Uyghur Update: 8th-15th September

Reports from Myanmar and the Rohingya have been making headlines this week. Even WUC released a statement in regards to it. Although most of the reports I’ve seen are about how the government was abusing its power and using lethal force on innocent civilians in what is being deemed as ethnic cleansing, I did see one person on my Facebook who was defending the government. She was adamant that the Western media was reporting false news, that there had been a premeditated terrorist attack which killed 12 people, and that this was a very biased view of the situation. But even if it was terrorists (Islamic or Buddhist?) and not the government who were now burning villages, slaying children, and displacing thousands of innocent civilians, the blockage of many foreign NGOs or foreign aid, and the refusal to create a safe zone is a bit suspect. Also, Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya and Muslims has been terrible for years. I remember seeing an exhibition gallery on the Rohingya situation in 2013. All in all the situation reminds me of all the Chinese people pointing their fingers at smaller attacks to justify imprisoning and killing thousands, or Israeli forces justifying a murder because a child threw a stone. That’s not eye for an eye, that’s a hair for an arm. Anyway:

 

Inside the Uyghur Region

Education

RFA released a report on the reeducation camps (now officially called “Professional Education Schools”) we’ve been hearing about for the past year. It is based on local police officers and officials’ statements and it’s pretty terrible:

“Five kinds of suspicious people have been detained and sent to education camps: people who throw away their mobile phone’s SIM card or did not use their mobile phone after registering it; former prisoners already released from prison; blacklisted people; ‘suspicious people’ who have some fundamental religious sentiment; and the people who have relatives abroad,” a female police officer from far western Xinjiang told RFA.

No wonder our relatives tell us not to call them anymore. You get sent straight to reeducation. And how would you define “suspicious people”? The numbers are crazy:

The officer from Ujme Township in Aktu (Aketao in Chinese) County, Kizilsu (Kezilesu) prefecture, said three education camps had been set up in Aktu County since March, with the largest camp lying between the border of Aktu and the city of Kashgar (Kashi).

“Around a thousand people are detained here and scheduled to receive political education,” she told RFA.

“The second camp is located behind Aktu county police bureau, where I guess around 600 people are detained. The third camp opened last month and holds more than 300 people. I think the total number of detained people reached 2,000, she added.

A second female Aktu police officer, from a police station in Pilal Township, estimated that “several thousand detainees” were undergoing re-education in camps in the county.

“I don’t know the exact number of detainees, because people on the black lists are divided into groups and sent to education camps on different days,” she told RFA. “Our police chief and political commissar know the exact numbers, but they did not inform us,” she added.

But what happens at the camps? How long do they last?

The second policewoman described the facilities as “closed schools” because authorities keep internees “detained day and night, and they continuously receive political and ideological education.”

“Nobody knows how long the ‘closed education’ lasts. First of all, the detainees are interrogated by the police, and then they are sent to different education camps,” she said.

“A few people are released after two or three months. But most detainees sent to camps indefinitely,” said the policewoman.

“Most of the former religious figures, including religious scholars and people who have some religious knowledge are detained and sent to education camps,” she added.

The first policewoman told RFA “many people have been involuntarily detained at the education camps now.”

“Because the number of detainees already exceeded the local authorities’ initial estimate, some of them were released and returned to their villages and arranged political training under the watch of local cadres,” she said.

Remember, these people have not been sentenced to any crime – they are simply deemed “politically unreliable”. People are being held in detention indefinitely because their political or religious beliefs don’t align with the government’s. Imagine, if that happened in the US where Trump is in power, how many people would be in detention? That’s ridiculous. Also note that not all are adults – children are held in these detention centres, too. I mentioned in another update that a family from Egypt were detained after returning voluntarily, and that included a young boy.

Human Rights Watch released a report on these re-education camps as well. They provide more detail:

State media in Xinjiang, including the Xinjiang Daily, have reported on these facilities. People interviewed and state media generally refer them as “counter extremism training centers” (去极端化培训班) and “education and transformation training centers” (教育转化培训中心). The facilities are converted from schools or other official buildings, though some are specifically built for the purpose. Media reports have noted that party cadres “eat, live and labor” alongside those “who need to be transformed,” and that life and hours there are “just like a boarding high school… except the content of learning is different.”

The family members interviewed said they believed their relatives were being detained for a number of reasons, including traveling abroad or having families who live abroad. Others may have been targeted for participating in unauthorized religious activities, such as wearing headscarves or other Muslim attire, or merely for having relatives who had been previously arrested by the government. State media reports also said that people who “are easily influenced by religious extremism” as well as “key personnel” – a term that refers to people perceived as threats by authorities – have also been detained in these facilities.

