China has turned Xinjiang into ‘dystopian hellscape’ for Uighur Muslims

File image: Members of Uighur community living in Turkey stage a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, Wednesday, 2 June, 2021 (AP)
File image: Members of Uighur community living in Turkey stage a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, Wednesday, 2 June, 2021 (AP)

International human rights organisation Amnesty International has claimed China is carrying out mass internment, torture and persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang region.

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, said their report reveals “detailed evidence of crimes against humanity, massive human rights violations, and a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale”.

Amnesty International’s 160-page report, “Like we were enemies in a war,” said that the evidence it has collected concludes that the Chinese government has “committed at least the following crimes against humanity: imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; and persecution.”

Amnesty’s report is based on field and remote research carried out between October 2019 and May 2021. It includes first-hand testimonies gathered from former detainees of the internment camps and others who were present in Xinjiang after 2017, as well as from analysis of satellite imagery and data.

The people interviewed for the report includes 55 former detainees of the internment camps in Xinjiang (39 men and 16 women), 15 other witnesses who lived in or visited Xinjiang since 2017, and 68 family members of people from Xinjiang who are currently missing or detained.

The report alleged that “since 2017, under the guise of a campaign against “terrorism”, the government of China has carried out massive and systematic abuses against Muslims living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang).”

It said that far from a legitimate response to the purported terrorist threat, China’s campaign evinces a clear intent to target parts of Xinjiang’s population on the “basis of religion and ethnicity and to use severe violence and intimidation to root out Islamic religious beliefs and Turkic Muslim ethno-cultural practices.”

“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of Muslims have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus,” Ms Callamard tweeted.

She said millions of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups living in Xinjiang are subjected to a campaign of subjugation and forced assimilation, compelled to abandon their religious traditions, cultural practices and local languages.

Over the past few years, China has been repeatedly accused of targeting Uighurs within the country as well as outside. Beijing, however, has consistently denied the allegations.

According to the report, to achieve political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation, China has undertaken a campaign of arbitrary mass detention.

“Huge numbers of men and women from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have been detained. They include hundreds of thousands who have been sent to prisons as well as hundreds of thousands – perhaps one million or more – who have been sent to what the government refers to as “training” or “education” centres,” it said.

The report highlighted that detainees in these camps are subjected to a ceaseless indoctrination campaign as well as physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

It said that the “Muslims living in Xinjiang may be the most closely surveilled population in the world.”

The report said that, according to former residents of Xinjiang, the system of surveillance involves extensive, invasive in-person and electronic monitoring in the form of biometric data collection, including iris scans and facial imagery, invasive interviews by government officials, and regular searches and interrogations by ubiquitous security officers.

The methods used for surveillance also include homestays by government employees and cadres assigned to live with ethnic minority families, network of surveillance cameras, a vast network of checkpoints and unfettered access to people’s personal communication devices and financial history..

The report demanded that the China should “immediately close all the remaining internment camps and release all persons held in internment camps or other detention facilities.” It also said that the United Nations must establish an independent international mechanism to investigate crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government is yet to respond to the Amnesty report, however, the foreign ministry routinely dismisses reports talking about alleged torture in Xinjiang.

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