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    VIDEO: Uyghur students detained by Egyptian authorities to be deported to China

    Video footage of more than 70 Uyghur Muslim students detained by Egyptian authorities awaiting to be deported back to China.
    This video has been cross-posted from the DOAM YouTube channel.

    East Turkestan - An Appeal to Muslim scholars and the Ummah - Uyghur students arrested by the Egyptian authorities.
    Video: https://www.facebook.com/doamuslims/...7619590285603/

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    China extends new family planning policy in Xinjiang province to include Muslim Uyghur minority

    China has extended a new family planning policy in its volatile Xinjiang province to include Muslim Uyghur minority, official media reported today. China has relaxed its four decades old one child policy last year to permit two children.

    By: PTI | Beijing | Updated: August 1, 2017

    China has extended a new family planning policy in its volatile Xinjiang province to include Muslim Uyghur minority, official media reported today. China has relaxed its four decades old one child policy last year to permit two children. The one child policy was confined to only the majority Han community which constitutes over 90 per cent of China’s population of 1.3 billion people. It excluded all minority communities including Muslims and Tibetans. However the new policy being implemented since July 28 in Xinjiang will now be included the Muslims and other minorities too, state-run Global Times reported.

    The province started implementing a uniform family planning policy for all ethnic groups, a move which Chinese analysts said will promote ethnic equality. According to a revised regulation on Xinjiang’s family planning policy, regional ethnic minorities could no longer enjoy as lenient a family planning policy, it said.

    It states that starting July 28, all urban couples in the region have been allowed to have two children, while rural couples can have three. The move was stated to be part of series of stringent actions being taken by China to deal with the volatile province where over Turkik speaking Uygurs who constitute the majority were restive about massive migrations of Hans to their resource rich area.

    China blames separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement, (ETIM) for the recurring attacks and imposed several measures including restricting wearing veils by Muslim women. As per 2016 official figures Xinjiang’s population stood at 23.98 million. Xinjiang’s regional statistics bureau figures stating that the population census in 2010 showed that there were 8.7 million Han people in Xinjiang, accounting for 40.1 per cent of the total, and an increase of 16.77 percent compared to the 2000 survey, the Global Times reported.

    Meanwhile, around 13 million minorities (majority of them are Uyghurs) live in Xinjiang, an increase of 19.12 per cent. The report said the regional government had previously allowed urban Han couples to have one child while urban minority couples could have two. That meant rural minority couples could have three children, one more than rural Han couples.

    “The change reflects the country’s respect for ethnic equality. This move should be expanded to other places, especially in minority areas, depending on local conditions Huang Wenzheng, a specialist in demographics said.

    La Disheng, a professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Xinjiang regional committee said this policy is consistent with China’s ethnic policy of equality of all nationalities in the region.


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    Chinese Authorities Convert Uyghur Mosques Into Propaganda Centers

    They have also been ordered to remove inscriptions of #Islam’s holiest verse, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” from mosque walls and replace them with large red banners that read “Love the [Communist] Party, Love the Country” in yellow writing.
    On Monday mornings, instead of a muezzin calling Muslims to prayer at the prefecture’s mosques, flag-raising ceremonies are now held, followed by the singing of the Chinese national anthem and a patriotic song entitled, “Without the Communist Party, There is No New China.”

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    Chinese Police Order Xinjiang's Muslims to Hand in All Copies of The Quran


    Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang [East Turkistan] have ordered ethnic minority [native] Muslim families to hand in religious items including prayer mats and copies of the Quran to the authorities, RFA has learned.

    Officials across Xinjiang have been warning neighborhoods and mosques that ethnic minority Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims must hand in the items or face harsh punishment if they are found later, sources in the region said.

    "Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Qurans and the special mats used for namaaz [prayer]," a Kazakh source in Altay prefecture, near the border with Kazakhstan told RFA on Wednesday.

    "Pretty much every household has a Quran, and prayer mats," he said.

    Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, said reports have emerged from Kashgar, Hotan and other regions of similar practices starting last week.

    "We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion," Raxit said.

    "They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren't handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments," he said.

    Raxit said announcements are being made by the police via popular social media platform WeChat.

    "All Qurans and related items must be handed into the authorities, and there are notices to this effect being broadcast via WeChat," Raxit said.

