China has been accused of creating a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale” at it attempts to “erase” the religious and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other minority Muslims.
In a new 160-page report and campaign launched on Friday, Amnesty International has alleged mass imprisonment, torture and persecution which amounted to “crimes against humanity” in China’s north-west region of Xinjiang.
The human rights organisation outlined what is said was first-hand information detailing China’s “extreme measures” to “root out the religious traditions, cultural practices and local languages of the region’s Muslim ethnic groups”.
These included building “one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance systems” and hundreds of “‘internment camps” where “torture and other ill-treatment is systematic”.
“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“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.”
China routinely denies all accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang while it has previously been accused by some Western nations of pursuing a genocide against Turkic ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Amnesty said China’s “crimes” were being carried out under the guise of fighting “terrorism” but were aimed at creating a secular, homogeneous Chinese nation with Communist party ideals.
The report entitled ‘Like We Were Enemies in a War’: China’s Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang included testimony from more than 50 former detainees interviewed by Amnesty International’s Crisis Response team.
The report states that since early 2017, huge numbers of men and women from predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang have been “arbitrarily detained”.
“They include hundreds of thousands who have been sent to prisons in addition to hundreds of thousands – perhaps even a million or more – who have been sent to internment camps,” Amnesty stated in a release.
“All of the more than 50 former detainees Amnesty International interviewed were detained for what appears to be entirely lawful conduct, such as possessing a religious-themed picture or communicating with someone abroad.”
Amnesty said one government cadre who participated in mass arrests in late 2017 revealed how police took people from their homes without warning and detained them without due process.
“Most survivors who spoke to Amnesty International were first interrogated at police stations, where they had their biometric and medical data recorded before being transferred to a camp,” the Amnesty release states.
“They were often interrogated in “tiger chairs” – steel chairs with affixed leg irons and handcuffs that restrain the body in painful positions.
“Beatings, sleep deprivation and overcrowding are rampant in the police stations, and detainees reported being hooded and shackled during their interrogation and transfer.
“From the moment they entered the prison-like internment camps, detainees’ lives were extraordinarily regimented” and they suffered harsh punishments.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch stated the Chinese government has committed and is continuing to commit to “crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic communities in Xinjiang.
Fear in Australia
Amnesty International campaigner Kyinzom Dhongdue told the ABC the “fear is palpable” among Australia’s Uyghur community who have loved ones in Xinjiang.
Nurmuhammad Majid, a Uyghur community leader in Adelaide, said hundreds of people living in Australia were affected.
“In Australia we are unable to do anything to save our family members,” he said, stating that being connected to an overseas activist could lead to detention and other abuses in China,” he told ABC.
“My older brother, my younger brother, my two sisters … and their families are targeted by the Chinese authorities.
“We are unable to secure any credible information about their safety … whether they are alive or not.”