CSW has released a new report on the widespread detentions of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and members of other ethnic groups in political re-education camps in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which estimates that over one million people are being held without charge.
Information compiled from interviews and data provided by witnesses and family members of victims of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance in XUAR reveal that over one million individuals are believed to have been detained without charge in political re-education camps since 2017. Recent estimates are as high as three million.
Detainees have no access to legal counsel and there is no mechanism for appeal. Reasons for detentions have included having WhatsApp on a phone, having relatives living abroad, and having visited certain ‘sensitive’ countries.
Speaking to CSW, one Uyghur living overseas described the situation of his family members:
“My family, relatives, friends and dozens of innocent people [I know] have been arrested since April 2017. I have no knowledge of how many more of our relatives have been arrested as we lost contact with them at the beginning of the year. They have not committed any crime… They are ordinary people… since then I have not heard from them and I am unsure about their safety.”
There is also a clear religious element to these detentions. Individuals have also been detained for accessing religious materials online and taking part in communal religious activities. Detainees are predominantly but not exclusively Muslim, and include people of Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnicity. Uyghur Christians, including religious leaders, have also been sent to re-education camps.
The religious element is further illustrated by witness reports of detainees being required to renounce Islam and promise not to follow religion. Detainees have also been forced to eat pork or drink alcohol, against their religious beliefs.
The arbitrary detention of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and people from other ethnic groups in XUAR has direct and critical implications for the rights and wellbeing of children in the region. Teenagers have been reportedly held in re-education camps alongside adults, and the children of individuals detained in the camps have been sent to state-run orphanages, training centres, or welfare facilities.
Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s Chief Executive said: “The widespread detention of over one million Uyghurs and members of other ethnic groups in Xinjiang is a shocking violation of international law. CSW calls on the Chinese government to end the use of re-education camps, and all forms of extra-legal detention, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, and release detainees immediately and without condition. We also urge the international community to condemn China’s use of these camps at every possible opportunity, and to pressure the government to release detainees immediately and without condition.”