An estimated 1 million Uighurs and other minorities are held in China’s camps. But Beijing’s power has silenced many of those who one might expect to criticise it
What does it take to make people speak out? A growing number of Uighurs overseas are pleading publicly for news of their sisters, fathers or children in Xinjiang, as desperation has overcome their fears of retaliation against their loved ones. The stakes for countries are immeasurably lower, yet only now is criticism of the abuses in the region slowly gathering pace. Last week, 22 states – including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – signed a letter to UN human rights officials condemning China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities there. That at least is a start.
Beijing, which originally denied that the camps existed, now portrays them as “vocational centres” to offer better economic opportunities to Uighurs as well as counter terrorism – though it is unclear why professors need basic manual skills, or why these facilities are surrounded by barbed wire and stocked with cattle prods. On choreographed tours for the media, inmates express their gratitude to authorities for saving them from extremism. Outside China, released inmates speak of political indoctrination and abuses at times amounting to torture, and detail the causes of their detention without charge or trial, such as contact with relatives abroad.
Link : The Guardian view on Xinjiang: speak out, or be complicit | Editorial