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Report: Uyghur Muslims living in Chinese “dystopian hellscape”

A shocking report published by Amnesty International has elaborately outlined the broad scope of atrocities that the Chinese government is committing against its significant minority Muslim population. Chinese rule over East Turkestan’s minority Muslim population has been brutal and repressive, with the Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Hui, Uzbek, and Tajik peoples being subjected to a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale.” [1]

The 160-page study, entitled as “Like We Were Enemies In A War”: China’s Mass Internment, Torture And Persecution Of Muslims In Xinjiang, is the culmination of two years of intensive investigation by the human rights advocacy organisation. It draws from the experiences of 128 people, including 68 family members whose loved ones are detained or whose current whereabouts are unknown in the Xinjiang region. In addition, the work publicises the profiles of 55 former concentration camp detainees whose stories have never before been documented.

The extensive report delves into the decades-long history of discrimination and violence meted against Muslim minorities in East Turkestan. These disturbing findings are based on comprehensive accounts which draw attention to the arbitrary detention of hundreds of thousands of individuals belonging to minority groups. Various forms of Chinese surveillance and brutality are explored, such as conditions inside detention sites, restrictions imposed after detention, as well as acts of repression being carried outside of camps.

Of particular note in the report are accounts concerning the use of the so-called “tiger chair” which refers to an iron chair that is employed by interrogators to torture detainees. A former detainee using the pseudonym Madi recounted the tragic example of his cellmate, who was punished by being immobilised in the “tiger chair” and left restrained for over 72 hours. As a result of this terrible ordeal, he began to lose consciousness, even uncontrollably urinating and defecating in the presence of his cellmates.

“I can’t remember his name…[The man] was in our room for more than two months, then he was taken to the doctor – I think he was taken for high blood pressure and because he fainted…As soon as he came back [to our cell] he was made to sit in a tiger chair…They brought the chair into our room…Yes, we were watching. They told us that if we helped him, then we would sit in the chair… It was an iron chair… his arms were cuffed and chained. Legs were chained as well. His body was tied to the back of the chair…Two [cuffs] were locked around his wrists and legs…A rubber thing attached to the ribs to make the person [sit] up straight…He would [urinate and defecate] in the chair. He was in the chair for three nights…He died after he [was taken out of the cell]. We found out through [people] in the cell…He didn’t die in front of us. After 72 hours, he was [urinating and defecating]. We told the guards. They said to clean him. His bottom was wounded. His eyes look unconscious…Then [the guards] took him [out of the cell].” [1]

The use of the so-called “tiger chair” by Chinese police is well documented. In a 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, a substantial number of former inmates under police custody in various regions of China shared their brutal experiences with the torture implement.

Ma Yingying was a former detainee who spent several gruelling weeks strapped to the “tiger chair” while being detained by police in Fujian Province. She shared several disturbing details with HRW, such as the following account:

“I sat on an iron chair all day, morning and night, my hands and legs were buckled. During the day I could nap on the chair, but when the cadres came, they scolded the police for letting me doze off…I sat until my buttocks bled.” [2]

Agnes Callamard, the newly appointed Secretary General of Amnesty International, firmly expressed her condemnation of the Chinese government over its dark and multifaceted approach in exterminating the Uyghur people. Slave labour, concentration camps, sterilisation, and rape are just some of the brutal tactics employed by the regime to subjugate its Muslim minority groups. In her previous capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Callamard voiced similar criticisms against the Chinese regime as well.

Callamard argues that for all people with basic standards of human dignity, upholding the following position is a moral necessity:

“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.” [3]

The detailed report was published and released just a few days after the groundbreaking Uyghur Tribunal held its first in-person evidence gathering sessions in London. The legal commission’s elementary framework was established in the September of last year. This occurred after the President of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa, put forth the idea to the renowned barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. Nice was formally asked to head and investigate the “ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide” against the minority Muslim populations in East Turkestan. [4] [5] [6]

In addition to her remarks welcoming the report, Callamard also calls on China to “immediately dismantle the internment camps, release the people arbitrarily detained in them and in prisons, and end the systematic attacks against Muslims in Xinjiang.” [3]

Furthermore, the veteran French human rights expert made an appeal for international unity:

“The international community must speak out and act in unison to end this abomination, once and for all. The UN must establish and urgently dispatch an independent investigative mechanism with a view to bringing those suspected of responsibility for crimes under international law to account.” [3]

In the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) echoed Callamard’s sentiment. Just a day after the report was released, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the group’s National Deputy Director, made a formal appeal for immediate international action.

In a statement, Mitchell said,

“This comprehensive report from Amnesty International is another reason why there must be immediate international action to stop the Chinese government’s ongoing campaign of genocide against its Uyghur Muslim community. Nations have said ‘Never again’ after prior atrocities, but that phrase will be nothing more than a slogan unless the world–starting with Muslim-majority nations–condemn and take action to end China’s unprecedented crime against humanity.” [7]

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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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