Chinese propaganda should fool no one. The internment camps—where up to one million people, predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, are being arbitrarily detained—are places where torture and other forms of ill-treatment are rife.
Right now, it is estimated that up to one million people – predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities – are being arbitrarily detained in “de-extremification” camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Among them are Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minority groups whose religious and cultural practices are key to their identity.
The detentions appear to be part of an effort by the Chinese government to wipe out religious beliefs and aspects of cultural identity in order to enforce political loyalty for the State and the Communist Party of China.
26-year-old Kazakh student Bota Kussaiyn and her family had a happy life in Kazakhstan, having moved there from China in 2013. But in November 2017, Bota’s father returned to the XUAR to see a doctor and never came back. Three months later, her mother learned from relatives that he had been sent to a political “re-education” camp. Bota and her family don’t know where he is. Bota’s relatives in the XUAR are now so afraid that speaking with her mother might bring suspicion from the Chinese authorities on them that they have cut off all communication.
Bota’s story is far from unique. She is one of over 100 people who have bravely shared their stories with us, fearing that their missing loved ones have been detained in the XUAR. The total number of people currently detained remains unknown but is estimated to run in the hundreds of thousands.
The secretive and undocumented nature of the way people are being held there makes it nearly impossible to trace or confirm the whereabouts of any particular person. But collective action and global pressure could persuade the Chinese government to act and account for those detained.