Beijing: In the name of education, around 1 million Muslims had been detained in China’s mass “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, said a report released on Tuesday. They were allegedly being tortured, humiliated and brainwashed to ensure ‘compliance with the central government’.
A former inmate Kayrat Samarkand who was detained by police told The Washington Post that his only crime was being a Muslim who had visited Kazakhstan. He was vigorously interrogated for three days, then was sent to a ‘re-education camp’ in China’s western province of Xinjiang for three months. Samarkand, in an interview, said that he was forced to study communist propaganda and forced to chant slogans wishing President Xi Jinping’s long life.
“Those who disobeyed the rules refused to be on duty, engaged in fights or were late for studies were placed in handcuffs and ankle cuffs for up to 12 hours,” he said. Samarkand and another inmate, Omir Bekali, an ethnic Kazakh who was arrested while on a trip from his home in Kazakhstan, said the food was poor in the camps where food poisoning was not uncommon. Prisoners were sometimes forced to eat pork as punishment and those known to be ‘religious extremists’ were forced to drink alcohol.
While Bekali emigrated to Kazakhstan in 2006 and became a Kazakh citizen after Kazakh government won his release, Samarkand said he was allowed to leave for Kazakhstan to join his family after the government seized his house and savings, worth about $190,000. He was handed over $80 by police at the border when he left. Both the former inmates who were interviewed by phone, now live in neighbouring Kazakhstan.
The Chinese government has denied allegations of running these camps, another report believes a significant proportion of the 11 million Muslims in Xinjiang have been detained.
(With The Washington Post inputs)