‘State-organized mass imprisonment, torture and persecution amount to crimes against humanity’
NEW DELHI – Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region face systematic state-organized mass imprisonment, torture and persecution amounting to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International has said in a new report.
The report says that Muslims are not free to practice their religion in Xinjiang. Dozens of Muslim men and women told Amnesty International the regional Chinese authorities showed extraordinary hostility towards their Islamic faith. Basic religious and cultural practices have been deemed “extremist” and used as grounds for detention. As a result, most people have stopped praying or showing any outward signs of observing Islam. This extends to dress, grooming and even speech.
In the 160-page report, ‘Like We Were Enemies in a War’: China’s Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response team released on June 10 dozens of new testimonies from former detainees detailing the extreme measures taken by Chinese authorities since 2017 to essentially root out the religious traditions, cultural practices and local languages of the region’s Muslim ethnic groups. Carried out under the guise of fighting “terrorism”, these crimes have targeted ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tajiks.
Chinese authorities have built one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance systems and a vast network of hundreds of grim “transformation-through-education” centres – actually, internment camps – throughout Xinjiang. Torture and other ill-treatment is systematic in the camps and every aspect of daily life is regimented in an effort to forcibly instil a secular, homogeneous Chinese nation and Communist party ideals.
“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
Most survivors who spoke to Amnesty International were first interrogated at police stations, where they had their biometric and medical data recorded before being transferred to a camp. They were often interrogated in “tiger chairs” – steel chairs with affixed leg irons and handcuffs that restrain the body in painful positions. Beatings, sleep deprivation and overcrowding are rampant in the police stations, and detainees reported being hooded and shackled during their interrogation and transfer.
Every former detainee Amnesty International interviewed suffered torture or other ill-treatment.
This included the cumulative psychological effect of their daily dehumanization, as well as physical torture in the form of beatings, electric shocks, solitary confinement, deprivation of food, water and sleep, exposure to extreme cold, and the abusive use of restraints, including torture tools like tiger chairs. Some reported being restrained in a tiger chair for 24 hours or more.