Amnesty International has released a 160-page report titled “Like We Were Enemies in a War”: China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang.
Since 2017, Amnesty argues, Chinese authorities have been using “one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance systems and a vast network of hundreds of grim ‘transformation-through-education” centres – actually, internment camps – throughout Xinjiang” to “root out the religious traditions, cultural practices and local languages of the region’s Muslim ethnic groups”: namely ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tajiks. “Torture and other ill-treatment is systematic in the camps and every aspect of daily life is regimented in an effort to forcibly instil a secular, homogeneous Chinese nation and Communist party ideals.”
Agnès Callamard, the group’s secretary general, calls it a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale” and believes that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is carrying out “crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations.”
Amnesty says it has interviewed 128 people, among them 55 former “detainees” who were reportedly interrogated at police stations, often in “tiger chairs,” before their transfer, often in hoods and shackles, to internment camps. During their first days or weeks in the camps these people were made to sit still or kneel, in silence, while awake. Their eventual daily routines included a daily oath, disavowal of Islam and a course in forced “education.” They were also beaten, shocked with electricity, placed in solitary confinement, deprived of food, water and sleep, exposed to cold, and placed in restraints. They could only speak Mandarin.
Amnesty alleges in addition that the CCP has made every effort to cover up its program, leaving perhaps hundreds of thousands of detainees unaccounted for.
The report – available for download in several languages – relies on testimonials, field and remote research carried out from October 2019 to May 2021, analysis of satellite imagery and data, and the work of journalists, scholars and other organizations. Amnesty has also set up a multimedia microsite.
We ourselves began reporting on this issue early last year, when the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) released a similar report. Since then the West and the Chinese Communist party have been engaged in an economic tit for tat. For instance, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) has forbidden its member companies to source from or produce in Xinjiang, the U.K. and Canada have restricted trade with the region, U.S. customs has been withholding imports of cotton and tomato products from the region, the U.S. has threatened to boycott the Olympics, major brands have been hit with complaints in Paris, and China has retaliated by, among other things, removing the products of Xinjiang-boycotting brands from Chinese websites.