An investigative report from BuzzFeed News is bringing more attention to the genocidal efforts of the Chinese government towards the Uighur Muslims. The report, which features satellite images and interviews with survivors, shows that the campaign to exterminate the Uighur people is only getting worse, as the world continues to look the other way.
Part I of the BuzzFeed investigation showed how the government had repurposed old buildings to be used as makeshift prisons, but the government’s genocidal efforts outgrew them. As a result, massive detention facilities have been built over the past three years. It is estimated that over one million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities have been held captive in concentration camps. The data uncovered by BuzzFeed News likewise found evidence of factories, which use forced labor, within the prison compounds.
“People are living in horror in these places,” 49-year-old Zhenishan Berdibek, a survivor of the camps, told BuzzFeed News. “Some of the younger people were not as tolerant as us — they cried and screamed and shouted.” Berdibek, however, didn’t have the strength to fight back. “I lost my hope,” she said. “I wanted to die inside the camp.”
Of the 268 newly built compounds BuzzFeed News was able to identify, they reported that 92 can conclusively be identified or verified as detention centers, using information from government procurement documents, academic research, or journalists’ visits. BuzzFeed News claims that another 172 have been identified using satellite imagery, with prison complexes complete with barbed wire, thick walls, and guard towers. “The most highly fortified compounds offer little space between buildings, tiny concrete-walled yards, heavy masonry construction, and long networks of corridors with cells down either side,” BuzzFeed reported. “Their layouts are cavernous, allowing little natural light to the interior of the buildings. BuzzFeed News could see how rooms were laid out at some high-security facilities by examining historical satellite photos taken as they were being constructed, including photos of buildings without roofs.”
BuzzFeed News was able to interview survivors who confirmed many other previous allegations of abuses within the camps, including torture, food deprivation, overcrowding, solitary confinement, forced birth control, sterilization, and abortion, and other human rights violations.
Abduweli Ayup. a Uighur linguist who was imprisoned for opening kindergartens which taught Uighur children their native language, told Buzzfeed, “These are peaceful people in concentration camps. They are businessmen and scholars and engineers. They are our musicians. They are doctors. They are shopkeepers, restaurant owners, teachers who used Uighur textbooks. These are the pillars of our society. Without them, we cannot exist.”
Many of the reports seem to echo the treatment of prisoners held in Nazis concentration camps in the 1930s and 40s. According to the survivors’ reports, detainees were first handcuffed and blindfolded as they were taken to the camps, and then frequently moved from place to place. As more Uighurs were arrested, the camps became increasingly overcrowded, and detainees were given tiny portions of food. One survivor, who was taken to a camp repurposed out of his own daughter’s elementary school, said prisoners were greeted with a plaque at the entryway, which read, “Let’s learn the spirit of the 19th Communist Party Congress.”
In Part II of the investigation, other survivors gave further details disturbingly reminiscent of the Holocaust. Prisoners’ shoes and belts were confiscated, and one detainee, who remained anonymous, said prison guards had dogs. “I recognized those dogs,” the detainee said. “They looked like the ones the Germans had.”
After arriving at the camps, survivors told BuzzFeed News they had to strip naked in front of each other and were given color-coded uniforms to wear so guards would know what offense they were imprisoned for. “We lined up and took off our clothes to put on blue uniforms. There were men and women together in the same room,” one of the survivors said. “They treated us like livestock. I wanted to cry. I was ashamed, you know, to take off my clothes in front of others.”
People in so-called “low risk” groups were not allowed to interact with the more “dangerous” groups, often consisting of people like imams. Women were also forced to have their hair cut and their head coverings removed, both deeply humiliating in Uighur culture.
“I wanted to keep my hair,” one woman told BuzzFeed. “Keeping long hair, for a Kazakh woman, is very important. I had grown it since I was a little girl, I had never cut it in my life. Hair is the beauty of a woman. I couldn’t believe it. They wanted to hack it off.”
There have been increasingly disturbing allegations of abuses towards Uighurs in China. One whistleblower said hospitals are committing infanticide against Uighur infants, while Uighurs and other minorities are forced into abortions and sterilizations. Women have reported being subjected to sexual violence and torture, including gang rape, while other prisoners are tortured in gruesome fashion. Still other prisoners have said they were subjected to medical experimentation, and others have died after their organs were harvested — without anesthesia — while they were still alive.
While many world leaders have paid lip service towards denouncing this genocide, little-to-no action has been taken thus far against the Communist regime perpetuating these human atrocities.
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