PRESS RELEASE: WUC Demands an End to Torture in East Turkistan
On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the WUC calls for an immediate end to the Chinese government’s widespread use of torture against Uyghur camp detainees, human rights defenders and prisoners. The Chinese government’s use of torture against Uyghurs violates international law and the basic standards of human decency. The CCP has routinely used torture to extract false confessions, force obedience and complicity in the camps and to punish Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers for speaking out against its oppressive rule.
The Chinese government has long used physical and psychological tortures against the Uyghur people. In late 2005, after making his first official visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumqi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed that “torture was widespread” in China. He stated that there has been a “consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs.” In November 2015, UHRP and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) jointly submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT). The submission documented no progress in ending the practice of torturing Uyghur detainees since Manfred Nowak’s visit ten years earlier.
However, the Chinese government’s use of torture has increased in recent years, as it has committed related crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people. According to the testimony of former detainees of the internment camps, in which the Chinese government is arbitrarily detaining 1-3 million Uyghurs, detainees were subjected to a range of physical and psychological torture on a regular basis. Camp survivor Mihrigul Tursun testified that she was beaten and forced to take drugs which made her lethargic, while being interrogated. She stated that detainees in the camps were forced to recite CCP propaganda and participate in indoctrination exercise, or face punishment. Ms. Tursun was tortured in a ‘tiger chair’, with electric shocks, beaten and was subject to other forms of inhuman treatment.
Nearly every camp survivor has testified to having witnessed or endured similar treatment. Zumrat Dawut said that inmates were regularly chained, beaten and tortured and women were forced to ingest pills that made them feel dizzy and eventually stopped their periods. On one occasion she was beaten on one occasion for sharing bread with another inmate. An ethnic Kazakh who was forced to teach Chinese in the camps, Sayragul Sauytbay, testified that detainees were tortured in a variety of ways, including being hung from the walls, shocked with electricity, forced to sit on a chair of nails and detainees were deprived of food. Female detainees were raped and faced other forms of sexual and gender based violence. Omer Bekali also testified that he was beaten and tortured in the ‘tiger chair’ to force him to confess to false allegations while in the camps. Camp survivor Gulbahar Jalilova also witnessed a regular use of torture, stating that she witnessed girls as young as 14 years old and women as old as 80 coming back from interrogation with bruised bodies and swollen heads, one of which came back with part of her skull bashed in.
“The Chinese government is using torture and inhuman punishment to force Uyghurs to accept indoctrination and assimilation in the internment camps,” said WUC President Dolkun Isa. “ This is an affront to human dignity and has left many camp detainees deeply traumatized. As an international community, we cannot accept this.”
The use of torture and inhuman treatment against Uyghur detainees have likely resulted in numerous deaths in custody. Camp survivor Mihrigul Tursun testified that she witnessed the deaths of 9 of the 68 people held in her cell in the internment camp, over a 3 month period. Many other Uyghurs have died in the camps under suspicious or unexplained circumstances, such as the mother of WUC President Dolkun Isa. The bodies of Uyghurs who have died in the camps are often not released to their family members and are cremated without their family’s consent (and in contravention to traditional Uyghur burial practices). The lack of transparency around these deaths raise suspicions that some may have died due to torture or other inhuman treatment.
This day, June 26th also marks the 11th anniversary of the Shaoguan massacre in which Uyghur migrant workers were murdered by Han Chinese colleagues at a factory in Shaoguan. According to CCP state media, false rumors that Uyghur men had sexually assaulted Han Chinese women spread by a disgruntled former employee exacerbated ethnic tensions and resulted in the attack. The Chinese authorities failed to protect the Uyghur workers, resulting in their deaths. The outrage in the Uyghur community at the massacre resulted in mass demonstrations in Urumqi on July 5th 2009, which were brutally repressed by the Chinese government, resulting in thousands of deaths and disappearances of Uyghurs. Therefore, June 26th represents the violence and mistreatment of the Chinese government towards the Uyghur people.
As has been made clear by the witness testimony of camp survivors, the use of torture in the camps and detention centres is widespread and systematic. Torture and other forms of mistreatment are seemingly built into the camp system. Detainees who refuse to accept the indoctrination or confess to false allegations are subjected to physical and psychological torture. The Independent China Tribunal concluded, after a review of all available evidence, that acts of torture have occurred against Uyghurs and Falun Gong practioners, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Despite the Chinese government’s horrific and systematic use of torture against Uyghurs, Falun Gong practioners, lawyers, human rights defenders, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and many others, they have not been held accountable. Despite having ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988, the Chinese government has refused to implement the provisions of this treaty or the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture.
The international community has recognized that torture is an inhuman and unacceptable practice, yet China continues to use torture on Uyghur detainees and prisoners in a systematic and widespread manner. This has caused an incredible amount of suffering and human misery for the Uyghur people. The physical and psychological trauma caused by torture lives on in the individuals and communities affected by it.
The WUC therefore calls on the international community:
- To unequivocally demand that the Chinese government immediately stop its use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
- Insist that the Special Rapporteur for Torture China, especially the internment camps, to investigate the allegations of the widespread and systemtic use of torture.
- Call on China to implement the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture, implement the concluding recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) and proceed with the next review of its record on torture through UN CAT.
- Provide psychological support and counseling to Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers who have endured acts of torture.