Horrors continue in Xinjiang detention camps, further arrests without cause

Various Kazakhs plead for their loved ones
trapped in Xinjiang. Left: Hasen Kulsara
wishes to reunite with her husband. Mid:
Norserali Ayden holds a picture of his
imprisoned brother and family. Right:
Shabila Sultan says she can no longer
reach her parents after their arrest.
(Photo: ChinaAid)


(Ili Kazakh, Xinjiang—May 11, 2018) The extensive crackdown against minority citizens in China’s far western Xinjiang region continues as local police struggle to meet government quotas by arresting citizens at random. Within detention camps, prisoners reportedly suffer from memory loss and reproductive issues due to forced medication. As a result, individuals living in Kazakhstan continue to urge the Kazakh government to intervene on behalf of their family members unlawfully detained across the border.

Over the past few years, Xinjiang, a large desert region on China’s border with Kazakhstan, has become a hotbed of cultural conflict as Chinese authorities suppress racial minorities in the name of combating extremism and inspiring loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Minority citizens, especially those belonging to the Uyghur and Kazakh ethnic groups, both of which are predominantly Muslim, have been affected the most extensively.

As part of this ‘anti-extremist’ initiative, an extensive network of detention camps known as “political training centers” or “reformation centers” has been set up throughout the region, where minority citizens are detained, forbidden from contacting their families, tortured, and subjected to propaganda in an attempt to “cure” them of their religious beliefs and cultural heritage.

Kaben Bekenay spoke of the medication
administered to prisoners in reformation
centers. (Photo: ChinaAid) 

New reports coming out of these detention camps indicate that detainees are now being forcibly medicated and injected with unknown substances. Those released suffered from loss of memory or even loss of reproductive ability. China has used forced sterilizations in the past to try to enforce its population control policies, such as the one-child policy and the more recent two-child policy.

The situation has devolved further, as of May 1, when the the local government in Xinyuan County issued a notification that going forward, Kazakhs wishing to visit friends must apply for a government permit, stating the name and address of their friend, as well as the purpose of their visit. If a person makes a visit during the day, they must stay in that night.

The day after the visit, the guest is required to report to the neighborhood committee and undergo interrogation about what was discussed, what jokes were made, and how the friends greeted one another. The committee will then send officials to the visited home to confirm the account. If there are any discrepancies between the two records, both parties will be sent to the political training centers.

Xinyuan County is one of two counties in Xinjiang to completely forbid all travelers from entering, the other being Emin County. Any foreigners who wish to enter Xinyuan must submit an application and wait at least one week for a government response to decide whether or not they are allowed in.

Authorities need little to no cause to arrest people and hold them in these “training centers.” According to a Kazakh in Nilka County, the police there are having difficulty keeping up with the arrest quotas demanded by the central government for the training centers.

“They had to arrest 90 people in one week in order to meet their quota of arresting 200 people for the month,” the anonymous Kazakh said, speaking to the reporter on May 4. “They failed to complete that task in April. These police are human, and most of them are good people just following orders. Many of the police have mental problems [because of the stress]. They work overtime every day, sleep in their uniforms, and they are constantly on call. Many of them have experienced mental breakdowns.”

The source also said that some of the police are members of the Han majority, while others are Kazakhs. Because the police didn’t know how to reach the quota legitimately, they began to arrest people randomly, taking people based on their appearance. They have been told to focus on three groups in particular: those who have been in contact with people in Kazakhstan, those involved in religious activities, and those who were previously in prison. After two months of these quotas, the police have run out of targets that meet these criteria.

Halem Asem, a student in Kazakhstan, was
detained herself, then her mother was arrested
as well. (Photo: ChinaAid)

As “contact with Kazakhstan” is a main reason that people are taken to the centers, many families have been broken across the border, as those who visit Xinjiang from Kazakhstan are detained upon arrival and have their passports and other travel documents confiscated, preventing them from returning. Many of these families have begun to ask the government of Kazakhstan to intervene on behalf of their loved ones.

Shabila Sultan, a Xinjiang resident who attends college in Kazakhstan, has pleaded on behalf of her parents, who are detained in China. “I came to Kazakhstan for college in 2018 and I’ve obtained Kazakh citizenship. My father, Babax Sultan, and my mother, Abdullah Ereshan, live in the village of Qarabulaq in Urjar County, east Kazakhstan. They obtained Kazakhstan permanent residency in 2010. They travelled to China to visit their families, but the police confiscated their passports and greencards on the day of their return and claimed ‘we’ll return them when you go back [to Kazakhstan].’ They haven’t returned since and we have no way of contacting them. My mother has previously been in poor health. I hope that the government of Kazakhstan can rescue these two senior citizens.”

