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China allegedly operating Uyghur black site in UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been roundly condemned for its supporting role in detaining Uyghur Muslims and other Chinese political dissidents at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party. A 26-year-old ethnic Han Chinese woman was recently apprehended for eight days in a Chinese-run covert detention site in Dubai. She revealed to reporters that she saw and heard at least two Uyghur prisoners during her imprisonment. [1]

Both Wu Huan and her fiancé Wang Jingyu had been on the run, as Wang is viewed as being a dissident by Chinese authorities. The latter had published messages on social media that apparently criticised Chinese media for their skewed coverage of the 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations. Wu told the Associated Press that she had been abducted from a hotel in Dubai. She was then held by Chinese officials at a seemingly nondescript villa that had been converted into a “black site”.

The term “black site” refers to a secret prison or interrogation site. The Chinese government denies that it owns or operates any such sites. The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is known to have made extensive use of such facilities in the aftermath of the so-called War on Terror, which was initiated by the US and its allies shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York. Astonishingly, at least 53 countries have been involved in the CIA’s “black site” torture programme over the years. However, the recent testimony by Wu Huan may be the tip of the iceberg for US rival China, as it exploits its growing economic and political leverage around the globe. [2]

During her detention, Wu Huan was reportedly interrogated and ordered to sign a statement accusing her fiancé of harassment. After her release, the pair fled to Ukraine. However, due to threats from Chinese police that they would be extradited to China, she further travelled ahead and is now claiming asylum in the Netherlands.

“I was really scared and was forced to sign the documents…I’ve discovered that the people deceiving us are Chinese, that it’s our countrymen hurting our own countrymen.” [3]

The Dubai government’s media office categorically denied the claims made by Wu, and released the following statement:

“Dubai does not detain any foreign nationals without following internationally accepted procedures and local law enforcement processes, nor does it allow foreign governments to run any detention centers within its borders. Dubai also follows all recognized global norms and procedures set by international organizations like Interpol in the detainment, interrogation and transfer of fugitives sought by foreign governments.” [1]

While the reports by Wu have not been independently verified, there are strong reasons to believe that they are accurate. Radha Stirling, a human rights advocate who founded the UK-based Detained in Dubai campaign group, said the revelations would not be the first time the UAE has been complicit in holding nationals on behalf of foreign nations.

“There is no doubt that the UAE has detained people on behalf of foreign governments with whom they are allied. I don’t think they would at all shrug their shoulders to a request from such a powerful ally.” [1]

In addition, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called upon the US Department of State and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to investigate the shocking reports. If these claims are substantiated, it would be the first time that China has been found to operate a so-called “black site” outside of its borders. [4]

In a statement, CAIR’s Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw said:

“The disturbing reports of a secret Chinese ‘black site’ in the United Arab Emirates must be thoroughly investigated by the State Department and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.” [4]

McCaw further added:

“China is conducting a campaign of genocide against the Uyghur Muslims, and any Uyghurs sent back to that country will likely end up in concentration camps, or worse. Dissidents extradited to China face brutal punishment in labor camps and prisons. If any American allies are assisting in China’s genocide, our nation must hold those nations accountable and issue a warning to Uyghur-Americans who may be at risk if they visit such places.” [4]

The UAE’s involvement in the plight of the Uyghurs is by no means a mere allegation. Indeed, back in February 2018, there was the tragic case of an Uyghur couple, which further indicates the UAE’s complicity in such blatant crimes. Amannisa Abdullah, and her husband, Ahmad Talip, were on their way to a Dubai clothes shop to prepare for their soon-to-be-born child. They received a message that told Ahmad to immediately report to the police station. He did so as requested, and tragically never returned to his family. [5]

The following day, the heavily pregnant Amannisa went to the police station to seek answers and to locate her husband. She found him in a jail cell, and for the next 13 days would board a ferry on a daily basis to meet with her incarcerated husband. Ahmad mentioned his increasing worry that the Chinese government had persuaded the Dubai authorities to detain him.

In the last conversation which Ahmad had with his wife, he both warned and advised her. He told Amannisa in a poignant message:

“It’s not safe here. You must take our boy and [go] to Turkey. If our new baby is a girl, please name her Amina. If he’s a boy, name him Abdullah.” [5]

A week after this correspondence, he was extradited to China. Amannisa, along with her 8-year-old son Musa, fled to Turkey after the UAE authorities informed her of her husband’s deportation to China. She gave birth shortly thereafter, and to this day, their now 3-year-old daughter has not seen her father. [5]

Furthermore, Amannisa and Ahmad’s case is not a singular occurrence. The television channel CNN has gathered testimony from more than a dozen other Uyghur families who have shared similar stories. Unfortunately, the complicity does not lie only with the UAE. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are two other Arab states that are believed to be supporting China’s efforts to bring Uyghurs back into its orbit, undoubtedly in order to detain and oppress them.

Incredibly, in Saudi Arabia there was at least one case where a Uyghur Muslim was detained and deported after performing Hajj. The support of Muslim nations in exacerbating the oppression of the Uyghurs is a dire indictment on the state of the Ummah. It would appear that some political leaders are prioritising trade and commerce, whilst abandoning human rights and any sense of unity as a single body of believers.








About Shaheer Choudhury

Shaheer is a regular news writer for Islam21c. Alongside this position, he also currently works as a casework coordinator at the UK-wide charity, HHUGS. He maintains a strong interest in politics and current affairs, and on the varying worldwide situations of Muslim communities. Prior to working for Islam21c, he developed a number of years' experience in the health and social care sector, and has previously volunteered at the Muslim Youth Helpline.

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