Posts Tagged ‘re-education camps’

Uygur man from Xinjiang, detained in Turkey for suspected terror links, wary of China’s reach — “China makes people disappear.”

February 5, 2019

“In China, and now in Turkey too, if they don’t like you, they can do these things to you.”

  • Kerem Mamut was held for three months in Turkey deportation centres
  • He was suspected of communicating with two people who had links to a terrorist organisation
  • He believes Turkey may have been cooperating with Chinese authorities
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2019, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2019, 1:23pm

South China Morning Post

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Late at night on October 31 last year, Wang Yi and her husband Kerem Mamut had just returned to their home in Basaksehir, a middle-class Istanbul neighbourhood, after a visit to the doctor to treat one of their children who had a fever.

The couple who are from China’s Xinjiang province, but have lived in Turkey for a decade, then heard loud bangs at the door.

“The neighbours,” they said to themselves, until one of their daughters ran upstairs. It was the police.

Twenty members of a Turkish special police unit detained Mamut and took him to a nearby police station to question him.

Mamut, a Chinese Uygur who held a Turkey residence permit, was suspected of communicating by phone with two people who had links to a terrorist organisation.

Kerem Mamut embraces his son Babur, whom he did not see during his three-month detention. Photo: Helene Franchineau
These accusations of terrorism are so remote from who I am

For three months, he was held at two deportation centres in Turkey without charge. His family and lawyer speculate he might have been targeted as part of China’s efforts to pressure Turkey to repatriate some ethnic Uygur Muslims living abroad.

The 53-year-old Chinese passport holder, who owns restaurants in Turkey and China, was held for two months at the first deportation centre.

There he said, his interrogators regularly asked if he wanted to be sent back to China.

Late December, Mamut was transferred to another deportation centre in Izmir, a city on Turkey’s Aegean coast.

Then on January 25, Mamut was unexpectedly granted conditional release.

Mamut’s Kroren restaurant in Istanbul’s Fatih district. Photo: Helene Franchineau

“These accusations of terrorism are so remote from who I am,” Mamut told South China Morning Post in Istanbul last week during an emotional gathering with his family.

That evening, Mamut hugged his 10-year-old son Babur, whom he did not see during his three-month detention.

“We initially thought it might be a misunderstanding and that they would investigate quickly,” said Mamut’s wife Wang about her husband’s detention.

“But as time went on, we started to think that things were not that simple.”

Wang, a Han Chinese mother of four who holds Turkish citizenship, took over running the couple’s Chinese-Uygur restaurant while Mamut was being held.

The restaurant called Kroren, in Istanbul’s conservative Fatih district, is well-known to both Uygur and Chinese people, including employees of China’s consulate in the city.

Wang Yi arranges a table after lunch service at Kroren restaurant in Istanbul. Photo: Helene Franchineau

Mamut’s lawyer, Lokman Akcay, called the case a “massive mystery” and has yet to be shown concrete evidence that proves his client’s alleged links to a terrorist organisation.

China’s crackdown on its Uygur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province has forced many to flee to countries such as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Some have established organisations that protest China’s presence in what some still call “East Turkestan”, where they say Uygurs face cultural and religious repression.

After 2010, when a series of terrorist attacks both in Xinjiang and in the rest of China involving Uygurs, and the onset of the Syria civil war, Beijing’s relationship with the Uygurs worsened.

Wang Yi prepares Turkish tea at Kroren restaurant in Istanbul. Photo: Helene Franchineau

According to some estimates, up to 5,000 Uygurs went to fight with militant groups in Syria, and Beijing feared some could return to carry out attacks in China.

In 2014, China launched its “Strike Hard” campaign against violent extremism and tightened restrictions on Uygurs, including the practice of Islam and the teaching of Uygur language.

A UN human rights panel in August last year estimated that a million ethnic Uygurs and other Muslims in China were being held re-education camps.

Beijing calls the camps “vocational training centres”, designed to help people drawn to extremism be reintegrated into society.

China has used economic pressure to persuade several countries, including Turkey, a close economic and political ally, to support its position on the Uygur issue and its fight against extremism.

Turkey, whose currency lost 30 per cent of its value in 2018, seems to be receptive.

Its energy and transport sector secured a US$3.6 billion loan from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China last summer, while the number of Chinese tourists jumped by 80 per cent in 2018, according to Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry.

After the riots in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi in 2009 which claimed at least 200 lives, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister, compared the events to a “genocide”.

He has yet to publicly comment on China’s crackdown on Uygurs and the camps.

Turkish media have also refrained from hard-hitting reporting on the country’s sizeable Uygur community, especially after a 2017 trip to China by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, during which he vowed to prohibit anti-China media reports.

Mehmet Ogutcu, a former Turkish diplomat in Beijing, calls the relationship a “delicate balance” especially for Turkey.

In the past Turkey welcomed thousands of Uygurs that left China. Some were extremists who transited through Turkey to fight for Islamic State in Syria.

“Over the past few decades the Chinese have insisted all along on signing security and counter-intelligence agreements with Turkey in order to deal with extremist Uygur militants,” Ogutcu said.

Similar arrangements were made with countries such as Pakistan and Egypt, he added.

In 2017, Malaysia deported 29 Uygurs suspected to be involved with Islamic militants. Two years earlier Thailand deported more than 100 Uygurs back to China sparking an outcry.