Another woman in Kazakhstan, Hasen Kulsara, posted a video last week to spread word about her husband. “My husband is Eebol Muhan. He has Kazakhstan permanent residency. He traveled to China on Oct. 20, 2017, and never returned. The police put him in a reformation camp. I am taking care of the children alone. I am pregnant and will give birth to another child in a few months. I hope that the Kazakhstan diplomats can help me reunite with my husband.”

A man named Norserali Ayden spoke on behalf of his brother. “My brother, Norserali Bahtijiang lived in Kok-Tobe village in Kansu County. In September 2017, police arrested him and took him to a reformation center. He was released a month later. This February, however, he was arrested again. The government claimed he hadn’t been ‘fully reformed’ yet. I need help from the Kazakhstan government and international human rights organizations.”

Cabit Kabel, also a Kazakhstan citizen, said that Xinjiang detained his mother and older brother. “My mom, Tazabek keze Bagdat, lived in Jinghe County, Bole, Xinjiang. She retired in November 2017 and planned to live in Kazakhstan. I installed Skype on my mother’s phone. On Jan. 11, 2018, the police arrested her and put her into a reformation camp for having Skype on her phone. The police interrogated her for days before she was released. The government has forced her to stay at home and prevented her from talking about the detention.”

Cabit said that police returned to his mother’s house on March 10 and took her away once more. “My mother left me a message on WeChat that said, ‘Son, the police are taking me away to a reformation center.’ No one has heard from her since. My older brother, Xayahmet ule Nurtai, lived in Bole. He traveled to China in November 2017 to attend a wedding and has never returned. He had a company here [in Kazakhstan] which has suffered from great financial loss after his disappearance. I hereby ask the Kazakhstan government and the human rights organization of the United Nations to help us protect our lives and property.”

Halem Asem, a student from China studying in Kazakhstan, spoke of both her own troubles in returning to China, as well as those endured by her mother. Halem began Alfarabiy Ultteh Venweriysitet, a school in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2015, but when she returned to visit China in 2017, her passport was taken and she was sent to a political training center. Fortunately, she was released and her passport was returned to her, however, shortly after, her mother was arrested by police as well.

“My mom told me, ‘Daughter, you must study hard. I have something I am working on now, and I will join you in Kazakhstan later,’” Halem told the reporter. “Because she said that, the police arrested her in October 2017. She has been in the reformation center for eight months now. I can’t reach her. My parents are divorced, and my mother is the one who raised me. Now that my mom’s in the center, I can’t pay my tuition or sustain myself. I need money for life and for school. Parents of more than 50 students [at my school] have been detained in these centers.”

Hasenhaze ule Murathan fears for his wife,
who was ill when she returned to China and
never returned. (Photo: ChinaAid)

Kaben Bekenay, a Kazakh who still lives in Xinjiang in Kekesu County, Tacheng, said his nephew attended prep school in Kazakhstan but never returned from winter break in China. “The police put him in a reformation center. Teenagers should be in school at this age, but the police detain them instead. All of these prisoners were forced to receive injections and medication. […] We need help.”

Hasenhaze ule Murathan, who previously lived in China but obtained Kazakh citizenship, spoke out that his wife disappeared in China when she fell ill and returned for treatment, leaving him alone in Kazakhstan with their three children. “I don’t know if she’s still ill because I can’t contact her. The children miss their mother. The family needs her. I hope the president of Kazakhstan can negotiate with the Chinese government and help us reunite with her.”

Another Kazakh citizen, Dilmurat Ayetbay, also lost his wife, Gulkez Turganbay to the centers, leaving him alone with two sons. “All of us are Kazakhstan citizens. We live in Boshiku Village, Alakuoli County, Almaty. In November 2017, my wife visited her family in China, and Chinese police confiscated her passport and sent her to a reformation center. I hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and international human rights group can help rescue my wife.”

ChinaAid reports on human rights abuses, such as the ongoing persecution of minority citizens in Xinjiang, in order to promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law and combat the corruption of the Chinese Communist Party.

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