Archive for ‘Uighur’

12/02/2019

Uighur crackdown: ‘I spent seven days of hell in Chinese camps’

Aibota Serik
Image captionAibota Serik says her father has disappeared into China’s network of detention centres

The Chinese government calls them free “vocational training centres”; Aibota Serik, a Chinese Kazakh whose father was sent to one, calls them prisons.

Her father Kudaybergen Serik was a local imam in Tarbagatay (Tacheng) prefecture of China’s western Xinjiang region. In February 2018 the police detained him and Aibota hasn’t heard from her father since then.

“I don’t know why my father was imprisoned. He didn’t violate any laws of China, he was not tried in a court,” she says, clutching a small photo of him, before breaking down in tears.

I met Aibota together with a group of other Chinese Kazakhs in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. They gathered in a small office to petition the Kazakh government to help secure the release of their relatives who had disappeared in “political re-education camps”.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has heard there are credible reports that around one million people have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. Almost all of them are from Muslim minorities such as the Uighurs, Kazakhs and others.

There are more than a million Kazakhs living in China. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, thousands moved to oil-rich Kazakhstan, encouraged by its policy to attract ethnic Kazakhs. Today, these people feel cut off from their relatives who stayed in China.

Nurbulat Tursunjan
Image captionNurbulat Tursunjan says the Chinese authorities have confiscated his parents’ passports

Nurbulat Tursunjan uulu, who moved to the Almaty region in 2016, says his elderly parents are unable to leave China and come to Kazakhstan because the authorities took away their passports.

Another petitioner, Bekmurat Nusupkan uulu, says that relatives in China are afraid to talk on the phone or on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat. And they are right to be afraid, he says.

“My father-in-law visited me in February 2018. From my place, he called his son in China, he asked how he was and so on. Shortly after that his son Baurzhan was detained. He was told that he had received phone calls from Kazakhstan two or three times and was sent to a political camp.”

Human Rights Watch says detainees are held “without any due process rights – neither charged nor put on trial – and have no access to lawyers and family”.

Detention centre in Kashgar, ChinaImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionChina insists its detention centres, such as this one in the city of Kashgar, are for “vocational training”

Orynbek Koksybek is an ethnic Kazakh who spent several months in camps.

“I spent seven days of hell there,” he says. “My hands were handcuffed, my legs were tied. They threw me in a pit. I raised both my hands and looked above. At that moment, they poured water. I screamed.

“I don’t remember what happened next. I don’t know how long I was in the pit but it was winter and very cold. They said I was a traitor, that I had dual citizenship, that I had a debt and owned land.”

None of that was true, he says.

A week later Mr Koksybek was taken to a different place where he learnt Chinese songs and language. He was told he would leave if he learnt 3,000 words.

Orynbek Koksybek
Image captionOrynbek Koksybek says he was thrown into a pit

“In Chinese they call it re-education camps to teach people but if they wanted to educate, why do they handcuff people?

“They detain Kazakhs because they’re Muslims. Why imprison them? China’s aim is to turn Kazakhs into Chinese. They want to erase the whole ethnicity,” he says.

It is not possible to independently verify Orynbek Koksybek’s story, but his account is similar to many documented by Human Rights Watch and other activists.

The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan has not replied to the BBC’s request for comment, but the Chinese authorities have been quoted in state media as saying the camps are “vocational training centres”, which aim to “get rid of an environment that breeds terrorism and religious extremism”.

The Kazakh government says that any restrictions on Chinese citizens in China are their internal matter, and it does not interfere. However, Kazakhstan says it will try to assist any Kazakh citizens who are detained in China.

Source: The BBC

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11/02/2019

China retaliates after Turkey’s claims about Abdurehim Heyit

screenshot of video appearing to show Abdurehim HeyitImage copyrightCRI
Image captionA screenshot of the footage appearing to show Mr Heyit

China has railed at Turkish claims it is mistreating its Uighur minority, after a dispute about the fate of a prominent musician.

Turkey cited reports Abdurehim Heyit had died in a detention camp, and called China’s treatment of the Uighurs a “great embarrassment for humanity”.

China then released a video allegedly showing Mr Heyit alive.

The Uighurs are a Muslim minority in north-western China who speak a language closely related to Turkish.

They have come under intense surveillance by the authorities and up to a million Uighurs are reportedly being detained. A significant number of Uighurs have fled to Turkey from China in recent years.

China has asked Turkey to revoke its “false” claims. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said the musician was “very healthy”.

“We hope the relevant Turkish persons can distinguish between right and wrong and correct their mistakes,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

What is in the video?

The video was released by China Radio International’s Turkish-language service, which said Turkey’s criticism of China was unfounded.

Dated 10 February, the video features a man said to be Mr Heyit stating that he is in “good health”.

He gives the date of the video and says he has “never been abused”.

The man is wearing civilian clothes, and is speaking the Uighur language.

What did Turkey say?

Turkey foreign ministry had said that detained Uighurs were being subjected to “torture” in “concentration camps”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the reports of Mr Heyit’s death “further strengthened the Turkish public’s reaction to the serious human rights violations in Xinjiang”.

China has described the comments as “completely unacceptable”.

Meanwhile Nury Turkel – chairman of the US-based Uyghur Human Rights Project – told the BBC that some aspects of the video were “suspicious”.

Mr Turkel says China has the technology to doctor the footage and said it was “their responsibility to prove the video is authentic”.