    "The announcements say that people must hand in any prayer mats of their own accord to the authorities, as well as any religious reading matter, including anything with the Islamic moon and star symbol on it," he said.

    "They are requiring people to hand in these items of their own accord," he said.

    ‘Three Illegals’

    Earlier this year, Xinjiang authorities began confiscating all Qurans published more than five years ago due to “extremist content,” according to local officials, amid an ongoing campaign against “illegal” religious items owned by mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur residents.

    The Qurans were appropriated as part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign underway in Xinjiang that bans “illegal” publicity materials, religious activities, and religious teaching, as well as items deemed by authorities to be tools of terrorism—including knives, flammable objects, remote-controlled toys, and objects sporting symbols related to Islam, they said.

    The Kazakh source said that earlier directives calling for the confiscation of Qurans and other religious items hadn't been effective, and so the authorities are now stepping up the pressure and placing the onus on individual households to hand them in under a compulsory program.

    He said confiscation drives targeting Uyghurs are now also being extended to the country's ethnic Kazakh population.

    At the same time, any products from neighboring Kazakhstan or bearing the Kazakh language or symbols have also been outlawed, sources said.

    A leaked police notice from Changji prefecture called on local officials to search for any items bearing any writing or symbols linked to Kazakhstan.

    "Any items bearing writing or any other traces of Kazakhstan, including street signs or graffiti, store decorations, arts and crafts items, T-shirts and so on, must immediately be investigated ... and a detailed report made to higher authorities by Sept. 25," the notice, dated Sept. 22, it said.

    Products from Kazakhstan

    A second Kazakh source said authorities are also searching for and confiscating any products brought from Kazakhstan.

    "There are restrictions on the sale of any products and foodstuffs from Kazakhstan, including noodles, organic products and mare's milk spirit," the source said. "They won't let you sell things brought over from Kazakhstan."

    An official who answered the phone at the Altay police department on Wednesday hung up when asked to comment on the reports.

    Chinese authorities have lately issued orders for ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals to hand in their passports and Kazakh green cards in some parts of Xinjiang, and have reportedly detained dozens of Kazakhs returning from overseas study or family visits to Kazakhstan, sending them for indefinite terms in "re-education" facilities, sources have told RFA.

    Official figures show that there are around 1.5 million Kazakhs in China, mostly concentrated in and around the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture close to the Kazakhstan border.

    China has previously welcomed Kazakhs who wished to relocate from Kazakhstan, with their numbers peaking at nearly 38,000 in 2006. But now many Kazakhs with Chinese nationality are heading back in the other direction.



    China is trying to wipe Islam out from this Muslim land (East Turkistan) after occupying it for so long. They are also removing all products imported from bordering countries to force these Muslims to depend on mainland Chinese products that could be stopped anytime China wants.

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    China Shutters Islamic Bookstore in Beijing, Detains Owner on 'Terrorism' Charges

    Authorities in Beijing have shut down a well-known Islamic bookstore and publishing house and detained its founder
    on "terrorism" charges amid a nationwide security operation ahead of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly congress this month.

    An employee who answered the phone at the Qingzhen Bookstore in Beijing's Haidian district on Tuesday confirmed the move.

    "We, the bookstore, have closed," the former employee said. "We are no longer in operation and I am no longer an employee here."

    "I don't know the details of the situation, though."

    Store owner Ma Yinglong, a member of the Dongxiang ethnic group from the northwestern region of Xinjiang
    , is currently being detained on suspicion of "terrorist activities," U.S.-based rights activist Suleiman Gu told RFA.

    And a Hui Muslim who asked to remain anonymous said Ma had already been detained for more than a year, before being released under a suspended sentence handed down by the Haidian District People's Court for "illegal business activities."

    The owner was already under house arrest when he was taken away on Oct. 6, Gu said.

    Online store

    The Qingzhen Bookstore publishes books about Islam and related topics, which it sells on its IslamBook.net website.

    IslamBook.net, which offers texts in Chinese on topics ranging from Islamic philosophy to the sporting life of ethnic Chinese Hui Muslims, was accessible from outside China on Tuesday.

    The online store also offers a number of Islamic religious items including Malaysian-made hijabs and other clothing, Islamic arts and crafts and halal food items.

    "I'm not sure what [Ma's] status was before he was detained again on Oct. 6," Gu told RFA. "It could be that he had a suspended sentence."

