Chinese Outreach Coordinator, UHRP
Presented at 13th Inter-Ethnic, Inter-Faith Leadership Conference, DC.
The current crackdown on Uyghurs began around 2014, and 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. Uyghur homes are invaded by Chinese settlers after the owners sent to the internment camps through government sponsored arrangements; Uyghur peoples’ private life has been destroyed through intrusion of party officials inside Uyghur families; Even expressing the ethnic identity is considered as a crime.
According to Western media and academics Currently over a million Uyghurs are being arbitrarily detained in the internment camps across East Turkestan; including man, 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 physiologically tortured and there have been many cases of dead in custody and suicides. Two Uyghur students who returned from Egypt died in one of these camps in Korla in very suspicious circumstances. few months ago, a very well respected 84 years old Uyghur religious scholar Muhammed Salih Hajim died in one those camps in Urumchi in similar suspicious conditions. According to RFA’s June 4th report, a 24 years old young Uyghur women died in Bugur (Southern part of ET), in one of these concentration camps; her 2 years 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, 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 left on the streets and even some 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 Chinese security forces are exercising within the camps is horrifying according to eyewitness detainees. On November 28th 2018, Mihrigul Tursun, 29 years old mother of 3 children, who was lucky enough to survive from the camps testified in front of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, disclosed horrific conditions and experiences of the camp life. According to her testimony the conditions of the camps are very poor, with reports of overcrowding and bad food, forcing detainees to drink unknown liquids, receiving injections, torture and death. The camps are expanding according to reports; some 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 not to practice religion. They are holding people who have religious belief, connections overseas, travelled to overseas or even just interest in going abroad. Uyghur officials are also being locked up for being "two faced." Uyghur scholars, teacher and even travel agencies’ Uyghur employees were detained due to some times in their life either said something sympathetic Uyghur culture or simply acted as a Uyghur person. There are even report that anyone under 40 is being targeted.
This wave of detaining millions of Muslim Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic people in East Turkestan is a show of power and control. With it, China is creating an Orwellian state where no individual can behave in any way not dictated by the State.
In a word, China has turned East Turkestan into a police state with the latest technologies being implemented for complete surveillance and control.
As a conclusion, I wish to quote a poem, that has been written by Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) in 1946, a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany during the world war two/Nazi German period.
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
I hope we don’t come to the stage that saying….
Then they came for Uyghurs, I did not speak out – because I was not an Uyghur……………………………