All posts tagged: Reeducation Camps

“You have a health problem, but the ‘Chinese medicine’ won’t help you now – only ‘Kazakh medicine’ can.”

In May 2018, Qaisha Aqan – an ethnic Kazakh businesswoman from Xinjiang – fled the region and escaped to Kazakhstan, where she would remain illegally until finally going public in the September of this year. At the time of writing, she stands trial for illegally crossing the border and is simultaneously applying for asylum in Kazakhstan, a country that is yet to formally grant this status to any refugees from Xinjiang. What follows is her testimony from the first court session, held on November 12, 2019, in which she describes the circumstances that forced her to flee. I, Qaisha Aqan, was born on June 1, 1976 in Wusu City in China. My residential address is in Gongliu County, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. The reason why I crossed the border illegally is that I had previously bought tickets in Qorgas City for the bus to Kazakhstan three times, but each time would be among the 5-6 or 7-8 people who were not allowed to cross… [At this point, her lawyer asks her to start over, indicating …

From camps to prisons: Xinjiang’s next great human rights catastrophe

Just a little over a decade ago, the facility on 1327 Dongzhan Road, a few kilometers north of the forlorn freight station in the northern outskirts of Xinjiang’s Urumqi, was mostly trees and grass. On September 16, 2009, it officially became the new location of the Xinjiang Women’s Prison and of the Qixin Clothing Factory (run by “marketing specialist” Zong Liang, a Party member for whom prisons were his entire career). The move came on the heels of the infamous July 5 riots, and it wouldn’t be long before the new facility received what would become its first high-profile inmate – the writer, website moderator, and government employee Gulmire Imin. Convicted of “splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration”, Imin was sentenced to life in a closed trial, despite alleged torture and lack of access to a lawyer. In the years that followed, the prison compound saw the construction of several new buildings, the continued operation of Qixin (together with the addition of another clothing company), and allegations of abuse, torture, and illegal …

How Kyrgyzstan abandoned its own in Xinjiang while Kazakhstan didn’t

While not exactly an odyssey, the trip from Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek to Kazakhstan’s “southern capital” of Almaty still makes for a day-long hassle. For many, it starts with climbing into a van at Bishkek’s western bus terminal, waiting up to an hour for the car to fill up, and then making a forty-minute drive to the border, where you get out, take all your things, and prepare for potentially grueling and chaotic lines – the depressing, lose-faith-in-humanity kind where people shove and curse, fighting to get inside and escape the weather, some with small children and others with push carts stacked overly high with goods. There, the border control guards – first the Kyrgyz and then, one river later, the Kazakh – check your things and documents and, depending on their mood and personality, decide whether or not to give you a hard time. Making it past them, you wait another thirty minutes to an hour for the van to get through its own inspection channel, after which you get back on and continue …

Chinese Student Responses to the Mass Internment of Turkic Muslims

Over the past two years I have spoken at dozens of universities and high schools about the internment of what is now an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. I talk to students about the way poor minorities all over the world are marginalized by the language of criminality and terrorism, how policing and surveillance systems disproportionately affect them. I frame this by discussing the way Islamophobia has spread around the world over the past 20 years, resulting in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and, now, an attempt to “reeducate” an entire population of Muslims in northwest China. Undergraduate and high school students in the United States are typically really engaged by this. The use of technology to monitor, profile, and control Chinese Turkic Muslim populations grabs their attention. The arbitrary ranking system that has been used to determine who should be sent to the internment camps often puts them on the edge of their chairs. Telling the stories of seeing my Uyghur friends disappear makes them sad. When I’m talking with these students, I feel like they …