    "His friends said that he was under residential surveillance at the time [of his detention] and that the police detaining him were from Xinjiang," he said.

    "His hometown is in Xinjiang, and he was taken away on charges relating to 'terrorism'," Gu said.

    He said an employee of the bookstore had told him that they were waiting "for the case to be processed according to the law."

    "We are worried too," they said in a recording of the phone conversation with Gu. "It's hard to say what the final outcome will be, but ... don't be too worried. We have faith in the government and in the party."

    Religion and 'terrorism'

    Rights activist Liu Xinglian, a former head of the Islamic Association in the southern island province of Hainan, said the authorities are now explicitly linking religion and "terrorism," in the hope of preventing more peaceful dissidents like jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti from speaking out against government policy in Xinjiang.

    "They will use trumped-up charges to frame people and suppress them, so [Ma's detention] isn't surprising," Liu said.

    An outspoken economics professor who regularly highlighted the religious and cultural persecution of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, Tohti was handed a life sentence on Sept. 23, 2014 following a two-day show trial.

    The complete version of the ruling has never been made public, but the court decision cited Tohti’s interviews with overseas Uyghur, Chinese, and English-language media outlets, his commentaries on events concerning Uyghurs in Xinjiang, his criticism of Beijing’s ethnic policies, and his work founding and running the Chinese-language website Uighurbiz.net, which was shut down by authorities in 2014.

    "This case is similar to that of Ilham Tohti," Liu said. "There are certain issues that they don't want to put out there, so they find an excuse to suppress the person instead."

    The closure of the bookstore comes amid a huge nationwide "stability maintenance" operation that has seen the mass confiscation of Qurans and other religious items from ethnic minority Muslims in Xinjiang, and a ban on ethnic minority Uyghurs from hotels nationwide ahead of the 19th Party Congress in Beijing on Oct. 18.

    The government has also stepped up control over religious activities, meting out harsher punishments for unsanctioned religious activities and stepping up supervision of religious groups in a bid to "block extremism" and tackle "terrorism."

    New rules ban the use of religion as "a tool to sabotage national security, social order or China’s education system, or to damage ethnic unity or carry out terrorist activities."



    "Terrorism", the magical word Islamophobe kuffar use to persecute Muslims in their war on

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    Police in China's Xinjiang Raid Thousands of Muslim Kazakh Homes

    Chinese authorities in Tekes county in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have searched the homes of 30,000 members of the mostly Muslim Kazakh ethnic group in recent weeks, confiscating copies of the Quran, prayer mats and other religious items, RFA has learned.

    An ethnic Kazakh resident of Tekes county, which is in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, said he recently returned to China from a visit to relatives across the border in Kazakhstan to find his hometown a mass of police guarded and mobile checkpoints.

    He said his name and ID card number have now been added to a police "wanted" list along with some 60 other ethnic Kazakhs, for "returning to China after a long absence."

    "Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, the homes and residences of 30,000 Kazakhs were forcibly searched," the source said. "They were looking for Qurans, prayer mats and beads, and anything bearing the name of Allah or the prophet Mohammed."

    He said Han Chinese in the area, an estimated 30,000 of whom also spend long periods of time in Kazakhstan, were ignored in the crackdown.

    "They confiscated all kinds of religious items," he said.

    An officer who answered the phone at the Tekes county police department on Thursday declined to comment.

    "You'll have to come in person ... and ask that. We don't accept phone calls," the officer said.

    A second source, a Kazakh-language interpreter, confirmed the first source's account.

    "In Tekes county, 30,000 homes were searched by police for Qurans, prayer mats and also clothing bought in Kazakhstan, and anything sent by parcel from Kazakhstan," the source said. "The police confiscated all of it."

    "I also heard that there are now 60 names on a police blacklist of people from Tekes county who went to visit relatives in Kazakhstan," he said.

    Confiscating religious items

    Sources said officials had warned people not to try to hide any items, because if they were subsequently turned up in police raids, "there would be severe consequences."

    Local ethnic minorities are also under huge pressure to attend early morning flag-raising ceremonies, where people stand to attention and the national anthem is played, they said.

    The raids in Tekes come after Chinese authorities in Xinjiang ordered ethnic minority Muslim families to hand in religious items including prayer mats and copies of the Quran to the authorities in September.

