Uyghur Camp Inmates Detail ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ in New Amnesty Report

Former detainees describe tiger chair restraints, beatings, and neglect in Xinjiang detention facilities.

Uyghur Camp Inmates Detail ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ in New Amnesty Report

More than 50 former inmates of detention camps in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) — many of whom have never spoken publicly — have presented new testimony of “crimes against humanity,” Amnesty International said in a report published Thursday.

The London-based right group’s report shows how predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the XUAR have been subjected to torture and maltreatment while arbitrarily detained in prison-like internment, while millions of others have faced harsh surveillance and persecution because of their religion, language, and culture.

The 160-page report titled “Like We Were Enemies in a War’: China’s Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang” documents how since early 2017 China has conducted widespread, systematic abuses against Muslims living in the XUAR under the pretense of a campaign against “terrorism.”

“Amnesty International believes the evidence it has collected provides a factual basis for the conclusion that the Chinese government has committed at least the following crimes against humanity: imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; and persecution,” the report said.

Amnesty’s findings are based on interviews with former internees from October 2019 to the present, including ex-detainees who have never spoken to the media and other sources, including news reports, analysis of satellite imagery and data, and leaked government documents.

“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general, said in a statement.

“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus,” she said.

A former detention facility inmate with the pseudonym Madi told Amnesty how he was beaten after arriving at a camp when he resisted a strip-search by guards.

“When I said I wouldn’t take off my underwear they beat me with an electric baton,” he said. “They beat me and I was electrocuted...When I came to my senses, they took off my clothes, they searched me, made me bend down, tied my hands behind my neck. It was very painful.”

A woman with the pseudonym Zhaina told Amnesty that women in her cell were punished by being made to stand still and look at the wall for hours and forced to watch others confined to metal tiger chairs in which detainees are confined for hours, including one who urinated herself while sitting in a chair for 32 hours.

“A female guard used to take us [to another room in camp] to show us how people were suffering,” she said. “It was in a room [that was originally intended] to keep animals, surrounded by bars. It was dirty… It was like a pound. It was made of bricks with an iron roof… I saw them sitting in the chair.”

A former camp inmate given the pseudonym Timur said he witnessed two of his cellmates immobilized in tiger chairs for extended periods as he and others were forced to watch and forbidden to provide any assistance.

“They used to make people sit in tiger chairs for hours,” he said of the guards in the camp. “They used to make the person sit in the tiger chair in front of us. They used to bring the chair into our cell if someone was not obedient… It happened twice. The first guy [was immobilized] for 24 hours. He was not allowed to eat or drink. He was taken to the toilet twice…the second guy was made to sit for six hours.

Former detainee Aibek told Amnesty he saw immobilized people tortured through the use of restraints and exposure to the cold while walking from his cell to the medical clinic in the camp.

“I saw how they torture [other people],” he said. “One time they set a young lady in a metal chair outside [in January] in thin clothes… [I saw] seven Uyghur men handcuffed [outside] to metal bars and chains on their feet without shoes.”

‘End the systemic attacks’

China has held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs in a network of detention camps since 2017. Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers or re-education centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has subjected Muslims living in the XUAR to severe rights abuses. Smaller numbers of Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, fellow Turkic speaking people, have also been incarcerated in the camp system.

Amnesty notes that Chinese government data shows significant increases in prison sentences and satellite imagery shows significant new prison construction in Xinjiang since 2017.

Former detainees are placed under electronic and in-person surveillance for months after being released from a camp, including “homestays” by government cadres who monitor them and report what they consider to be suspicious behavior, Amnesty says. While many remain in detention in the camps, others have received lengthy jail sentences or are subject to forced or coerced labor.

The human rights group called on China to shut down the camps.

“China must immediately dismantle the internment camps, release the people arbitrarily detained in them and in prisons, and end the systematic attacks against Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Callamard.

“The international community must speak out and act in unison to end this abomination, once and for all. The UN must establish and urgently dispatch an independent investigative mechanism with a view to bringing those suspected of responsibility for crimes under international law to account.”

The report comes three days after a “Uyghur Tribunal” convened in London to investigate whether China’s treatment of its ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims constitutes genocide.

More than 30 witnesses and experts provided testimony during the four-day opening session of the tribunal, which will reconvene in September and aims to issue a ruling by the end of the year.

The tribunal has no state backing and any judgments are nonbinding on any government.

Senate hearing discusses atrocities

Also on Thursday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the atrocities in Xinjiang with expert policy recommendations for ending the human rights crisis in the XUAR.

“The matter of the treatment of Uyghurs in China has to be highlighted and exclamation-pointed to the world,” said presiding Senator Tim Kaine at the beginning of the session.

“Nowhere is the assault on individual freedom and human rights more comprehensive and more atrocious than against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province,” he said.

Senator Edward Markey, who also presided over the hearing, said that “the genocide in Xinjiang is a stain on the global conscience.”

“It’s hard to fathom that how in the 21st century such unspeakable crimes can occur,” he said.
During the hearing, Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, discussed his latest report issued Monday on China’s policy to reduce the natural population growth in southern XUAR.

The report indicates that Chinese policies could result in a large drop in births among Uyghurs of 2.6 million to 4.5 million by 2040, based on population projections by Chinese researchers.

“Beijing’s strategy in Xinjiang is not one of population destruction, but population control,” he said. “It’s a mass atrocity without mass slaughter, one with human rights violations of historic proportions, but leading to a loss of millions of lives potentially.”