“However, Turkey could not comply with such requests, making it clear that Turkey is a democratic country and cannot act upon one-sided intelligence,” Ogutcu said.

Turkey still discreetly welcomes some Uygur refugees – the latest case last October, after it allowed in 11 men who were released from detention in Malaysia.

That may come as some comfort to Mamut, despite Turkish authorities cancelling his residence permit after his arrest.

In the autumn on 2018, the Chinese authorities in Urumqi raided and closed down two branches of Miraj, one of the restaurants that Mamut helped establish.

Radio Free Asia reported that it was because the establishments, which served Uygur food in traditional settings, “promoted Uygur cultural identity”. Two hundred staff were reportedly arrested.

Because Mamut and his family had not had contact with their friends and family in Xinjiang, Wang said they only learned of the raids in December.

In January, a friend in Xinjiang managed to call to tell her that all properties in Mamut’s name had been seized.

The family soon after they arrived in Turkey in 2009. Top: Yadigar (left) and Kerime (Kerem’s daughter from a previous relationship) Middle (left to right): Arzu, Kelimu, Wang Yi, Hayriye, and Babur. File photo: Wang Yi

“I am sure there is seriousness on the Turkish side to make sure that any extremist Uygur element posing a credible threat to China’s security should not be tolerated and be allowed to be a sore point in the strategically crucial relationship,” Ogutcu said.

“Yet, there may be cases where the intelligence requests from China might point to peaceful law abiding Uygurs living in Turkey as well.”

A decision on Mamut’s case will be made in a few months, according to his lawyer Akcay, who was confident his client would not be deported to China.

Turkey is bound by both domestic law and international agreements such as the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents it from deporting a person if they could be subjected to the death penalty, torture, and cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.

Turkey signed an extradition agreement with China in 2017 but has yet to ratified it. In November 2018, the two countries signed several deals enhancing judicial cooperation.

A guard tower and barbed wire fence around a facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region. This is one of a growing number of internment camps in the region. File photo: AP

A spokesperson for Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, when asked about Mamut, said it did not comment on specific cases.

When asked about law enforcement cooperation between Turkey and China, the spokesperson said that Turkey received communications from China about Chinese citizens, including Uygurs.

During her husband’s absence, Wang doubled her efforts to keep the family united. She would drive several times to the capital, Ankara, to see their daughter Arzu, a teenage ice hockey prodigy who plays for Turkey’s national team.

After Mamut returned to Istanbul after his release from detention last month, he slept for two days. The first night he reappeared at his restaurant, regular customers stood up to greet him.

With businesses in both Turkey and in China, he said he did not try to get Turkish citizenship like his wife and children did after they arrived in Turkey in 2009.

Paramilitary police stand guard outside a shopping centre in Hotan in China’s western Xinjiang region. File photo: AFP

He had returned Xinjiang for personal visits, but things did not go well, he said.

“The police would call me repeatedly, I would be taken in for questioning. But I am used to it. It has been like this in Xinjiang for 20 years now,” Mamut said.

However, he hoped for a better future for all people in Xinjiang.

“I believe there is a misunderstanding between the Han and the Uygurs,” he said.

“They see us as dirty thieves. I want to promote a dialogue between our two cultures. There is no other way, we have to understand each other.”

Wang recalled her last trip to Urumqi, her hometown in Xinjiang in the summer of 2017.

The local authorities came to her home, took her mobile phones, credit cards and confiscated her Turkish passport for three months.

Finally in October the police let her leave. They escorted her to the airport and her multi-entry visa to China was cancelled.

She was told she was being treated this way because of her husband, she said.

Around the same time, she said her husband’s son from a previous marriage, Sami Kelimu, was taken into custody and was probably being held in a camp.

“Turkey would have to look very hard on the evidence that China provides,” said Ogutcu, the former diplomat referring to Mamut’s case.

“Because if the benchmark is that they are engaged in illegal activities against China’s security (and this is covered by security cooperation and counterterrorism intelligence sharing), they have to work together on that.”

Akcay, Mamut’s lawyer, speculated that China provided Turkish authorities with intelligence on his client.

The Chinese embassy in Ankara did not answer the Post’s emailed questions about Mamut’s case.

Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, said that any government that yields to pressure from China to forcibly return Uygurs would be “violating a fundamental human rights obligation not to send anyone back to a situation in which that person faces a well-founded fear of persecution”.

What happens to Mamut in the next few months will be closely watched by the Uygur community in Turkey.

He has been ordered to report to an immigration office every week until a decision on his case is made.

Surrounded by his wife and children in his restaurant, Mamut said he was tired of trying to stay out of China’s reach.

“In China, and now in Turkey too, if they don’t like you, they can do these things to you,” he said.


China turns up heat on individual users of foreign websites

January 7, 2019

Guangdong man fined as Beijing crackdown moves beyond actions targeting corporations Users in China are banned from accessing foreign websites

“Illegally conducting connections to the international internet is a crime.”

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By Yuan Yang in Beijing

A Chinese man has been fined for accessing foreign websites in a rare punitive measure against an individual user, highlighting the government’s tightening of internet freedoms. Zhu Yunfeng was fined Rmb1,000 ($145), roughly a fifth of the average monthly wage in his city of Shaoguan in Guangdong province, according to a state media report over the weekend.