    Officials across Xinjiang have been warning neighborhoods and mosques that ethnic minority Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims must hand in the items or face harsh punishment if they are found later, sources in the region told RFA at the time.

    Earlier this year, Xinjiang authorities began confiscating all Qurans published more than five years ago due to “extremist content,” according to local officials, amid an ongoing campaign against “illegal” religious items owned by mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur residents.

    The Qurans were appropriated as part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign underway in Xinjiang that bans “illegal” publicity materials, religious activities, and religious teaching, as well as items deemed by authorities to be tools of terrorism—including knives, flammable objects, remote-controlled toys, and objects sporting symbols related to Islam, they said.

    Chinese authorities have lately issued orders for ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals to hand in their passports and Kazakh green cards in some parts of Xinjiang, and have detained hundreds of Kazakhs returning from overseas study or family visits to Kazakhstan, sending them for indefinite terms in "re-education" facilities.

    Official figures show that there are around 1.5 million Kazakhs in China, mostly concentrated in and around the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture close to the Kazakhstan border.

    China has previously welcomed Kazakhs who wished to relocate from Kazakhstan, with their numbers peaking at nearly 38,000 in 2006. But now many Kazakhs with Chinese nationality are heading back in the other direction.


    VIDEO: Uyghur leader explains China’s draconian anti-Islam policies

    The General Secretary of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolqun Isa, explains the Chinese government’s draconian anti-Islam policies in the Xinjiang region.

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    China Is Vacuuming Up DNA Samples From Xinjiang's Muslims

    by Megha Rajagopalan - December 13, 2017

    From DNA samples to iris scans, Chinese authorities are using free physical exams to gather and store biological data from millions of people who live in the country's far west region of Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, citing an official document that suggests the government's surveillance program in the region is even wider than previously believed.

    Xinjiang, the historical home of the Uighur ethnic group, has become a
    testing ground for heavy-handed, high-tech surveillance measures by the government over the past year. China says the measures are necessary to combat extremist violence, but critics say they violate the basic privacy rights of millions of people, particularly ethnic minorities.

    Human Rights Watch added it's not clear whether those who take the physical exams realize their personal information is being recorded and stored.

    Everyone who lives in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang, and is between the ages of 12 and 65, is being targeted for their biometrics, says the document, which was posted on the website of a local government located in the region. But for those deemed to be threatening the stability of the government and their families — a broad category that could include people who criticize the government or engage in religious practices — the data is being collected regardless of age. It's unclear what period of time the program spans, though the document appears to have been circulated in July.

    Authorities are making house calls to collect the data
    and setting up "collection points" in the region, the document says. The DNA information is sent to police for "profiling," it adds, saying the program's goal is to verify the size of the region's population.

    It's clear, though, that China's leadership sees the collection of DNA as key to security in the region. In August, Meng Jianzhu, the country's top domestic security official, specifically called for the use of a DNA database to maintain stability there.

    Some of the data is being collected through a free health examination program called Physicals For All, which the government says is voluntary. Human Rights Watch found, however, that some Uighurs reported being compelled to participate.

    The new report comes after BuzzFeed News reporting found that the government has poured billions of renminbi into surveillance technology, from facial recognition cameras to iris scans. The government has also implemented heavy policing by officers who check residents' social media activities and apps they have on their phones.


    Rights group criticises China for mass DNA collection in Xinjiang

    by Michael Martina; Robert Birsel - December 13, 2017

    Chinese authorities have collected DNA and other biometric data from the whole population of the volatile western region of Xinjiang, Human Right Watch said on Wednesday, denouncing the campaign as a gross violation of international norms.

    Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years in violence between Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people, and ethnic majority Han Chinese, which Beijing blames on Islamist militants.

    The unrest has fuelled a sweeping security crackdown there, including mass rallies by armed police, tough measures that rights advocates say restrict religious and cultural expression, and widespread surveillance.

    Police are responsible for collecting pictures, fingerprints, iris scans and household registration information, while health authorities should collect DNA samples and blood type information as part of a “Physicals for All” programme, the New York-based group said in a statement, citing government a document.

    “The mandatory databanking of a whole population’s biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms, and it’s even more disturbing if it is done surreptitiously, under the guise of a free health care program,” Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said.

    According to the Xinjiang-wide plan posted online by the Aksu city government in July, main goals for the campaign include collecting the biometric data for all people between the age of 12 and 65, and verifying the region’s population for a database.

