Several people belonging to Muslim minorities, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others, were detained by the Chinese government for merely practicing Islam, a recently published report by Amnesty International noted.
For years now, several cases have emerged that Uyghur Muslims have been ill-treated under the current Chinese government. China has always been secretive about its operations in Xinjiang and denied several allegations of abuse in concentration camps.
In the 160-page report titled ‘’Like We Were Enemies in a War’: China’s Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang,’ Amnesty International recorded testimonies of 55 people detained in internment camps.
Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International said, “The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in Xinjiang. Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations that threaten to erase their religious and cultural identities.”
“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture, and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus,” she said.
In one of the statements of the report, a government official named Aiman who was a part of mass arrests told Amnesty that police arrested people from their homes without any prior warning. They would handcuff them and put black hoods on them. This included women and nobody could resist these arrests. On one night 60 arrests were made and the count increased every day.
The report mentioned that the “former detainees were sent to camps for reasons related to Islamic beliefs or practice, including working in a mosque, praying, having a prayer mat, or possessing a picture or a video with a religious theme.”
The detainees were subjected to physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment. They had no privacy and everything was monitored, even when they used the toilets. They were punished if they spoke in any other language other than Mandarin Chinese.
One of the detainees said, “I think the purpose [of the classes] was to destroy our religion and to assimilate us… They said that we couldn’t say ‘as-salamu alaykum’ and that if we were asked what our ethnicity was we should say ‘Chinese’… They said that you could not go to Friday prayers… And that it was not Allah who gave you all, it was Xi Jinping. You must not thank Allah; you must thank Xi Jinping for everything.”
In another horrific incident mentioned in the report, a man was punished for pushing a guard. He was made to sit on a tiger chair made of iron, with his arms and legs cuffed and chained. A rubber thing was attached to his ribs to make him sit straight. He was in the chair for three nights and eventually died. Several such cases have been recorded in the report.
The report also mentioned that “members of predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang are under heavy surveillance.”
“Anyone living in Xinjiang who speaks out about the internment camps, is perceived to have spoken out, is accused of speaking out, or is affiliated with anyone who has spoken out, risks detention, arrest, imprisonment, torture, and enforced disappearance, not only for themselves but also for their family members,” says the report.
Amnesty International calls on the United Nations to immediately investigate these human rights violations. It also demanded the Chinese government to allow independent human rights investigators, and journalists unfettered access to all of Xinjiang, including to internment camps and prisons.