Uyghur Update: May 2018

A monthly update… a late monthly update… in my defense there’s been a lot of coverage in the media lately…


In the Uyghur Region

Forced Marriage

Uyghur women are being coerced into marriages with Han Chinese. If they refuse, they and their families may be detained or sent to re-education. This has been covered by: AJ+ Francais and Arabic, Taiwan News, Asia Times, TomoNews US. There are pictures floating around on Facebook, Facebook, and a video of a man crying about how if his daughter doesn’t accept the marriage proposal of a Han Chinese, the family will be thrown into re-education. Unverified Facebook post with another example… then again, it’s difficult to verify anything… They sing the Chinese anthem at weddings too…

Re-education Camps/Prison

More religious scholars, Abdulehed Mehsum and Allaamah Abdulahatkhan Makhdom have passed away in the camps. Previously I talked about Dr Halmurat Ghopur being detained. Apparently he has passed away in prison. This Facebook post also notes that his name may also be erased from some of his scientific publications.

A literature professor has been detained. More elderly are being taken into re-education where they are dying. A student returning from Malaysia has been detained. Imams and businessmen all being sent to prison. They’re donating cellphones to residents…

China is branding the re-education camps as “free medical treatment” for people with “unhealthy minds”: Facebook. They also say they are allowing people to learn the constitution in “interesting ways”: Global Times. But two Uyghur civil servants were jailed for 11 years for not showing enough “enthusiasm” and not sending people to re-education: RFA. Doctors seem to have been told to diagnose sick people as healthy so that police can fill their camp quotas. Here are some photos of the camps. They’re really not hiding it

Shawn Zhang released a list of re-education camps found using satellite images from Google Earth. You can keep up-to-date with him on Twitter as he finds more re-education camps, for example here where he finds 15 more in Ghulja. Here is more proof and PDFs of the existence of these camps.


Here’s a story of a mother who died trying to get to a flag raising ceremony.

More photos of knives chained to tables of restaurants and food carts because the Chinese government suspects all Uyghurs of being a potential threat.

Apparently many (if not all?) ethnic minority teachers have been fired from their jobs: ChinaAid. Here’s a notification released in April saying “double-faced personals” will be detained, aka people who don’t speak Chinese.


Here, UHRP summarises China’s new policies/White Paper on the control of religion (released in April, 2018). This article talks about how religious symbols are being removed from Hui places – and how rolling out policies effective in ET would be disastrous. Obviously Ramadan is banned: China Aid. Here’s an interview with Salih Hudayar on the fasting ban. Here’s video of Uyghurs drinking alcohol during Ramadan. Here’s an article on China’s “war against Islam“. Here’s a video of Rebiya Kadeer talking about the restrictions on religious freedoms by Freedom Collection. All mosques need to raise the Chinese flag.

During the month of Ramadan, WUC has been releasing posts on social media about the religious repression happening in East Turkistan. You can see it on Twitter or Instagram.




A big selling point of the technology, according to one policeman from the restive far western region of Xinjiang who was eyeing a Hisign scanner, was its claimed ability to get data from Apple Inc’s iOS operating system, used in products like the widely popular iPhone.

“We are actually using these kinds of scanners in Xinjiang already, but I am interested in this one as it claims to be more successful with iOS phones than other brands,” said the policeman, surnamed Gu, who traveled 3,000 kilometers to attend the fair. He declined to provide his given name.

More than a billion dollars has been spent on surveillance in the region alone.

German citizen Osman Tursun told RFA that the Chinese government had asked him to spy on the Uyghur diaspora, holding his 3 sons in re-education camps as blackmail.

Human Rights Watch released a short video on how Chinese officials are living with Uyghur families to keep watch on their behaviour. Here is the accompanying article. This was also covered by CNN and RFA.

