After China said that most of the Uyghurs being detained at internment camps in Xinjiang had been released, Uyghurs living abroad have demanded that Beijing prove their claim. Many Uyghurs living in the West have taken a dim view of the Chinese Communist Party’s statements, saying that their relatives are still incarcerated in the camps.
“China does not need to say they released most if they really did so. All it needs is to give journalists normal access to those camps — not staged camps — and give official permission for Uyghurs to contact their relatives abroad,” Arfat Erkin, a Uyghur student in the U.S., said in a tweet while using the hashtag #Provethe90% (The Guardian). The hashtag went viral among online Uyghur activists after the Chairman of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, announced that more than 90 percent of the detained Uyghurs have returned back to society and are pursuing the opportunity to work in a field they like.
Amnesty International countered Beijing’s narrative by saying that it had not received any reports of a large-scale release of the Uyghur detainees. Nicholas Bequelin, the organization’s director for East Asia, accused China of making false and deceptive statements in a bid to diminish global concern over human rights violations in Xinjiang. Even if Beijing’s words were to be taken as true, the fact remains that China can still put the Uyghurs back in prison on charges of engaging in extremist practices.
It was earlier revealed that the Chinese government was separating Uyghur children from their parents when the latter were sent to internment camps. The kids were placed in secure boarding facilities. Other relatives were not given a chance to take custody of the children. In April last year, Yecheng County had relocated 2,000 kids into a huge boarding middle school with the government propaganda claiming that these schools help “maintain social stability and peace.” The kids are kept separate from their culture and are punished when they speak in any language other than Chinese.
“Driven by multi-billion dollar budgets, tight deadlines, and sophisticated digital database systems, this unprecedented campaign has enabled Xinjiang’s government to assimilate and indoctrinate children in closed environments by separating them from their parents… This separation can take various forms and degrees, including full daycare during work days, entire work weeks, and longer-term full-time separation,” Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher, reported in The Journal of Political Risk.
Activists recently saved a 53-year-old Uyghur man named Ablikim Yusuf from being deported to China. The man had moved to Pakistan from Xinjiang in 1997. But after Pakistan’s relationship with China deepened, Yusuf realized that the government might hand him over to Beijing. As such, he tried to enter Europe via Bosnia. But Yusuf was caught and returned to Qatar’s Hamad International Airport where the authorities revealed that he would be sent to China.
“Sending Ablikim back to China would most definitely mean sending him to either concentration camps or prison or worse, his death… It would also encourage other countries that China is pressing to deport Uyghurs, which in turn would encourage China to continue its brutal campaign of persecution. We are shocked that Qatar would even consider this, given it claims to be a defender of Muslim rights,” Salih Hudayar, the founder of a political and human rights group based in the U.S. said to The Guardian.
Qatari officials had given Yusuf a few days to find asylum in another country. Fortunately, the United States stepped in and granted him asylum. Yusuf will now live in America, far away from the clutches of Beijing.