His case comes as Chinese citizens as well as foreign businesses are being threatened by a wave of crackdowns on virtual private networks (VPNs) , which are used to bypass Beijing’s internet controls in order to access banned websites, such as Google and Twitter.

Mr Zhu had used the popular VPN app, Lantern, to access foreign websites, and was punished under a public security law introduced in 1997 that forbids access to the “foreign internet” without permission, the police statement said.

“Over the past couple of years, the Chinese authorities have made legitimate headway in shutting down and limiting the use of VPNs from within China,” said Charlie Smith of, a censorship watchdog. “But we have rarely seen VPN users get arrested,” Mr Smith added.

In 2017 China passed new regulations stipulating that only government-approved providers could operate VPNs, and has since pushed multinationals to buy costly state-owned VPN services, sometimes by cutting off their private connections.

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That year, Apple removed 674 VPNs from its China App Store. However, internet users were unsure how far the authorities would go in cutting off ways around its “Great Firewall” of internet controls.

The government heavily censors the internet to restrict citizens’ access to information, but is also aware that companies as well as universities need to use banned platforms to do business and research. In a statement to the Financial Times, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it was “still researching” the implementation of its anti-VPN measures.

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Mr Zhu’s case is a worrying sign of further deterioration of internet freedoms, said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. In China’s border region of Xinjiang there is already a de facto ban on the use of VPNs, and those caught using the software can be subject to arbitrary detention in “re-education” camps.

Recommended Martin Wolf The future might not belong to China

According to a photo of a police notice circulated on social media, the police bureau of Rongchang district in the city of Chongqing last week summoned Huang Chengcheng on suspicion of “illegally conducting connections to the international internet”. The Rongchang police could not be reached for comment. Domestic analysts said that arrests would probably be made to punish political activities online, as opposed to the sole use of VPNs.

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Last November Pan Xidian, a 48-year-old man from the southern city of Nan’an in Fujian province, was sentenced to 15 days in jail for using a VPN and writing “inappropriate” posts on Twitter, according to a copy of the police statement shared by Mr Pan.

Over the past year, Chinese authorities have taken an interest in Twitter despite it being banned in China, and pressured activists to delete their posts. “These are little pockets of freedom that people use to come up for air. The government is squeezing out these pockets,” said Ms Wang.

Research by the anti-censorship organisation Freedom House shows that at least 20-30m people in China circumvented the Great Firewall in 2018, and that VPN use increased during politically significant but censored events, such as the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada, or Taiwan’s local elections.

Additional reporting by Nian Liu

Asian Muslims Decry China’s Treatment of Uighurs, other Muslim minorities

December 18, 2018

Asyla Alymkulova fights back tears in her home in Kyrgyzstan as she recalls the first time she heard her husband was whisked away to one of the notorious internment camps in neighbouring China’s troubled Xinjiang region.

Shairbek Doolotkhan, a Chinese-born Muslim and mining executive, had told his wife everything was fine when he travelled to his company’s office in Xinjiang to deal with “some problems”.

But then his phone went dead in October last year.

Kyrgyz family members hold portraits of their relatives who they fear are being held in notorious "re-education camps" in China's Xinjiang region

Kyrgyz family members hold portraits of their relatives who they fear are being held in notorious “re-education camps” in China’s Xinjiang region Kyrgyz family members hold portraits of their relatives who they fear are being held in notorious “re-education camps” in China’s Xinjiang region AFP

Alymkulova, 33, had no information about what had happened until a few weeks later when a company representative phoned and said her husband had been “sent away to study” in a camp.

“I asked her: what is he studying?” recalled Alymkulova.

The reply on the other end of the phone left her stunned.

The company would “try to get him back” — but there were no guarantees.

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The “study camp” is believed to be one of the numerous extra-judicial detention centres set up in Xinjiang, holding as many as one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.

Doolotkhan’s disappearance shows how China’s vast dragnet has extended and now hits people with links to Kyrgyzstan, after similar reports emerged from distressed families in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

Last month Alymkulova and a dozen others formed a lobby group, called the Committee to Protect the Kyrgyz People in China.

The group has called for the Kyrgyz government, which depends heavily on Chinese economic assistance, to press Beijing about the camps in Xinjiang.

Chinese officials have described the camps as “vocational education centres” for people who appear to be drawn towards Islamist extremism and separatism.

But human rights activists say members of China’s Muslim minorities are being held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils.

Rights groups say the region has become a police state.

– New hardline party boss –

Sitting in her home in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Alymkulova arranged photos of her husband on the kitchen table.

The pair met after he moved to Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and he began working as a translator.

The couple had a son and in 2011 her husband became the executive director of a Chinese-run coal mining operation in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Then, in late 2016, just after hardline Communist official Chen Quanguo took over as Xinjiang’s regional party boss, her husband was called back to the company’s office in Xinjiang.

He told his wife he needed to stay for some time, but continued to phone home regularly.

Until one day, over a year ago now, when the calls stopped.

“My son is 12 years old. At school people ask him ‘Where has your dad disappeared to?'” Alymkulova said.

Chinese policymakers talk of Xinjiang, a northwestern border region home to significant Muslim minorities, as an economic bridge to underdeveloped Central Asia.

Beijing sees it as a key hub in its ambitious trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure drive.

It is mainly home to ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities.

