When vacay turns into detention in China's Muslim Gulag for Uighur youth

ANI | Updated: Mar 02, 2018 04:48 IST

Xinjiang [China] Mar. 2 (ANI): Since 2014, after the announcement of 'people's war on terror', the Chinese Communist Party has created an unprecedented network of re-education camps, essentially ethnic gulags, in the autonomous Xinjiang region.

While Chinese officials maintain that these re-education camps are schools for eradicating extremism, teaching Chinese language, and promoting correct political thought, a report in the webloid foreignpolicy.com says that according to Radio Free Asia, the detention centers are overpopulated and detainees poorly treated.

The report further puts forward testimony from a young Uighur man studying in the United States, who was torn from the American university to a Chinese gulag.

On that note, the region is disturbed since July 5, 2009, when indigenous Uighurs (a largely Muslim minority live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) took to the streets of the capital city Urumqi to protest the murder of fellow Uighurs, who worked in the southern Chinese city- Shaoguan. The protests turned into a riot, claiming 197 lives and nearly 2,000 injuries before order was restored.

Since then, skirmishes between Uighurs and security personnel have become common occurrences.

The report further said that as many as 800,000 individuals, mostly Uighurs, have been incarcerated in the re-education camps.

Speaking about the testimony, in 2017, the young man from a middle-class Uighur family studying in United States flew back to China for the summer recess, planning to spend time with friends on the east coast before he returned to Xinjiang to see his mother.

As soon as he landed in the Chinese metropolis, a flight attendant approached him saying, "They are asking for you," adding, "It's probably just a visa issue."

Three uniformed Han Chinese border patrol officers waited for the young Uighur student on the jet bridge. Taken into custody, he was subject to a cavity search and then had his devices checked and faced multiple questions, to which he carefully constructed responses.

On this note, every resident of Xinjiang has been affixed with the label "safe," "normal," or "unsafe," based on metrics such as age, faith, religious practices, foreign contacts, and experience abroad, by the Communist Party officials. Those deemed unsafe, whether or not they are guilty of wrongdoing, are regularly detained and imprisoned without due process.

The young student was then transported to a local jail and held for nine days.

On the final day of his incarceration, the police squad from Xinjiang arrived. They cuffed him tightly and escorted the young man to his hometown, Xinjiang.

In Xinjiang, after severe interrogation, he was sent to an extrajudicial detention center.

On the 17th day of his incarceration, he was called over by a guard, who informed, "You are being released."

A neighbourhood watch group, or jumin weiyuan hui, from his hometown arrived at the detention center to escort the young student to his house, but not before they delivered him again to the local police chief.

Thirty days after landing in China, he finally reached his hometown, but there, he was behind electronic bars.

His resident ID card, which would be scanned at security checkpoints ubiquitous to the region, now contained information about his "criminal" past.

However, much to his surprise, the student was allowed to return to the United States in time for the fall term.

Although free, Uighur youth now faces the confines of exile, with no clue when or if he can return home. Contacting his mother, who herself has been in a re-education center since last October for travelling to Turkey, risks her safety. (ANI)