mass confinement, torture and persecution of muslims in Xianjing. The 160-page report describes China's policy towards Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities concentrated in the western state of Sinkiang. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs - some research says there are a million - are sent to these internment camps, where these classes serve to "indoctrinate them to abandon Islam, stop using their language and cultural practices, and study Mandarin Chinese and Chinese Communist Party propaganda", the report says. Millions more Muslims outside the camps are subjected to "systematized mass surveillance" to monitor their behavior.

"The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a breathtaking scale in the Uighur autonomous region of Sinkiang", says Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary-General. The report speaks of "systematic torture and other mistreatment in the camps, where every aspect of daily life is regulated in an effort to impose a homogenous, secular, Chinese nation based, on Communist Party ideals".

Amnesty describes China's treatment of the Uighurs as "crimes against humanity" and confirms long-standing reports by other humanitarian organizations and several journalistic investigations. These investigations also document the forced separation of half a million Uighur children from their families who were sent to Chinese boarding schools.

According to Amnesty International's new report, adult Uighurs are detained and sent to internment camps, where they are tortured and indoctrinated, without any judicial procedure and, in fact, in most cases "for behaviors that are entirely legal, such as possessing a religious image or communicating with someone outside the country", Amnesty says. The torture mechanisms used in the camps, which each and every one of Amnesty's interviewees experienced, included "beatings, electric shocks, solitary confinement, deprivation of food, water or sleep, exposure to extreme cold, and abusive use of restrictive methods, including torture tools such as tiger chairs", Amnesty said. "Tiger chairs" are steel chairs with irons and handles attached that place the body in painful positions.

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