The Chinese government has reportedly detained more than a million Muslims in reeducation camps. Most of the people who have been arbitrarily detained are Uighur, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group primarily from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang. More than 300,000 inhabitants of Xinjiang have been given long prison sentences since 2017. In an effort to hide the extreme abuse of the camp system and cover it with a patina of legality, in 2018 and 2019 many former camp detainees (perhaps the majority of former detainees) were also given long prison sentences as well, supchina.com reported.
Many of these convicts were found guilty of “thought crimes” or “pre-crimes” as a system of immense cruelty descended on their villages.
Two Uyghur sisters Nursiman and Nur’iman fear that the reason their family members were imprisoned is because they moved to Turkey in 2015. Maybe during long interrogations their relatives had been forced to confess that someday they would like to visit them. Simply desiring to travel to a Muslim-majority country could be construed as the pre-crime of intending to hijrat, the action of immigrating to a space where Islamic piety is permitted. This action is now defined by the Chinese state as an act of terrorism, supchina.com reported.
Accepting money from a family member who lives in a Muslim-majority country or attempting to learn Turkish, Arabic, or Urdu is now viewed as a terrorism-related crime. It is likely for these reasons that the sisters’ relatives, the model family of their village, have had their lives taken away from them.
For years, the sisters stayed silent, hoping that their family members would be released. They thought that speaking publicly might make things worse for them. Then in 2019 they started to hear of other Uyghurs whose parents were being released. They hoped that the same might happen to their parents and brothers. Nursiman said that now she feels like she was naive to hope for something like this.
Some eight hundred thousand to million of Uighurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained since April 2017, according to experts and government officials. Outside of the camps, the eleven million Uighurs living in Xinjiang have continued to suffer from a decades-long crackdown by Chinese authorities.
Most people in the camps have never been charged with crimes and have no legal avenues to challenge their detentions.