With Uighurs lacking a historic homeland beyond the region, the stories of separation from loved ones told by citizens of neighbouring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have offered vital insights into the scale of China’s crackdown.

The fate of 1.5 million Xinjiang-based Kazakhs has been a hot-button issue in Kazakhstan. In Kyrgyzstan, the plight of members of the smaller Chinese Kyrgyz community only recently emerged after reports that a Kyrgyz lawmaker’s brother had been detained.

– ‘Ordinary people’ missing –

Family members of those missing have also stepped up awareness campaigns.

Committee member Seyitbek Isa Uulu, a 30-year-old Chinese-born Kyrgyz, told AFP he fears at least six of his relatives are being held.

“They are ordinary people — shepherds, small-time traders. I can’t believe this has happened to them,” Isa Uulu said.

The family members have not been heard from since last year.

People from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, who speak similar languages and share a nomadic heritage, had been generally spared the excessive state targeting that Uighurs had long complained of before Chen’s appointment.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi

The country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the world should ignore “gossip” about Xinjiang and trust the government.

The hardliner is viewed as the chief force behind the internment camps, which are the subject of growing international condemnation.

Adil Zhunus Uulu, a naturalised Kyrgyz citizen, was the first Chinese-born Kyrgyz to enter the national parliament following elections in 2015.

His brother Askar Yunus — a Chinese citizen and historian — is one of several ethnic Kyrgyz academics that have been arrested by Xinjiang authorities this year, Zhunus Uulu’s parliamentary assistant told AFP.

A representative of the Xinjiang foreign affairs office said it had no knowledge of Yunus’s arrest.

Asked about alleged arrests of Kyrgyz, the Chinese foreign ministry said officials “do not have information”.

Kyrgyzstan’s foreign minister declined to comment when asked by AFP if Kyrgyz citizens had also been arrested.

– Condemnation of camps –

While Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have been hesitant to confront China, the United States and Germany have requested UN access to Xinjiang.

Beijing previously denied the existence of the re-education camps, but now defends them as “vocational education and training centres” where students study Mandarin, brush up on job skills, and pursue hobbies such as sports and folk dance.

Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

An AFP investigation published in October showed authorities had purchased police batons, electric cattle prods, handcuffs, pepper spray, stun guns and razor wire for the centres.

Orynbek Koksebek, a Chinese-born Kazakh who received Kazakh citizenship in 2005, was released from a facility in Xinjiang in April, five months after he was arrested during a brief visit to the region.

Once interned, he found himself subjected to mundane political education classes along with occasional bouts of humiliation, he told AFP.

Indian Muslims hold placards during a protest against the Chinese government over the detention of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang

“They showed me a picture of my father, tore it up and threw it in the bin,” he said.

“That was the worst thing for me,” he said, adding that the detention had affected his mental state.

“I have become forgetful. I forget people’s names, street names,” Koksebek said. “And more and more I feel people don’t believe in me.”




  (Mainland China is a “source of conflict” — Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says.)


Philippines In $396.8 Million CCTV System Deal With China

December 18, 2018

Installation of a vast network of security cameras in the Philippines could make for a “Surveillance State” like China

AI (Artificial Inteligence) security cameras using facial recognition technology are displayed at the 14th China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security at the China International Exhibition Center in Beijing on October 24, 2018. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) defended its $396.8-million emergency response and monitoring system contract with a Chinese firm that raised security concerns.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año downplayed security concerns raised by lawmakers, saying the DILG will undertake necessary measures to protect data in the planned surveillance system.

“The public doesn’t have to worry about data breaches in the project as there will be no storage of classified data or information inimical to national security in the CCTV system,” Año said.

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Revealed: the advanced surveillance ‘black tech’ within reach of China’s police

State-owned China International Telecommunications and Construction Corp. won the contract for the installation of a vast network of security cameras under the first phase of the project titled Safe Philippines.

It is a joint project between the government and the People’s Republic of China that Año said aims to improve public safety, evidence collection and incident prevention during disasters, as well as improve emergency response.

The project was one of 29 agreements signed during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.

An initial 12,000 surveillance cameras would be installed in Metro Manila and Davao within 30 months.

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Facial recognition

“The project will simply allow our police to respond to criminal activities, address disasters and traffic issues and apprehend suspects in the event of threats to public order, safety and security,” Año added.

He said firewalls meant to protect the system from hackers and other threats would be installed by the DILG through funding by the government.

The DILG chief argued that “it’s about time” that a surveillance system used in many cities in the world be installed here in the Philippines.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a 'de-radicalization' speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture's Lop county, April 2017.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a ‘de-radicalization’ speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture’s Lop county, China

The final feasibility study of the Safe Philippines project was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority last January.

Año claimed crime could be reduced by 15 percent and response time improved by 25 percent with the installation of the surveillance system.


(Unless you get arrested)

Establishment of a Social Credit System




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“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter”


Young people

The study found widespread apprehension about the future. Seeking intimacy? Or isolation?

Germany calls for China transparency over Uighur Muslims

November 12, 2018

Despite warnings from China that Germany should not interfere in its internal affairs, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Beijing to be transparent about the human rights conflict surrounding the Uighur Muslims.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas began his visit to China on Monday by calling for more transparency from the Chinese government regarding the human rights conflict surrounding reports about the mass detention of a million Uighur Muslims.

UN experts have said there are credible reports that as many as a million Uighurs, ethnically Turkic Muslims which reside in western China, have been interned in camps in the last year.