The family members also said that detainees are required to learn the Chinese language, and recite Chinese and Xinjiang laws and policies. They are compelled to watch pro-government propaganda videos, and to renounce their ethnic and religious identities, reciting slogans such as “religion is harmful,” and “learning Chinese is part of patriotism.”

It is not clear how many people are held in these facilities at any one time. An April 5 Xinjiang Daily article  reported that over 2,000 people had been “trained” in a Hotan facility, though it does not give a time frame. This report features a Uyghur traditional medicine seller named Ali Husen, who was “sent” to this center by the township authorities. Though Husen was “initially very reluctant” to learn, he increasingly became “shocked by his ignorance.” After two months of education, Husen was asked to “clearly articulate his stance (发声亮剑)” to a crowd of 5,000 and told them “how extremism had harmed him.”

Media reports say that ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz have also been detained for having traveled abroad or having “spoken about Kazakhstan a lot.” Other reasons for their detentions are not known.

If you click on the links you can actually read the local reports on these centres.

Last week I talked about Nathan VanderKlippe, the reporter who tweeted about being detained by Chinese security. This week he also released an article talking about the ‘reeducation’ that is taking place. Apparently it’s a great article but I don’t want to pay to read it so…

The push for “bilingual” education continues, as China now plans to send 5000 teachers to the region each year for preschool education. China has been teaching this since my mum went to school in the region, but I guess they need to re-emphasize the “fact” that “Xinjiang has always been an inalienable part of China” to those who are old enough to remember the PRC occupation occurred only 2 generations ago.

But education comes from many different media, for example, on ticker tapes under Uyghur-language TV programs. Culture and fashion are no exception. A video was published showing the clothing of Uyghur women in different regions 100 years ago. It’s all very pretty and I wish I could enjoy it just as it is. But I couldn’t help but notice they had to state that there was influence from Han and Manchu culture? There is obviously influence from many cultures, like Mongol, Tajik, Afghan, Indian, other Turkic cultures, etc. but no, the Han and Manchu influence is highlighted twice in that snippet… I assume the designers and producers have to show some sort of patriotism to get money/airtime to make/show the videos at all but #sigh. It fits in neatly with the earlier news report:

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks while addressing a two-day symposium on the region’s historical issues, which closed Wednesday.

Yu emphasized that Xinjiang is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and that China has been a unified and multi-ethnic country since the Qin and Han dynasties more than 2,000 years ago.

He pointed out that the various ethnic groups in the region are members of the Chinese nation, and share the common interest of realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.

The culture of ethnic groups in the region is rooted in the rich soil of Chinese civilization and is an indivisible part of it, according to Yu.

That’s right, our culture “is rooted in the rich soil of Chinese civilisation.” That’s the narrative we have to choke on. Apparently they also stated that we are “racially linked family members of the Zhonhua minzu“. lol well, we’re also racially linked to almost every Central Asian country and the whole world if you go far back enough! One big, happy family.

Security

More shows of force as 10,000 armed police force conduct their damn exercises over 3 days. Oh but everything’s good because the armed police force gave some rice to some villages lol okay. Militarize villages but give the kids some oil to shut up, that’s great.

This tweet suggests there are “convenience stations” (security checkpoints) every 200 m in Urumchi’s Uyghur districts… Here’s another tweet highlighting the effects of extra security.

I spoke of security using facial recognition on Uyghurs in a previous update. Here’s an actual published paper from Xinjiang University looking into better techniques to recognise Uyghur faces. The doi link seems to be broken so that’s a bit fishy.

More on the push for greater internet restrictions: Weibo users were given 1 week to provide their real namesHere’s a podcast shedding some more light on China’s cyber security laws.

Religion

UHRP released a report on the new religious regulations (The 2017 Religious Affairs Regulations) put in place in East Turkestan. Apparently the 5 main religions held a conference to agree on sinicizing the religions. Here is an article on the changes made last year which could be helpful. According to some personal accounts on Twitter, it seems like the Hui are now being targeted too? This Hui man was arrested for “illegally” teaching people about Islam on WeChat (he taught mostly family and friends how to pray, explained Eid, taught Quran). 2 years in jail for disturbing social order. Basically:

Huang Shike was found guilty of illegally using information and the Internet, said the verdict released by the Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture branch court of Higher People’s Court of Xinjiang in March.