So far, few Muslim-majority countries have joined in public international condemnation of the allegations.

Analysts say many fear political and economic retaliation from China.

Presentational grey line

Turkey’s strategic blunder?

By John Sudworth, BBC News, Beijing

Critics have long seen Turkey’s silence over the plight of China’s Uighurs as a strategic blunder, undermining President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s lofty claim to moral leadership of the Muslim world.

But belatedly basing its condemnation of China’s system of internment camps on a wrongful claim of a death in custody might be seen as an even bigger blunder.

That is certainly the view of China’s foreign ministry. “The video clip has provided very good evidence for the truth,” the ministry’s spokeswoman said.

In reality, it’s impossible to verify anything about the status of Abdurehim Heyit. Before the claims of the musician’s death, and China’s quick rebuttal, there had been no official word about his detention at all.

Like hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, he had simply disappeared into a legal black hole.

And the video bears all the hallmarks of the forced, televised confessions regularly produced by the combined efforts of China’s Communist Party-controlled courts, police investigators and state-run media.

China has been quick to claim that the reports of Mr Heyit’s death prove that much of the criticism of the situation in Xinjiang is based on falsehoods.

But critics will continue to argue that the confusion – stemming from the lack of any independent scrutiny – shows precisely why there’s such growing concern, even, finally, in Turkey.

Presentational grey line

China’s hidden camps

BBC
Presentational grey line

What do we know about Heyit’s fate?

Heyit was a celebrated player of the dutar, a two-stringed instrument that is notoriously hard to master. At one time, he was venerated across China. He studied music in Beijing and later performed with national arts troupes.

Mr Heyit’s detention reportedly stemmed from a song he had performed, titled Fathers. It takes its lyrics from a Uighur poem calling on younger generations to respect the sacrifices of those before them.

But three words in the lyrics – “martyrs of war” – apparently led Chinese authorities to conclude that Mr Heyit presented a terrorist threat.

Who are the Uighurs?

The Uighurs make up about 45% of the population in Xinjiang.

Media captionJohn Sudworth reports from Xinjiang, where one million Uighurs have reportedly been detained

They see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.

In recent decades, large numbers of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) have migrated to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.

Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

Source: The BBC

10/02/2019

Turkey demands China close camps after reports of musician’s death

John Sudworth reports from Xinjiang, where one million Uighurs have reportedly been detained

Turkey has called on China to close its detention camps following the reported death of a renowned musician from the ethnic Uighur minority.

Abdurehim Heyit is thought to have been serving an eight-year sentence in the Xinjiang region, where up to a million Uighurs are reportedly being detained.

A statement from Turkey’s foreign ministry said they were being subjected to “torture” in “concentration camps”.

China described the comments as “completely unacceptable”.

The Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic-speaking minority based in the north-west Xinjiang region of China, which has come under intense surveillance by Chinese authorities.

Their language is close to Turkish and a significant number of Uighurs have fled to Turkey from China in recent years.

So far few Muslim-majority countries have joined in public international condemnation of the allegations. Analysts say many fear political and economic retaliation from China.

What did Turkey say?

In a statement issued on Saturday, foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: “It is no longer a secret that more than a million Uighur Turks exposed to arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing” in prisons, adding that those not detained were “under great pressure”.

“The reintroduction of concentration camps in the 21st century and the systematic assimilation policy of Chinese authorities against the Uighur Turks is a great embarrassment for humanity,” Mr Aksoy said.

He also said the reports of Heyit’s death “further strengthened the Turkish public’s reaction to the serious human rights violations in Xinjiang” and called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “to take effective steps to end the human tragedy” there.

Presentational grey line

China’s hidden camps

BBC
Presentational grey line

Rights groups say Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are being detained indefinitely without charge for infractions like refusing to give a DNA sample, speaking in a minority language, or arguing with officials.

What was Beijing’s response?

In a statement quoted by the Associated Press, China through its embassy in Ankara called on Turkey to withdraw its “false accusations”.

“Both China and Turkey face the arduous task of fighting terrorism. We are opposed to maintaining double standards on the question of fighting terrorism,” it said.

“We hope the Turkish side will have a correct understanding of the efforts made by China to legally deploy measures to effectively fight terrorism and extremism, withdraw its false accusations and take measures to eliminate their harmful effects.”

Beijing claims that the detention camps in Xinjiang are “vocational education centres” designed to help rid the region of terrorism.

Speaking last October, the top Chinese official in Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, said “trainees” in the camps were grateful for the opportunity to “reflect on their mistakes”.

What do we know about Heyit’s fate?

Amnesty International said it was very concerned about reports of his death, which has not been officially confirmed.

Heyit was a celebrated player of the Dutar, a two-stringed instrument that is notoriously hard to master. At one time, he was venerated across China. He studied music in Beijing and later performed with national arts troupes.

Heyit’s detention reportedly stemmed from a song he performed titled Fathers. It takes its lyrics from a Uighur poem calling on younger generations to respect the sacrifices of those before them.

But three words in the lyrics – “martyrs of war” – apparently led Chinese authorities to conclude that Heyit presented a terrorist threat.

Presentational grey line

Who are the Uighurs?

Uighur men read newspapers in Xinjiang (2015)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The Uighurs make up about 45% of the population in Xinjiang.

They see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.

In recent decades, large numbers of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) have migrated to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.

Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

Source: The BBC

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