China’s mass internment, torture and persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang

Since 2017, under the guise of a campaign against “terrorism”, the government of China has carried out massive and systematic abuses against Muslims living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), Amnesty International (AI) has said.

In a report published on Thursday, Amnesty called on the UN to investigate, and said China had subjected Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims to mass detention, surveillance, and torture.

“Since 2017, the government of China has carried out massive and systematic abuses against Muslims living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). The human suffering has been immense. Huge numbers of men and women from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have been arbitrarily detained and sent to internment camps or prison. The internment camp system is part of a larger campaign of subjugation and forced assimilation of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

The report states that the Chinese government aims to replace Muslim beliefs and practices with secular state-sanctioned views and behaviours, and, ultimately, to forcibly assimilate members of these ethnic groups into a homogenous Chinese nation possessing a unified language, culture, and unwavering loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“The Chinese government has devoted tremendous resources to concealing the truth about its actions. It prevents millions of people living in Xinjiang from communicating freely about the situation and denies journalists and investigators meaningful access to the region. People living abroad are often unable to obtain information about family members in Xinjiang who are missing and presumed to be detained,” the report says.

Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnès Callamard accused Chinese authorities of creating “a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale”.

“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,” she said.

Hundreds of thousands have been sent to prisons as well as hundreds of thousands have been sent to what the government refers to as “training” or “education” centres — more accurately described as internment camps — to achieve this political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation, AI’s report says.

Detainees in these camps are subjected to a ceaseless indoctrination campaign as well as physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment, as per the report.

“These policies violate multiple human rights, including the rights to liberty and security of person; to privacy; to freedom of movement; to opinion and expression; to thought, conscience, religion, and belief; to participate in cultural life; and to equality and non-discrimination. These violations are carried out in such a widespread and systematic manner that they are now an inexorable aspect of daily life for millions of members of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

AI has demanded that the Chinese government immediately close all the remaining internment camps and release all persons held in internment camps or other detention facilities – including prisons – in Xinjiang, unless there is sufficient credible and admissible evidence that they have committed an internationally recognized offence.