“We cannot accept re-education camps,” Maas said after meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing, adding that more information was needed to assess the situation.

On Monday, Maas said his talks with Vice Premier Liu were “free of controversy” and that all sides had an interest in matters being transparent. When asked if human rights organizations should enter the camps, the German minister said: “At first, it is of secondary importance who ensures transparency.”

Bundestag condemnation

Last Thursday, members of Germany’s Bundestag condemned the Chinese government for its treatment of the Uighur population, accusing Beijing of violating human rights.

In a motion, the Greens party called on the German government to demand that Beijing grant independent observers and journalists access to the Xinjiang region.

The discussion in the Bundestag prompted a fierce response from China. The Chinese Embassy in Berlin said that Beijing was “extremely dissatisfied” and accused the Bundestag of “blatant interference in internal affairs and a gross violation of China’s sovereignty.”

People of the Uighur community in XinjiangPeople of the Uighur community in Xinjiang

“Xinjiang belongs to the territory of the People’s Republic of China, and issues concerning Xinjiang fall within China’s jurisdictions and internal affairs,” a statement published last Friday by the Embassy read.

China has said the camps are “training centers” to equip people with employable skill to help combat Islamist extremism in the still bloodied Xinjiang province. However, rights activists say the centers are political indoctrination camps where Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are taught Communist propaganda and forced to renounce their religion.

Two-day visit

The minister also said that issues relating to arms control and disarmament should be the subject of multilateral agreements, especially in the case of new weapons systems. “We want to talk to China about this,” the ministry said via Twitter:



Foreign Minister @HeikoMaas on Coal Hill in Beijing: Issues relating to control and should be the subject of multilateral agreements. Especially in the case of new weapons systems. We want to talk to China about this.

See GermanForeignOffice’s other Tweets

Germany wants to expand bilateral consultations between Germany and China, on cooperation at the UN among other issues. Before he left Germany, Maas had said “China is more than just our most important trading partner in Asia,” and needed a strong relationship to tackle issues such as security and climate change.

Maas also stressed that Berlin and Beijing had a common interest in ending trade disputes.

China was Germany’s most important trade partner in 2017 with a trade volume of over €186 billion ($209 billion).

The minister was also to meet with economy officials and with Yang Jiechi, the director of China’s foreign affairs office, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as part of his two-day visit.

dv/jm (AFP, dpa)

Nations Applaud China’s Human Rights Record — Global criticism of China on human rights muted due to influence, money

November 9, 2018

China’s government is cracking down on dissent at an alarming pace and detaining up to 1 million Muslims in “re-education camps,” but at a UN Human Rights Council review this week, many countries saw fit to applaud China’s human rights record, rather than criticize it.

Why it matters: China’s economic power and investments around the world aren’t just increasing its global influence — they’re making countries far more reticent to speak out about Beijing’s abuses at home. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, tells me, “We might be moving onto the next bad phase where we not only see how few countries are critical of China, but how many are willing to be cheerleaders.”

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Case in point: Pakistan and Kazakhstan have both been directly affected by China’s mass detentions in Xinjiang province, with citizens or family members from both countries being held. Both are also heavily reliant on Chinese investment and trade. Neither criticized China at this week’s review, the first since 2013, which featured comments from 150 countries.

  • Countries that did speak out included Japan, Germany and the U.S., which called on China to close the internment camps and free the “possibly millions” being held.
  • China’s Vice Foreign Minister responded to the criticism: “We will not accept the politically driven accusations from a few countries that are fraught with biases, with total disregard for facts. No country shall dictate the definition of democracy and human rights.”
FILE - A police officer checks the identity card of a man as security forces keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017.

FILE – A police officer checks the identity card of a man as security forces keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017.

Richardson notes that Muslim countries were notably silent on the treatment of China’s Muslim minority. She put it this way:

“If any other government in the world was credibly accused of detaining 1 million Muslims, I think we can reasonably conclude there would be calls for a debate in the UN Security Council. Demands for an investigation. Because China is so powerful both within and outside of the UN, that’s probably not going to happen. The net effect is that China may well get away with this.”

FILE - In this July 7, 2009 photo, a Uigher woman demands the return of members from her community before a group of paramilitary police officers when journalists visited the area in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang province.

FILE – In this July 7, 2009 photo, a Uigher woman demands the return of members from her community before a group of paramilitary police officers when journalists visited the area in Urumqi in western China’s Xinjiang province.

Brookings’ Ted Piccone documents China’s success in limiting criticism in international institutions in a recent report:

  • Beijing is “building a strong coalition within the UN, mainly of developing countries more vulnerable to Beijing’s economic and political pressure and which share its wish to prioritize development over human rights.”
  • “European states, however, are not doing as much as they could to stand up against China on human rights. Explanations include protection of their growing economic and commercial interests with the Asian giant as well as geostrategic and political goals in managing China’s rise.”

The bottom line: “It’s not just that the tone of the discussion is getting softer, or that the topics under discussion are softer, it’s that the institutions themselves are under threat from China,” says Richardson. “If you can’t have a conversation about what’s happening in Xinjiang [at the UN], you’re not going to have that conversation anywhere.”

See also:

Who Are the Uighurs?

