On July 8th Zubayra Shamseden, UHRP’s Chinese outreach coordinator, spoke at the second China Human Right’s Lawyers Day at Fordham University in New York. The event commemorates the “709 Incident” when on July 9th, 2015, when over 200 lawyers and activists were swept up in a massive crackdown on human rights advocates. Along with 14 other rights organizations, UHRP had participated in the inaugural China Human Rights Lawyers Day on July 9th 2017, and is pleased to be able to continue to add our voice to those standing up for human rights in China.
Dear Teng Biao and other organizers,
Thank you for inviting me to the annual ‘China Human Rights’ Lawyers’ Day’ event. It is my honor to be here to represent the voices of the people, who live in the most lawless, distressing place on Earth under the Chinese communist regime, called East Turkistan or so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
Let me tell you what’s happening to the people of this region right now:
The horrible situation that Uyghur people are facing is not new. The current worsening crackdown began around 2014, and it has escalated since the current Chairman Chen Quanguo took office.
Beijing’s repressive policies since Chen took office turned to a wholesale attack on Uyghur religion, culture and ethnic identity. He turned East Turkestan into a police state. Practicing religion and culture is banned. Thousands of mosques have been demolished. All religious symbols are confiscated. Even expressing the ethnic identity is considered a crime.
According to Western media and academics, currently over a million Uyghurs are being arbitrarily detained in so-called re-education camps across East Turkestan; including men, women and children. Almost every Uyghur family has at least one or several of their family members detained in these concentration camps. The camps are real prisons. People are being physically and psychologically tortured and there have been many cases of death in custody as well as suicide. We have reports of two Uyghur students who returned from Egypt to die in one of these camps in Korla in very suspicious circumstances. A few months ago, a very well respected 84-year-old Uyghur religious scholar, Muhammed Salih Hajim, died in one those camps in Urumchi in similarly suspicious conditions. According to RFA’s June 4th report, a 24-year-old young Uyghur woman died in Bugur (Southern part of ET), in one of these concentration camps; her 2-year-old son was left orphaned and even her dead body wasn’t given to family for funeral service, saying that the authorities will handle her burial.
Not only are the camps damaging the regular lives of Uyghurs, it is dismantling societies, families, and tearing children apart from parents; according to RFA, some children whose parents were locked up in the camps were sent to overcrowded, terrible conditioned orphanages, some were left on the streets, and the rest were sent to orphanages in mainland China. According to RFA, there are very loose administrative procedures for ‘adoptions’ of the Uyghur children in mainland China.
What the Chinese security forces are exercising within the camps is horrifying according to eyewitness detainees. Several people who experienced the detention in the camps and managed to leave the country say that the conditions of the camps are very poor, with reports of overcrowding and bad food, which the inmates themselves must pay for. The camps are old factories and building such as schools, where inmates listen to CCP propaganda, sing red songs and learn Mandarin, and, according to reports, taught to denounce their religion and their very identities.
They are holding people who have religious beliefs, connections overseas, who have travelled overseas or even just expressed interest in going abroad. Uyghur officials are also being locked up for being “two faced.” Uyghur scholars, teachers and even travel agency employees were detained because at some point in their lives they had either said something sympathetic to Uyghur culture or simply acted as a Uyghur person. There are even reports that anyone under 40 is being targeted.
This wave of detaining thousands of Uyghurs and other minority people in East Turkestan is a show of power and control. With it, China is creating an Orwellian state, a police state with the latest technologies being implemented for complete surveillance and control, where no individual can behave in any way not dictated by the Chinese Communist Party.
In conclusion, I would like to quote from an opinion piece, which was published in the Washington Post on May 20th, 2018, titled “China’s Repugnant Campaign to Destroy a Minority People”:
“All who believe in the principle of “never again” after the horror of the Nazi extermination camps and Stalin’s gulags must speak up against China’s grotesque use of brainwashing, prisons and torture. Not just Muslim leaders but supporters of human rights everywhere ought to be outraged at China’s attempted extermination of an indigenous people’s culture and religion.”