In the past year and a half, Chinese authorities have arrested at least 800,000 and possibly more than two million Uighurs. The Uyghur Muslims are a minority ethnic group living in Central and East Asia and a staggering number of 11 million reside primarily outside Xinjiang, the largest community of them in China. Random reasons for being sent to these camps, and even prison are in place. It could either be because one was heard saying the word “God” or simply practicing and indicating their following to their religion openly, or even contacting a family member abroad.
Authorities in Beijing have called the camps they are being sent to “vocational training centres,” saying those detained within them are taught language, culture and vocational skills. On the contrary, videos have arisen on Twitter and Instagram and prisoners that have escaped these camps have described these camps as Chinese authorities forcing them, of all ages, to recite and denounce Islam and pledge their following to atheism for hours on end in crowded cages. Not only is there a mental strain and abuse on them, but also physical. The atrocities such as forced sterilization, torture methods such as ripping out nails and teeth, using snakes to interrogate or being brutally beaten to death are in place. Even worse, when somebody dies, their body isn’t taken to the family or taken part in a burial, they are cremated, an act looked very down upon in Islam, and used as a way to hide the evidence of their cleansing.
Ilshat Hassan, a Uighur activist who was forced to leave China in 2003, has been separated from his family ever since and has come out, as well as other activists, and shared the horrors he has seen and gone through A quote from him at an interview with Al-Jazeera shows just a glance at the conditions, “The police used electric batons and they electricised me twice in one interrogation. I was being monitored as a teacher at a vocational training college and was arrested twice, beaten and electricised for no given reason.” Senior Izzy Connelly weighs in her opinion on the situation saying, “I had no idea this was going on the world. I haven’t seen anything about this cultural genocide in the news or social media and it definitely is something that more people need to be educated on.” Ms. Hoffer, a teacher in the Social Studies department shared similar views. She says, “I’m shocked and just speechless that this is not being discussed more. I feel that people should be more aware of this issue to help it come to end and shine more light onto the situation.”
So why are these human rights violations not more broadcasted? Chinese officials and their government have denied any allegation of human rights violations and have even called their internment camps centers for “re-education” to teach language, culture and vocational skills. News channels and the media have also not broadcasted what is going on in Western China, until recently with little acknowledgement to the situation through social media which contributes to as to why people don’t know what is going on in this part of the world.