Huang, by preaching and teaching the Koran at non-religious venues, disturbed the administrative order of normal religious activities, severely violated China’s laws on regulating religious affairs and greatly harmed society, the verdict read.

Clauses regarding illegally using information and the Internet were added to the Criminal Law in 2015, which ban establishing websites or online groups to conduct illegal activities such as committing fraud, teaching people how to commit crimes and selling prohibited articles.

And apparently people returning from Hajj will head straight to reeducation camps upon arrival. Yeah, happiest Muslims in the world!

Arrests

I think this article says that 1500-2000 people were arrested from one village near Ghulja (of a population of only 13,000). Click the links for more info (although they’re mostly in Uyghur or Chinese).

In Hotan and Kashgar, people have been arrested because they were found to be in possession of boxing gloves at home. This includes a 21-year old guy who was sentenced for 20 years. He had no connection to anything, he was just learning to box. People are apparently being arrested for wearing sportwear, training in the morning, or having sandbags at home if they are not somehow associated with athletics in their jobs. The 21-year old’s mother was also sent to re-education (3 months) for not educating her son better, and for not reporting that he was learning to box.

A Kazakh man was imprisoned for a year, most likely because he prays 5 times a day at home. His friends and relatives were threatened not to spread rumours about the case. The article talks more about new legislation that targets Kazakh people in the region. 50 Kazakh people were also detained for watching a boxing match on their phones:

Those detained had all received and viewed the video, which had been banned by the ruling Chinese Communist Party amid a crackdown on ethnic Kazakhs migrating to neighboring Kazakhstan or maintaining family or cultural ties there.

Kanat Islam, who formerly held a Chinese passport, was a bronze welterweight medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as the 2006 Asian Games. He became a citizen of Kazakhstan in 2011.

Chinese police in Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi have detained “more than 50” ethnic Kazakhs for viewing the video since Sept. 10, sources said. Many were hotel guests.

A further five Kazakhs were detained in Kanat’s home county of Habahe, and are being held at an unknown location.

“They didn’t even use circumvention software to get around the Great Firewall,” the Urumqi source said. “They viewed footage live-streamed from the scene of the boxing match via the WeChat app by people in the crowd.”

It is as ridiculous as it sounds:

“The Habahe county police won’t let anyone talk about Kanat. You’re not allowed to praise him or talk about what a cool guy he is or how well he fights,” the source said. “That’s banned.”

“He won a bronze medal at the Olympics, but then he emigrated to Kazakhstan,” he said. “I’m sure you are aware of the recent situation [for Kazakhs] in Xinjiang.”

In recent months, Xinjiang’s government has implemented a regionwide “localization” policy that seeks to place curbs on ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals, especially those with loved ones overseas.

wtf.

Update on the guy from my community who disappeared when he went to China: apparently he is being detained in Urumchi. Not sure what else is happening.

 

Uyghur Organisations

A press conference titled “Is China a partner for democratic states?” was held at the office of the International Society for Human Rights ( IGFM) in Frankfurt on 7 September, 2017. Dolkun Isa spoke on “the long arm of the People’s Republic of China endangers human rights defenders in Europe”. The speech can be read here. He also talked about Chinese interference in the UN at a UN side-event. The UN rights chief himself is being berated for treading too lightly around China. And one more video of Isa talking at HRC36. I guess it’s been a busy week.

China continues to accuse Isa of being a terrorist and claims that their human rights have improved and that HRW are blind and biased. Of course, they don’t state any sources because their claims of truth and change are apparently so big that it’s “obvious”. We are to apparently talk to a million villagers who are no longer living in poverty. Okay.

It was the 9/11 anniversary. UHRP released a statement.

 

Outside the Region

Looks like Cambridge University Press is standing true to their values now, and are no longer blocking certain articles. That’s nice to hear.

Here’s a long article on how China may be influencing Australian education.

In light of the Rohingya news, this op-ed came out from Pakistan about its solidarity with Muslim communities around the world:

We Pakistanis have been bred on the notion that Muslims constitute an extra-territorial community of sorts; hence our solidarity with the Rohingyas and lament of their neglect by the rest of the (infidel) world. Our sentiments vis-à-vis other disenfranchised ‘Muslim’ communities are similar — Kashmiris top the list, but Bosnians, Pales­tinians and Chechens are also beneficiaries of our ‘Muslim’ solidarity. Standing with the oppressed is an entirely laudable endeavour.

However:

…in picking some instances of suffering and remaining shamefully silent on others, we demonstrate only how much hypocrisy supposedly civilised ‘nations’ are capable of.

