Uighur women held at internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province have been subject to systematic mass rape, former prisoners and staff have claimed.
Two former prisoners and two teachers who had worked at what the Chinese government calls “vocational and educational training centres” described a "culture" of gang rape and sexual torture in interviews with the BBC.
The UN estimates more than one million ethnic Uighur and Kazakh men and women have been detained in a network of camps China built in its far-western Xinjiang Province since 2014.
Chinese officials deny allegations of mistreatment and say camps are educational facilities designed to combat religious extremism and terrorism among the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority.
In March 2019, the Telegraph spoke to eight former detainees who described a regime of systematic torture and forced labour. There have also been reports of forced sterilisations.
The US, UK and other foreign governments have repeatedly called on China to close the camps.
The latest testimony contains the most detailed accounts to date of sexual torture.
Tursunay Ziawudun, an ethnic Uighur woman who sought refuge in the United States after her release, said women were removed from cells “every night” to be raped by one or more men in masks. She herself was raped on three separate occasions.
She said: “They were three men, not one, three! They did whatever evil their mind could think of. And they didn’t spare any part of the body, biting it to the extent that it was disgusting to look at. They didn’t just rape, they were barbaric, they had bitten all over the body.”
Sayragul Sauytbay, a teacher who worked in one camp, said she witnessed prison guards gang rape a young woman in front of other prisoners after compelling her to make a forced confession
Another former prisoner said she was forced to prepare women for rape by stripping them and handcuffing them.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in London insisted its "vocational education and training centres in Xinjiang are not 'detention and reeducation camps'", but "useful and positive explorations of preventive and deradicalisation measures".
"The centres were established to address the root causes of extremism and to prevent further terrorist activities," the embassy said in statement. "They are consistent with the principles embodied in international documents on counter-terrorism, such as the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
"The Chinese side has shared information about Xinjiang through various channels on many occasions to clarify facts, debunk lies and state our position.
"In recent years, the Chinese side has invited more than 1,000 diplomats, journalists and representatives of faith groups from over 100 countries to visit Xinjiang and see with their own eyes the real situation there. From 19 to 22 October 2020, ambassadors and diplomats from 20 diplomatic missions of Arab countries and the Arab League in China visited Xinjiang. They spoke highly of the achievements in the economy, society and human rights situation in the region and pointed out that the accusations against human rights situation in Xinjiang and China were completely groundless.
The embassy also denied that Uighur women are being sterilised and insisted that the Chinese government protects women's rights.
"The so-called 'forced sterilisation' of Uighur women is completely unfounded. The Chinese government protects the rights and interests of all ethnic minorities equally, with preferential population policies toward minority groups including Uighurs."