Apparently there seems to be bomb drills happening in Korla and other cities…

A report on how Bingtuan has tightened its grip on areas like Hotan through land reclamation and demographic dilution: Financial Times


In The News

Two pieces of news opened the floodgates for reporting on re-education camps this month. Firstly, Adrian Zenz came out with a paper that detailed evidence showing the re-education camps were real: “Thoroughly Reforming them Toward a Healthy Heart Attitude” – China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang. You can see more of his thoughts/a summary/link to the full report on his Twitter thread (his Twitter is also pretty great for evidence of what is happening in ET). Second was this interview with Omir Bekali, a Kazakh man who was placed in prison for 7 months and then into a re-education camp before being released. He describes how he was tortured and the types of threats they used against him to ‘confess’ to crimes he didn’t commit. Another interview with Kayrat Samarkand echoes the same sort of unprecedented torture they faced. You can read this Twitter thread by Gerry Shih for more information. Since these interviews came out, more news orgs have been talking about the re-education camps: New York Times, The Globe and MailBusiness InsiderThe InterpreterChina Digital TimesDaily Mail, The Independant, ABC, TRT World (video), Daily O, Albawaba

The Economist ran a very comprehensive article on what is happening to Uyghur people (also in print): Apartheid with Chinese Characteristics. They also ran another article comparing China’s digital police state to what’s happening in the West, and how to deal with it.

The Washington Post is calling it a “repugnant campaign to destroy a minority people”. National Review is saying this is a state of emergency. National Review also posted a fairly scathing article that I’m surprised I didn’t write myself. Reuters describes it a pity that we aren’t paying more attention to what is happening, as well as an “Orwellian nightmare“.

David Brophy released an article outlining the history and current situation, and proposed an alternative approach to improving the political situation.

Jessica Batke writes about the complex leadership structure that is responsible for the mass detention of Uyghurs.

Aydin Anwar released an article describing the situation in East Turkistan, along with interviews with refugees in Turkey who had been detained in Chinese prisons.

Nury A. Turkel was interviewed in the Q & A podcast at the Ricochet Podcast Summit, hosted by Jay Nordlinger, titled: The New Gulag in China

Tom Cliff (author of Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang) outlines the situation again, this time drawing a comparison to the historical figure Wang Zhen, and poses the question: why? Unfortunately there is no answer.

Megha Rajagopalan gave a talk about how China’s mass surveillance is affecting Uyghurs at the Oslo Freedom Forum. She also gave an interview about the challenges of foreign correspondence in China.

Radio Free Asia released a short explanatory video on China’s repression on Uyghurs.

Aftenpoften, a Norwegian news press, also talked about re-education camps.

A news program in Turkey ran a 20-min long section with Uyghur guests on their Kanal 7 Iftaar Saati. The guests spoke on what is happening to Uyghurs right now and how their families are in re-education camps.

The Quartz put out an interesting article on the connection between “terrorism” and the Uyghur people. While the history is interesting, and I agree that China is helping to create the terrorist threat that they used to falsely claim, I don’t agree that Uyghur terrorism is a “genuine reason to fear”. ISIS isn’t going to attack China any time soon and I fear that these Uyghur kids are only going to be used to further their own agenda rather than fight China.

WashDiplomat published a piece on the April protests in Washington DC.


Detainment of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in “re-education camps” and the response of the diaspora

As more and more Uyghurs are detained, Uyghurs in the diaspora have been speaking out. Halmurat Harri Uyghur is one, and you can see his blog here, and his videos on his Facebook page. Women from France created a video during Mother’s Day. A doctor from Hong Kong expresses her support. Zumret Tursun has been posting a lot of live videos calling people to action. There are many more Facebook Live videos of Uyghurs speaking out, and more Uyghur-news-related Instagram and Twitter accounts surfacing now.

Talk to East Turkistan also posts and re-posts regularly about some of these stories, for example here. Follow them for daily updates on what is happening.

KJ Vids has started a “Voice of Uyghurs” campaign where Uyghurs can anonymously submit stories of what is happening to them.

If you have stories you would like to submit to Human Rights Watch, contact me through Instagram or Twitter.

Kazakh people whose relatives have been detained have been calling on the Kazakhstan government (or anyone) to do something about it, for example here, here, here (with Salih Hudayar speaking on behalf of her), here. Since then, Kazakh people have protested in front of the Chinese embassy in Almaty and Astana has apparently asked Beijing to release Kazakh citizens from the camps. Kazakh news has also interviewed ex-detainees.


Western Responses to China

Various opinion pieces have surfaced in the wake of all the news of China’s abuses against Uyghurs, human rights activists and their relatives, as well as their growing power and influence in various countries like New Zealand, America and Australia.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released another document describing their deep concern for the repression of Uyghurs.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China respectively, released another letter, this time about selling surveillance technology to China. This was summarised in WSJ.