I have long learned not to rely on “Muslim” countries to help other Muslims. Pakistan has been deporting Uyghurs and Afghans for a long time, and now look at Egypt. The Muslim princes of the Middle East do nothing to help their own, let alone the Ummah, and Turkey continues to deny they did anything wrong to the Kurds. Anyway, back to the article:

Cue more damning examples. Our ‘higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the deepest ocean’ friendship with China has mandated that we remain completely silent on the treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority that occupies the vast Xinjiang region bordering Pakistan to the north — and, which, even more significantly, China seeks to transform by building CPEC. The Uighur are Muslim, but there isn’t a hue and cry at the manner in which the Chinese state has suppressed their basic freedoms, and is now steadily facilitating the influx of ethnic Han Chinese into Xinjiang to fundamentally transform the region’s social mores.

In theory, a primary reason for Pakistan’s silence vis-à-vis the Uighurs is that there is a right-wing separatist movement raging in Xinjiang, and all ‘civilised’ states in today’s world ostensibly share the same position with regards to ‘terrorism’. But a separatist movement with deep historical roots within the Rohingya people is also active in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, and it is under the guise of defanging the ‘terrorists’ that the state has initiated its latest military incursion. The question, as ever, is why some forms of (armed) resistance to state persecution are considered ‘terrorism’ and others are not? As the example of the Uighur confirms, a certain community’s ‘Muslim’ credentials are not always enough for us to stand up for them.

smh.

Egypt

But there is some good news! 12 students in Egypt have been released, with the others set to be released later. Some students still remain missing, and some were already deported, but at least it’s good news for these 100 or so students. Hopefully they are able to reestablish themselves in Egypt or elsewhere. Hopefully Egypt does not do this again.

China

Rights groups have asked China to stop detaining them, China said these accusations were fake news. You know, it’s true that if someone keeps repeating a lie, you will believe them. So many people are swayed by the constant lies of a government. Perhaps it’s comfortable for them.

This article came out saying ethnicity factors strongly in PLA promotions, which I thought was just stating the obvious. Why would China put a minority in a position of power? Why would a minority want to fight for a country that oppresses their people? There’s also the statistics… the paper itself states that 92% of China’s population is Han so obviously over 92% of the army would be Han… But there was some interesting tidbits of history in there:

That mentality is rooted in history. Margub Iskhakov was the PLA’s youngest ever general. Born in Yining [Ghulja] to a Tatar family in 1923, Iskhakov fought alongside the Soviet-backed Yili National Army against Sheng Shicai, the Kuomintang-allied governor of Xinjiang.

After the PLA absorbed the Yili National Army in December 1949, Iskhakov joined the Chinese Communist Party and was made a general at the young age of 32 in 1955. In 1960, he became Xinjiang military district’s deputy chief of staff.

As Mao’s Great Leap Forward famine began to shake Xinjiang in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Iskhakov petitioned the Central Military Commission expressing his wishes to leave China. In 1962, he successfully defected to the Soviet Union. Following his lead were some 40 ethnic officers, among them the Uyghur general Zunun Taipov, who later tried to raise an army in the Soviet Union to unseat Chinese power in Xinjiang.

Fifty years later the case is still shrouded in mystery, with questions about whether Iskhakov and Taipov were Soviet KGB assets or genuinely disillusioned with Chinese communism and a policy failure that resulted in widespread famine. One thing is certain, however: the Iskhakov incident, marking the worst case of mass defection in the PLA’s history, still casts a long shadow over PLA officers from less Sinicized ethnic groups, particularly those associated with separatism.

To be sure, mistrust of ethnic minority officers loosely affiliated with perceived “hostile elements” is not only a PLA phenomenon. It’s a common trait of several insecure authoritarian or weak democratic regimes worldwide. Although there have been some improvements in PLA minority representation, including a larger delegation at this year’s Congress, it will be a long time before ethnic officers are promoted to play a role in reshaping the highly centralized, ethnic Han-dominated armed forces in more localized ways.

Anyway, sometimes I think if Texas, Northern Ireland, or Quebec can secede from their respective nations then perhaps East Turkestan will have a chance. We have more of a reason and necessity to, considering the oppression and all.

 

 

Miscellaneous 

This video was uploaded on YouTube and I think the guy in the black hat is Seypidin Eziz? Not sure what to do with this info but thought some people might find it interesting. Video restoration is pretty amazing.

We’ve started a Twitter account that follows the same idea as my Instagram account: UyghurArchive. Follow for some cool photos on your tl.

 

 

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