Rushan Abbas, executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, warned that the Chinese Communist Party has been able to control the narrative “surrounding their genocidal crimes” in the XUAR by keeping out journalists, which has led to a “high number of genocide denialists, who target survivors and activists, attempting to undermine their stories, and even threatening their lives.”

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, called for the “urgent” need for the U.S. Senate to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and the SPEECH Act of 2021. The acts would prevent companies from relying on supply chains involving Uyghur forced labor and from providing technological equipment used in the surveillance and monitoring of Uyghurs in the XUAR.

“The former will help stem the flow of goods made with forced labor to the U.S.; the latter to more carefully scrutinize exports that can be used for serious human rights abuses,” Richardson said.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is a bill in the U.S. Congress that would change U.S. policy on the XUAR with the goal of ensuring that American entities are not funding forced labor among ethnic minorities in the region. The bill passed in the House of Representatives by a 406-3 vote in September 2020.

Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, also urged U.S. lawmakers to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

“This hearing showed that American elected leaders are extremely well-informed about the Uyghur genocide and the long arm of Chinese government repression, including harassment and retaliation against Uyghurs around the world, and even in the U.S.,” he said in a statement issued after the hearing. “The Senate must pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act without delay.”

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Hundreds of Families Forced to Move for Lao Coal Plant Expansion

Villagers demand more in compensation, worry about life in a relocation village.

Hundreds of Families Forced to Move for Lao Coal Plant Expansion

Authorities in northwestern Laos are forcing hundreds of families to relocate to make way for the expansion of a lignite power plant, setting the stage for a dispute over compensation with residents who say they will be shortchanged by the communist government’s ambitious development plans.

A chief source of social tension in Laos and other Southeast Asian countries is the widespread practice of land grabs in which authorities remove residents and seize land for development projects or foreign-invested enterprises without paying fair compensation for lost crops, property, and livelihoods.

The 1,878 MW Hongsa power plant, the first lignite plant in Laos, began Phase I of its operations in 2015. Phase II began the following year when construction was completed, and now the plant is planning Phase III, an expansion.

Hongsa’s construction in the northwestern province of Xayaburi resulted in thousands of villagers losing land with little compensation. The expansion will displace hundreds more residents.

“The plant recently gained a new concession of an addition of 2,700 hectares of land for our Phase III expansion. The land will cover the entire village of Kiw Ngiew and a part of Pang Bong Village in Ngeun District, Xayaburi Province,” a member of Hongsa’s management team told RFA’s Lao Service June 4.

Kiw Ngiew is home to 115 families, while 18 more households live in Pang Bong, according to the source.

A provincial official confirmed the figures to RFA, adding that the province was helping to assess the families’ losses.

“The plant and authorities have agreed to pay 1,200 kip [U.S. $0.12] per square meter of farmland and 2,000 kip [$ 0.20] per square meter for constructed facilities,” the official said.

The residents claim the compensation is only a fraction of the true market value of their homes and farmland.

“It’s only 50 percent of what our property is worth. We need higher compensation because after we move to the resettlement village, we don’t want to be poor,” a Kiw Ngiew resident told RFA.

“We want to be able to live our life the same way we do now,” the resident said.

Another Kiw Ngiew resident told RFA that the villagers were given no choice but to move.

“Most of us want to stay because the compensation is too low and the new homes will be far below the value of our current homes,” the second Kiw Ngiew resident said.

A third villager told RFA that many were worried about what life would be like in the resettlement village.

“We’re still staying in our homes in our village and farming our own land for now because nothing has happened yet, but when we move to the resettlement village, where are we going to farm?” the third resident said.

“What kind of land are we going to get, if any at all? We know that the new land will be on top of a mountain with no access to water,” the third resident said.

In several other relocation cases, the central or provincial governments nominally cleared land for those who had to move, but often the land was situated in areas that would make agriculture either impossible or extremely difficult.

RFA reported that one group of relocated survivors of a dam collapse were so unhappy with the plots of land they were given after the disaster that they returned to the ruins of their old village to farm what was left of their land after the waters receded.

A resident of Pang Bong, the other village affected by Hongsa’s expansion, echoed the same concern to RFA.

“The new land will not be good, and nothing will grow on it. We will lose all our farms and gardens that are currently sitting on flat land near a small river,” the Pang Bong resident said.

“When that power plant expands, it will displace all the residents of our two villages. We’re losing our farms, cattle, livestock, our forest and our water source. All of these resources are going to be taken away by this project,” the Pang Bong resident added.

Another resident of Pang Bong told RFA about everything the residents would lose in the relocation away from the river.

“People in our village can drink, bathe, fish, grow vegetables and raise cattle, livestock and poultry.”

The Lao language version of the Vientiane Times reported on June 2 that construction on the resettlement village began March 1 and is expected to be complete by November.

Beyond the human toll, Hongsa’s expansion will be detrimental to the area’s biodiversity, an environmental official told RFA.

“The expansion will cut down large parts of the forest, causing wildlife to disappear,” the official said.

Health experts say that Hongsa is dangerous to those living near it, increasing risk of cancer, respiratory problems, and birth defects due to exposure to pollution.

The Hongsa powerplant, like many of Laos’ hydroelectric dams, generates power that Laos sells to neighboring countries, in line with the country’s aim to become the “Battery of Southeast Asia.

Though the Lao government is betting on power generation to transform the country’s economy, the projects are controversial because of their environmental impact on fisheries and agriculture, and the displacement of villagers.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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