China faces grilling over internment camps at UN review

November 4, 2018

China will be grilled over its mass detainment of Uighur minorities during a UN human rights review on Tuesday, with Washington leading demands for Beijing to come clean on how many people are held in a sprawling network of camps.

As many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are being kept in extra-judicial detention in China’s fractious far western Xinjiang region, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.

The centres where they are thought to be detained have come under increasing scrutiny this year, with rights activists describing them as political re-education camps.

© AFP/File | Rights activists say members of China’s Muslim minorities are held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards

They say members of China’s Muslim minorities are held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils.

“The Human Rights Council must send an unequivocal message to the Chinese government that their campaign of systematic repression in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, including the arbitrary detention of up to one million people, must end,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.

The US and Germany have requested UN access to Xinjiang and Tibet to investigate allegations of mass detention and restrictions on religious freedoms.



All 193 United Nations member states must undergo a periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

China will present a report on its domestic human rights situation and on changes made since its last report in 2013, while diplomats from around the world will have the opportunity to ask questions — some of which have already been submitted.

One question by the US — which is leading demands for Beijing to come clean on the crackdown — says: “Can China clarify the basis for its apparent criminalization of peaceful religious practices as justification to detain people in these political ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang, as well as which officials are responsible for this policy?”

Washington also wants Beijing to provide “the number of people involuntarily held in all detention facilities in Xinjiang during the past five years”.

Britain has asked when China will implement a UN racial discrimination panel’s recommendation that it “halt the practice of detaining individuals who have not been lawfully charged, tried, and convicted for a criminal offence in any extra-legal detention facilities”.

The US and Germany have requested UN access to Xinjiang and Tibet to investigate allegations of mass detention and restrictions on religious freedoms.

– ‘Like a prison’ –

Beijing previously denied the existence of such camps, but now defends them as “vocational education and training centres” where happy students study Mandarin, brush up on job skills, and pursue hobbies such as sports and folk dance.

Chinese officials say the facilities are part of efforts to combat terrorism, religious extremism and separatism in Xinjiang following unrest that left hundreds dead in recent years.

But an AFP investigation published in October showed that local authorities had bought gear for the centres including police batons, electric cattle prods, handcuffs, pepper spray, stun guns and razor wire.

The centres should “teach like a school, be managed like the military, and be defended like a prison”, said one official document, quoting Xinjiang’s party secretary Chen Quanguo.

“The Chinese government owes some answers to international questions about Xinjiang,” Maya Wang, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

The UN human rights review is a chance for countries to “focus their firepower on Xinjiang”, though its effectiveness will depend on “whether or not there is commitment from the states to push for accountability,” she added.

China will send a vice minister of foreign affairs, Le Yucheng, to head the delegation to the UN. Officials from Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau will also attend the review.

“China is willing to carry out constructive dialogue with all sides in an open and honest spirit,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on Friday.

-‘Double standards’-

Beyond Xinjiang, China will also come under scrutiny for other aspects of its human rights record.

Since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, the Chinese government has cracked down on civil liberties and religious freedoms while ramping up digital surveillance.

In July 2017, dissident activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer while under police custody.

In 2015, more than 200 Chinese human rights lawyers and activists were detained or questioned in a sweep known as the “709” crackdown.

That year also saw five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders disappear, before they resurfaced in mainland China.

“China opposes human rights politicization and ‘double standards,’ and upholds international fairness and justice,” China said in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council for the review.

“No country’s human rights situation is perfect. China still faces many difficulties and challenges in promoting and protecting human rights,” it said.


China Demands U.S. Withdraw Sanctions Imposed Over Military Purchases From Russia

September 23, 2018

WASHINGTON — Chinese officials have summoned the United States ambassador in Beijing to denounce the United States for imposing economic sanctions this past week on a Chinese military organization for buying equipment from Russia, according to Chinese state news reports on Saturday.

The Chinese military also recalled a Chinese naval commander, Shen Jinlong, who was in the United States attending a naval conference, and it postponed a September meeting on joint staff communications between the two nations.

The United States ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, with President Xi Jinping of China last year. Beijing is said to have summoned the ambassador to protest economic sanctions imposed by the United States.  Credit Lintao Zhang/Reuters

The moves are aimed at pressuring the United States to withdraw the sanctions. The sanctions are “a flagrant breach of basic rules of international relations” and “a stark show of hegemonism,” said Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The diplomatic dispute adds to rising tensions between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.

By Edward Wong
The New York Times

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Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian [File photo]

Foreign Ministry officials raised objections to the United States ambassador, Terry Branstad, according to People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.

The State Department confirmed on Saturday that Mr. Branstad met with Chinese officials, but declined to comment further.

On Thursday, the State Department said that it was imposing sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Central Military Commission and its top official for “engaging in significant transactions” with a group in the Russian defense sector that is on a list of blacklisted entities.

The transactions involved the purchase of Russian Su-35 combat aircraft and equipment related to the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the State Department said.

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Russian Su-35

The Chinese received the aircraft in December 2017 and an initial batch of the missile equipment in 2018, the department said. Both were the result of deals negotiated before August 2017 between the Chinese military organization and Rosoboronexport, a state organization that is the main arms exporter of Russia.

Such military cooperation between the countries was normal, and in line with international law, said Mr. Wu, the military spokesman, according to the Xinhua report.

