Indoctrination and torture amongst other human rights violations
Kept in squalid conditions and subjected to “psychological torture” where meals are denied to those who refuse to glorify Chinese Communist Party propaganda, up to a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang province of China have been arbitrarily detained in secretive “re-education” camps.
Chinese officials have responded to crackdown claims surrounding the Uighurs, stating that these camps are part of a province-wide effort to stem extremism and alleviate poverty. This lies at odds with the multiple first-hand accounts of ex-detainees and their families that live within Xinjiang.
Moreover, Xinjiang has been described as a “Surveillance State”. Facial recognition software employed by the state serves to single out individuals who choose to don religious attire while the use of messaging apps that feature privacy protection end-to-end encryption, such as Whatsapp, could lend you in one of the many detention camps.
Alleged death of Uighur folk poet
While these human rights violations show no near signs of abating, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently published a statement urging China to put an end to these camps. Many Uighurs have taken respite in Turkey since China’s anti-terrorism move in 2017.
The alleged death of imprisoned Uighur folk poet, Abdurehim Heyit, is said to have prompted the Turkish ministry to produce the statement, in what is deemed by the BBC news as an “unusual move” since “few Muslim-majority countries have joined in public international condemnation of the allegations”.
China has, on the other hand, released an unverified video featuring Heyit in good health that has led others to question its authenticity in this era of deep fakes (where face swapping software is used to overlay your face over someone else’s to produce disturbingly high-quality videos).
Real or fake?
While the authenticity of the video and the status of Heyit will be uncovered soon, the constant fear of arbitrary arrests and other forms of discrimination remains the reality for the Uighur people. Will more be done to aid them in their plight? Moreover, with ever improving technology, calls for greater checks against the state’s ever expanding coercive toolkit becomes pertinent — lest the limits of our liberties tested.