Jul 31, 2019

East Turkestan: Chinese Claims of Release of Uyghur Detainees Unverifiable

Against mounting international pressure condemning the imprisonment of more than one million ethnic Uyghurs in detention camps in China’s Xinjiang region, China has announced that it released most detainees, returning them to society where they were said to have found suitable jobs. However, human rights organisations and activists have scrutinized the Chinese Communist Party's claims, saying there has been no evidence of such widespread releases and that Uyghurs abroad are still unable to contact their relatives and friends in Xinjiang.

Below is an article published by UPI:

China announced Tuesday [30 July 2019] that it released up to 1 million or more people from a predominantly Muslim ethnic group held in internment camps, prompting scepticism from activists.

The U.S. State Department said up to 2 million members of the Uyghur and other majority Muslim ethnic minorities have been detained against their will in internment camps in the region of Xinjiang during the past two years [2017-2019]

During a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday [30 July 2019], Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Chairman Shohrat Zakir defended the camps and announced that most of the people held in them have "gone back to society."

"I can say 90 percent of them have found suitable and enjoyable jobs that bring them considerable income," he said.

He did not provide evidence of the releases, nor did he specifically state how many people had been released, saying "people arrive and leave constantly."

U.S.-based Uyghur activist Tahir Imin told The New York Times that other Uyghurs living internationally hadn't found evidence of the widespread releases.

"Uyghurs abroad continue to be unable to reach their relatives in the region. No phone calls, no Internet communications," Imin said. "If the Chinese government is honest and confident in what it's saying to the media, it should allow people to communicate freely and go out of the country freely and allow independent media to visit and investigate freely."

Amnesty International's Asia Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin issued a statement [see below] accusing China of making "deceptive and unverifiable statements" in order to quell concerns about the detentions of Uyghurs.




Below is a press release issued by Amnesty International:

 Responding to claims by senior Chinese officials that they have released the majority of ethnic minority Muslims being held in detention camps in northwest China, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia Regional Director, said:

“China is making deceptive and unverifiable statements in a vain attempt to allay worldwide concern for the mass detentions of Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

“We have received no reports about large-scale releases. In fact, families and friends of people who are being detained tell us they are still not able to contact them.

“Given China’s record of heavy censorship, outright falsehoods and systematic obfuscation about the situation in Xinjiang, it remains imperative that UN human rights investigators, independent observers and the media be given unrestricted access to the region as a matter of urgency.”

In a briefing published in September [2018], Amnesty called on China to end its systematic repression of up to one million predominantly Muslim people arbitrarily detained in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The briefing, China: Where are they?, highlighted the anguish of people who have lost touch with relatives and friends, fearing they have been detained.


Picture courtesy of Elvert Barnes @Flickr