PRESS RELEASE: Camp Detainees Particularly Vulnerable During Virus Outbreak
The WUC is deeply concerned that the rapidly spreading novel corona virus outbreak, which has affected thousands of people in China, may put the Uyghur people and those detained in camps at particular risk. The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, has already infected 2,000 people and resulted in the deaths of 81 people.
Efforts to contain the virus have been largely unsuccessful, in a large part due to the fact that millions of people travelled from the epicenter in Wuhan to the rest of China and the world at large for Chinese New Year. Chinese authorities were slow to react and take concrete actions to limit the spread of the virus. As a result, several cases of the virus have already been confirmed in East Turkistan.
The WUC is very concerned that if measures are not taken to further limit the spread of this virus, it could rapidly infect large numbers of people living in East Turkistan. The estimated 1-3 million Uyghurs still being detained in internment camps by the Chinese government are at a particular risk if the virus is not contained.
Witness accounts of the camps have evidenced that detainees are imprisoned in cramped, overcrowded rooms with poor hygiene and sanitation. A large number of Uyghurs who were detained in the camps have already died, either under mysterious circumstances or due to medical neglect and mistreatment. Older people have formed the majority of these cases, including the reknown Uyghur religious scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim and WUC President Dolkun Isa’s mother and father, both of whom passed away in the last two years. As the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems have been the vast majority of the fatalities from the virus so far, the health and well-being of those currently detained in the camps is of particular concern.
“This virus constitutes a significant risk to all people in East Turkistan, especially those detained in the internment camps,” WUC President Dolkun Isa stated. “These people are in a vulnerable and weakened state due to the Chinese government’s abuses and mistreatment. This has just further compounded the suffering of the Uyghur people, as our friends and family are now in even greater danger.”
The WUC calls on the Chinese government to refrain from covering up information about the outbreak and to stop all flights and unnecessary transportation to East Turkistan, especially from Wuhan, to prevent further spread of the virus to East Turkistan. The WUC again demands that the Chinese government release all Uyghurs who are being detained in the camps. Currently, the millions detained in the camps would be unable to isolate themselves from infected individuals and their health and well-being would be strictly controlled by the Chinese authorities, who have shown little to no regard for their lives in recent years.
While the arbitrary detention of millions of innocent people already constitutes a crime against humanity, if the virus makes its way into the camps the Chinese government will be responsible for further atrocities. The WUC is closely monitoring the situation and extends our sympathies and concern for all those affected by the virus. We urge the Chinese government to finally put human lives over politics.