The State Department said it was imposing the sanctions against Russian and Chinese officials for violating a law enacted by the American government last year to punish Iran, North Korea and Russia for what American officials called hostile behavior. In the case of Russia, the act is intended to punish its military actions in Ukraine and Syria and cyberinterference in the American presidential election of 2016, among other things.

Tensions between the United States and China have escalated over a trade war that President Trump and his economic advisers started over the summer. Mr. Trump announced tariffs last week on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China, prompting China to retaliate by promising to impose similar tariffs on $60 billion worth of goods from the United States. China also canceled trade talks that had been scheduled for this week in Washington.

Relations between the countries have grown strained on other fronts. Trump administration officials have scolded China for not doing enough to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program; criticized what they call Chinese military expansionism in the Pacific and Indian Oceans; and are weighing sanctions against Chinese officials for the repression of ethnic Uighurs in the region of Xinjiang, where up to one million Uighurs are being detained in re-education camps.

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Uighur children

As well, American officials are anxious about Chinese influence in Latin America. This month, the State Department recalled its three chiefs of mission in Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador as a rebuke to those nations, which recently chose to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of recognizing China. The United States has recognized China since 1979, but wants the handful of small countries that recognize Taiwan to continue doing so as a hedge against Chinese power.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Beijing Denounces U.S. Sanctions Over Russian Deals

Canada should break silence on Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs

September 14, 2018
It will come as news to nobody that the Communist regime in Beijing lies through its teeth about the state of human rights in China, but nothing comes close to the lies Beijing tells to cover up its mounting persecution of Muslims. Those lies have been getting harder to tell, ever since Xi Jinping’s police state embarked upon measures so extreme and tyrannical that it’s become harder for the regime to keep the truth from getting to the outside world.
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An in-depth Human Rights Watch investigation published on Monday found that in the far western expanses of Xinjiang, a region nearly as big as Canada’s prairie provinces, “the government’s religious restrictions are so stringent that it has effectively outlawed Islam.” Last month, the head of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told a UN human rights panel in Geneva that Xinjiang’s Uighur autonomous region has been turned into “a massive internment camp.”

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs , perhaps a million people in all, have been detained for weeks and sometimes months at a time in a network of indoctrination camps. At first, the Chinese government denied that the camps even existed. But as evidence has mounted – eyewitness accounts, the Chinese government’s own documents, satellite photographs, construction blueprints – the party line has changed.

Chinese officials are now describing the camps as “vocational education facilities,” training centres and residential schools where petty criminals are housed while undergoing“rehabilitation and reintegration.” Former inmates who have managed to escape China describe the camps as hellholes of torture and forced labour. Internees are required to learn Mandarin, sing patriotic songs, memorize government propaganda and recite florid loyalty oaths.

Xinjiang’s Uighurs, Tajiks and Kazakhs have tended to see themselves as peoples apart from the Han Chinese cultural hegemony that the Communist regime has imposed in the region in recent years. Separatist sentiment has waxed and waned, and radical Islam has occasionally found a place for itself in the region. The Communist Party line is that extraordinary measures have been necessary to eradicate “ideological diseases” in the region, particularly among the 10 million Uihgurs. Devout Muslims are classified as mentally ill.

In Xinjiang’s towns and cities, population movements are closely controlled. Surveillance is ubiquitous. The Communist administration is employing biometric data, experimental voice-recognition and facial-recognition technology, house arrest, DNA data banks and digital tracking to closely monitor and control the public. Cameras are everywhere. Travel is severely restricted. Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of special police have been deployed to newly-built stations and temporary checkpoints.

As grim as all this is, the gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang are at least beginning to emerge as subjects of closer global scrutiny. On Monday, in an unusual move, Michelle Bachelet, in her first speech as the UN’s new High Commissioner for Human Rights, singled out Beijing’s mistreatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs for special notice. The former Chilean president specifically referred to “deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang”.

Bachelet called on Beijing to reverse its closed-door policy and allow the UN Human Rights office complete access to Xinjiang and all other regions of China. That would be a good start.

In Washington, meanwhile, a bipartisan initiative in Congress has begun to push the Trump White House to “swiftly act” and trigger the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction Chinese government officials and entities directly complicit in the Xinjiang abuses. On Monday, the Australian opposition Labour Party followed suit, calling on Canberra to draw up a similar list for sanctions. A petition drawn up by a group of Australian imams asking parliament to start ramping up pressure on Beijing managed to gather 10,000 signatures.

Canada, predictably, has been quiet, even though Ottawa could have been out in front inholding Beijing to account for its cruelties in Xinjiang. It’s been 12 years since the Canadian Uighur Huseyin Celil, who fled China as a refugee in 2001, was arrested while visiting family in Uzbekistan. Celil was extradited to China and chucked into prison, and in 2012 Celil was given a life sentence without a proper trial on trumped up terror charges. Celil’s sentence was later reduced after being subjected to a “re-education” program.

Canada could make some use of itself taking the lead in backing UN human rights investigators’ efforts to gain access to Xinjiang, and and Ottawa’s own Magnitsky law would serve perfectly well in a collaboration with Australia and the United States to sanction the tormentors of Xinjiang’s Uighurs.

Canada has neither reason nor excuse not to do so.


China is not mistreating Muslims in Xinjiang — Just training courses — Like your children go to vocational training schools — Only with solitary confinement

September 14, 2018

China is not mistreating Muslims in Xinjiang province but is putting some people through training courses to avoid spreading of extremism, unlike Europe which had failed to deal with the problem, a Chinese official told reporters on Thursday.