Congressmen Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and James P. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, addressed the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights on the human rights situation – you can see the video and article here: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

The U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor invited Zubayra Shamseden and Omer Kanat from UHRP to discuss Uyghur human rights in their Facebook live series: #HumanRightsHeroes.

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom of the U.S. Department of State, Sam Brownback, talked about Uyghurs and re-education camps while responding to questions regarding whether the US Government takes human rights into consideration when considering trade between the US and China.

US Congressman Chris Smith gave China a failing grade for religious freedom and has been designated a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

The language seems to have shifted to describing what is happening now to something similar to Russian Gulags and South African apartheid rather than Nazi concentration camps. The Orwellian state continues to be used, but more in the sense of “this would give even Orwell nightmares”.



A good interview with Dolkun Isa after the Brussels protests last month: Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

On May 15th, WUC attended a meeting with the European Parliament. You can find the meeting agenda here and a video here.

On May 22nd (New York), Ambassador Kelley Currie strongly rebutted China’s attempt to defame Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa and their efforts to revoke UN credentials of the Society for Threatened Peoples at the United Nations. I recommend listening to it… it’s refreshing to say the least. Here’s the full video of the proceedings. Here’s an article summary. The US rejected China’s attempt to remove him from the UN.

Omer Kanat spoke on DW News about Omir Bekali’s case and Chinese policies.

WUC is holding some sort of contest revolving around our National Anthem, for anyone who wants to enter: Facebook. Also I feel like I mentioned it before but they have a video news series now.


Sherqi Turkistan Milliy Oyghunush (East Turkistan National Awakening)

A new group has been formed in the US, mostly by youth, and headed by Salih Hudayar (at least, he is the most outspoken member). The name had been floating around for a few months but they have become much more active this May. One of their first actions will be a protest held on the 4th of June:


It is supported by the Lantos Foundation, Rebiya Kadeer, Anwar Yusuf Turani, and many Uyghurs around the world (with Facebook videos of youth from around the world extending their support to Salih Hudayar and urging Uyghurs to wake up and stand up: x x x). The protest will continue every day (in smaller groups) until Congress passes legislation.




Symposium on the Identity Crisis of Uyghurs Today by UAA, Uyghur Academy, and UHRP was held on Friday, May 25th, 2018 at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies. You can find some of their proceedings and videos on Facebook.

When the Government Defines You: China and the Uyghurs by Forum on International Affairs (FIA) was held on May 31st, 2018 in Washington DC. Guest speakers included Nicole Morgret, Zubayra Shamseden and Louisa Greve.

“The Uyghur Diaspora and China”, “Uyghur Cybernationalism”, and “Uyghur Nationalist Movements and political manoeuvering in Japan” at The Association for the Study of Nationalities. You can see a summary here.


Outside of Politics

Here’s a cute video of a little Uyghur girl in Japan playing piano to a theatre audience.

I’m not sure what he’s saying, but here’s a video of Kashgar in 2017: YouTube

Check out Subhi Bora and her team in this video on ABC and how they created hijabi dolls, Salam Sisters.

Tahir Hamut’s poems were published (translated by Joshua L Freeman) in Asymptote Journal. Here are more poetry by the duo, published by Duration Press.

2lt. Shepket G. Tohti was recognised by the US army on their Facebook page during their Asian-American and Pacific Islanders awareness month. His picture displayed the East Turkistan flag with the US flag!

Abdusalam Abdureshit (“Abudushalamu Abudurexiti”) might be drafted into the NBA!

Uyghur Day – there seems to be more of these happening lately. This is the beginning of one in the Netherlands

For Ramadan, here’s a video of Uyghur men singing the “ramzan towlash” songs they used to sing when they were kids in East Turkistan. The Uyghur Language School students in Adelaide, SA also did Ramzan Towlash and was featured in AnaTil TV.

There will be an Uyghur scholar/intellectuals conference at the George Washington Institute on July 27-28, 2018. I believe they will discuss how best to preserve Uyghur identity while China is destroying our people.


An interesting cable message from Stalin to Mao regarding the plane crash that killed Uyghur leaders: Facebook.

A Turkish series on YouTube on Uyghur history.


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