With its new report on the treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Amnesty International claims to have carried out the most comprehensive investigation to date on the matter. What is the result of this comprehensive investigation?
Well, in the words of Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International “The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
20 months of @amnesty tireless work into #China treatment of Muslim ethnic minorities of #Xinjiang; 100 pages of detailed evidence of crimes against humanity, massive human rights violations, and a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale. pic.twitter.com/i6wR9kgZXN
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) June 10, 2021
Many of the accusations are not new. Reports on Xinjiang have for some time warned of the use of torture, brainwashing, illegal confinement and even forceful birth control amounting to ‘demographic genocide’ aimed at suppressing the Muslim ethnic minorities.
These groups now no longer just include the Uighurs and Kazakhs but also Hui, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tajik minorities.
An exact estimate of how many have been subjected to such deprivations of human rights in Xinjiang is hard to make given the general level of secrecy regarding such facts in China.
It is estimated that over a million men and women from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have been detained in specialised internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
As many testimonies including the ones gathered by Amnesty show, members of China’s minority Muslim ethnic groups can find themselves being forced into such camps for any number of reasons.
Travelling abroad could be a reason, wearing specific religious clothing or items could be a reason, even having too many children could be cause for being dragged into such camps.
Once in such camps, those confined are ‘re-educated’ with a mixture of physical and psychological torture mixed in with classes on ‘political education’.
The idea is to replace the culture and religion of these groups with ‘reverence’ and love for China and, more importantly, the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
They were even forbidden from speaking in any language, but Mandarin if and when speaking was permitted.
The 160-page report by Amnesty details testimonies from 50 former prisoners of such camps who have spoken in harrowing detail about the horrors they faced in these re-education camps.
Restrictions were placed on detainees’ abilities to defecate and urinate, they were deprived of food, healthcare, natural light and normal human interaction.
Instead, they were given small meals, educational videos and forced to recite and memorise revolutionary songs glorifying China and the CCP. Political education ranged from teaching how ‘evil’ Islam is and how benevolent the CCP is in comparison.
While the report lays out more disturbing details and personal stories, for the most part, these horrors are known to the wider world.
The point of this report, thus, is not just to provide a grimmer reading to those somehow not convinced of China’s actions in Xinjiang.
The point is to create outrage and gather public opinion against China. Indeed, Amnesty ran a campaign on its website where an individual could mail the Chinese Government directly through the organisation and ask it to stop its campaign targeting Muslim ethnic groups inside and outside China.
Amnesty has furthermore called upon the UN to urgently establish an independent investigative mechanism with a view to bringing those responsible for these crimes against humanity to account based on international law.
On its part, China is engaged in an active disinformation campaign that completely refutes the narrative of Xinjiang and the cruelty of the internment camps.
It has pushed back against western brands that have refused to use cotton from Xinjiang and also launched a campaign to show the ‘correct’ version of what is happening in Xinjiang.
This week, Chinese authorities also held a nightmarish press conference that featured the relatives and friends of Uyghur exiles abroad who have shared their stories with international media.
And here it is. ❗️WARNING❗️this is a press conference featuring family and neighbours of @TribunalUyghur witnesses who may be speaking under duress. People who haven’t been seen by their exiled families in a long time.
— Luke de Pulford 裴倫德 (@lukedepulford) June 9, 2021
The survivors were ‘coaxed’ into speaking out against those who have given testimony abroad at the independent Uyghur Tribunal in the UK that was formed in September last year.
A disturbing display of power, the press conference shows that when it comes to the Xinjiang narrative, China is not willing to concede defeat even if the whole world gathers to point a finger at the atrocities happening within its internment camps.
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