Reports of mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s far-western region have prompted a growing international outcry, prompting the Trump administration to consider sanctions against officials and companies linked to the allegations of human rights abuses.

“It is not mistreatment,” said Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Infor­mation Office. “What China is doing is to establish professional training centres, educational centres.

‘Religious extremists are common foes of mankind’

“If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the West has failed in doing so, in dealing with religious extremism. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

He said the Chinese education centres were not “detention centres or re-education camps”, which he dismissed as “the trademark product of eastern European countries”, an apparent reference to Soviet Gulag detention camps during the Cold War.

“To put it straight, it’s like vocational training… like your children go to vocational training schools to get better skills and better jobs after graduation.

“But these kinds of training and education centres only accept people for a short period of time; some people five days, some seven days, 10 days, one month, two months.”

Islam was a good thing in China’s view, but “Islamic extremists” were the common foes of mankind, he said. “They are very bad elements. You can see that in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Iraq, and many other countries.”

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018



China tries to brainwash Muslims in internment camps

Associated Press

Day after day, Omir Bekali and other detainees in far western China’s new indoctrination camps had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticise themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party.

When Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, refused, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement and deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days, he wanted to kill himself.

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP
Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

“The psychological pressure is enormous, when you have to criticise yourself, denounce your thinking your own ethnic group,” said Bekali, 42, who broke down in tears while describing the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises.”

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese and even foreign citizens in mass internment camps.

This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a United States (US) commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today”.

The internment programme tries to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. Chinese officials have largely avoided comment, but some have said in state media that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs killed hundreds in China in years past.

Three other former internees and a former instructor in different centers corroborated Bekali’s depiction. Taken together, the recollections offer the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education.

The programme is a hallmark of China’s emboldened state security apparatus under the deeply nationalistic, hard-line rule of President Xi Jinping. It is partly rooted in the ancient Chinese belief in transformation through education taken once before to terrifying extremes during the mass thought reform campaigns of Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader sometimes channelled by Xi.

“Cultural cleansing is Beijing’s attempt to find a final solution to the Xinjiang problem,” said James Millward, a China historian at Georgetown University.

The internment system is shrouded in secrecy, with no publicly available data. The US State Department estimates those being held are “at the very least in the tens of thousands”.

A Turkey-based TV station run by Xinjiang exiles said almost 900,000 were detained, citing leaked government documents. Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, puts the number between several hundreds of thousands and just over one million, and government bids suggest construction is ongoing.

Asked to comment on the camps, China’s foreign ministry said it “had not heard” of the situation. Chinese officials in Xinjiang did not respond to requests for comment.

However, China’s top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang’s authorities this month to extensively expand what the government calls “transformation through education” in an “all-out effort” to fight extremism.

China-born Bekali moved to Kazakhstan in 2006 and received citizenship three years later.

Omir Bekali holds up a mobile phone showing a photo of his parents whom he believes have been detained in China. — AP
Omir Bekali holds up a mobile phone showing a photo of his parents whom he believes have been detained in China. — AP

On March 25 last year, Bekali visited his parents in Xinjiang. The next day, police took him away. They strapped him into a “tiger chair” that clamped down his wrists and ankles. They hung him by his wrists against a barred wall. They interrogated him about his work inviting Chinese to apply for Kazakh tourist visas.

“I haven’t committed any crimes!” Bekali yelled.

Seven months later, Bekali was taken out of his cell and handed a release paper. But he was not free.

Bekali was driven to a fenced compound in Karamay, where three buildings held more than 1,000 internees.

They would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7.30am. They sang songs praising the party and studied Chinese language and history. They were told that the indigenous sheep-herding Central Asian people of Xinjiang were backward before they were “liberated” by the Communist Party in the 1950s.

When they ate meals of vegetable soup and buns, they first had to chant: “Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!”

Bekali was kept in a locked room almost around the clock with eight other internees, who shared beds and a wretched toilet. Cameras were installed in toilets and outhouses. Baths were rare, as was washing of hands and feet, equated with Islamic ablution.

In four-hour sessions, instructors lectured about the dangers of Islam and drilled internees with quizzes that they had to answer correctly or be sent to stand near a wall for hours on end.

“Do you obey Chinese law or Sharia?” instructors asked. “Do you understand why religion is dangerous?”

The detainees had to criticise and be criticised by their peers. One by one, they would also stand up before 60 classmates to present self-criticisms of their religious history.

“I was taught the Holy Quran by my father and I learned it because I didn’t know better,” Bekali heard one say.

“I travelled outside China without knowing that I could be exposed to extremist thoughts abroad,” another said. “Now I know.”

After a week, Bekali went to his first stint in solitary confinement. He yelled out to a visiting official.

“Take me in the back and kill me, or send me back to prison,” he shouted. “I can’t be here anymore.”

He was again hauled off to solitary confinement. It lasted 24 hours, ending late afternoon on Nov 24, when Bekali was suddenly released.

At first, Bekali did not want the AP to publish his account for fear his sister and mother in China would be detained.

But on March 10, the police took his sister, Adila Bekali. A week later, they took his mother, Amina Sadik. And on April 24, his father, Ebrayem.

Bekali changed his mind and said he wanted to tell his story.