Since April 2017, China has been detaining more than a million Muslim citizens. Most of them belong to the Uighur ethnic group from the northwest province of Xinjiang. Little is known about the reasons behind their detainment, but the Chinese government is detaining anyone who even slightly demonstrates what they perceive as terrorist behaviors. For example, this could include contacting people from ‘sensitive’ countries such as Afghanistan or Turkey, quoting Quaranic texts on the internet, or attending services at mosques, but many seem to have been detained simply for being Muslim.
The Chinese government has characterized these detainment centers as “reeducation camps” meant to provide detainees with the skills and knowledge to be ideal Chinese citizens. However, media coverage of these camps has been severely prohibited, raising concerns about what may actually be happening within the centers. Some reports have been circulating which characterize the camps as far more brutal than the Chinese government has said, with rare photos showing detained Muslims blindfolded and shackled. One Muslim who was detained herself (later fleeing to Istanbul) says people are interrogated with “unbearable brutality” and are fed the bare minimum to survive.
International human rights groups and foreign governments have raised opposition to these detainments, but China denies any violation of human rights. Human rights activists have also expressed frustration over the lack of media coverage and outrage over this issue, although some have noted that China itself is making efforts to stop the spread of news on the detainment centers. There is evidence that China has intimidated Uighurs who have fled the country into keeping quiet about the detainment centers, particularly by threatening the lives of relatives who are still detained in Xinjiang province.
By Antonio Wu