Forced labour and abuse: Uyghur exiles speak out

Forced labour and abuse: Uyghur exiles speak out
AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
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Speaking to the Associated Press, several Uyghur exiles from the Xinjiang region in China spoke of their experience of abuse and forced labor ahead of a tribunal set to take place in London later this week.

The three people fled to Turkey from China and are set to testify to a people’s tribunal in London which is seeking to find out if China’s actions against the ethnic minority in Xinjiang can be labeled as genocide.

“The tribunal, which does not have U.K. government backing, will be chaired by prominent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Nice, who led the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and worked with the International Criminal Court,” per the AP. The people putting the tribunal together reportedly hope that displaying the proof in a public manner will push the international community to act.

One exile, a mother of four, Bumeryem Rozi, said officials in Xinjiang gathered and other pregnant women to force them to have abortions in 2007. “She said she complied because she feared that otherwise authorities would have confiscated her home and belongings and endangered her family,” the outlet reported.

“I was 6 1/2 months pregnant … The police came, one Uyghur and two Chinese. They put me and eight other pregnant women in cars and took us to the hospital,” Rozi, 55, told the outlet from her home in Istanbul.

“They first gave me a pill and said to take it. So I did. I didn’t know what it was,” she continued. “Half an hour later, they put a needle in my belly. And sometime after that, I lost my child.”

Former obstetrician-gynecologist Semsinur Gafur who worked in a hospital in the region in the 1990s said she and female clinic workers used to visit homes with ultrasound machines to investigate if any of the women were pregnant.

“If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the home … They would flatten the house, destroy it,” Gafur said. “This was my life there. It was very distressing. And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn’t trust me. The Uyghur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.”

Another exile, Mahmut Tevekkul, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese officials who attempted to get information about his brother. “Tevekkul said the brother was wanted partly because he published a religious book in Arabic,” the outlet reported.

“They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet, and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until the morning and then they took us to the maximum-security area of the prison,” he said.

Chinese authorities have said the tribunal was created by “anti-China forces” to disperse falsehoods.

“There is no such thing as genocide or forced labor in Xinjiang,” the region’s government spokesperson Elijan Anayat reportedly told the press on Thursday. “If the tribunal insists on going its own way, we would like to express our severe condemnation and opposition and will be forced to take countermeasures.”

The tribunal is the most recent effort to hold China accountable for the alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang province. Approximately 11 million Uyghurs reside in the province according to a March report by the Council on Foreign Relations. The Chinese government has reportedly imprisoned over one million Muslims since 2017 in its “reeducation camps,” most of the detainees belonging to the Uyghur ethnic group.

The testimonies from the Uyghur exiles line up with recent information about birth control policies and abuses in Xinjiang. As The Daily Wire reported last month, a new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that the birth rate for ethnic minorities and indigenous populations has plummeted dramatically in recent years.

The report stated, “…The birth-rate across the [Xinjiang] region fell by nearly half (48.74 per cent) in the two years between 2017 and 2019.”

The most prominent drops occurred in areas where Uyghurs and other indigenous people are located. Throughout counties that are populated by a majority of indigenous people, the birth rate dropped, on average, by 43.7 per cent in one year between 2017 and 2018. The birth rate in counties populated by 90 per cent or more indigenous people dropped by 56.5 per cent, on average, in that same year.

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