    “Blood type information should be sent to the county-level police bureaus, and DNA blood cards should be sent to the county police bureaus for inspection,” the plan said.

    Data for “priority individuals” should be collected regardless of age, it said, using a term the government has adopted to refer to people deemed a security risk.

    Government workers must “earnestly safeguard the peoples’ legal rights”, plan said, but it made no mention of a need to inform people fully about the campaign or of any option for people to decline to take part.

    Xinjiang officials could not be reached for comment.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about the report by Human Rights Watch, accused the group of making “untrue” statements.

    He told a regular news briefing in Beijing the general situation in the region was good.

    Human Rights Watch cited an unidentified Xinjiang resident saying he feared being labelled with “political disloyalty” if he did not participate, and that he had not received any results from the health checks.

    State media, reporting on the campaign checks, have said participation was voluntary.

    The official Xinhua news agency in November cited health authorities as saying 18.8 million people in the region had received such physicals in 2017 for a 100 percent coverage rate.


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    Uyghur Muslims: Victims of the World’s Largest Ethnic Cleansing

    China is carrying out a systematic campaign to ethnically cleanse up to 15 million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, or rather what was East Turkistan until China began occupying and colonizing the region in 1949.

    Moreover, China is sparing no effort to eradicate any memory or proof of Uyghur Muslim life. It is truly the stuff of dystopian nightmares, or a reenactment of the worst genocides carried out in the previous century. The handful of personal accounts that trickle out from behind China’s total control of the Internet and the media invoke memories of the Communist state’s darkest days — the period of the “Cultural revolution,” when religious people and sites were wiped from the country’s landscape.

    For much of the 1970s and 80s, however, an increasingly open China softened its stance towards its religious and ethnic minorities, but this relative “openness” provided the space for minorities to express their economic, political, and religious grievances. When Uyghur Muslims renewed calls for a return to their independence, a status they enjoyed briefly as a sovereign state in the 1940, then known as the East Turkistan Republic, and as former neighboring Soviet states realized independence, China, fearing a growing separatist movement on its western frontier, began its crackdown on Xinjiang in the late 1990s.

    China’s crackdown turned increasingly vicious when the United States declared its “War on Terrorism” in 2001, with China seizing the opportunity to erroneously portray Uyghur Muslims as one-part of the global Islamic insurgency, going so far to tie Uyghur nationalist dreams with the goals of the terror group al-Qaeda. In doing so, China gambled that it could pretty much do whatever it pleased to Uyghur Muslims, so long as it could dupe Western states into believing it, too, was at war with “radical Islam.” It’s the exact same kind of manipulative ploy successfully deployed by Israel, insofar as the manner the Jewish state mischievously conflates the Palestinian liberation struggle with “Islamic terrorism,” so it’s not like China needed to reinvent the proverbial wheel.

    What began as a crackdown, however, has morphed into arguably the world’s largest state sponsored campaign of ethnic cleansing.

    China has banned any form of expression of Islam in East Turkistan, forcing Uyghur Muslims to publicly denounce their faith and swear allegiance to the Communist state. Recently I posted on Twitter a video of Chinese authorities informing a group of Uyghur Muslims that it is now illegal for them to greet one another with the Islamic greeting, “Assalamu Alaykum.”

    Islamic texts are also banned, including the Quran, as are beards that appear “abnormal,” i.e. too Muslim-y. Last year, China published a document titled, “Naming Rules for Ethnic Minorities,” which prohibits names associated with Islam, including Medina, Islam, Imam, Medina, Hajj, and others.

    “In setting limits on the naming of Uyghurs, the Chinese government is in fact engaging in political persecution under another guise,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, told Radio Free Asia. “They are afraid that people with such names will become alienated from Chinese policies in the region.”

    These are just a sample of a new tranche of restrictive and discriminatory measures that have come into force for those living in the region. Uyghur Muslims are now required by the government to have tracking devices installed on their cars and mobile phones.

    But baby names, beards, and tracking devices are the least of problems faced by Uyghur Muslims in the face of brutal Chinese oppression, however. Torture, imprisonment, state sanctioned murder and forced disappearances have become the new reality in the Xinjiang area.

    According to reports from human rights watchers, China has ordered its officials in Xinjiang to send almost half of its population to “re-education camps,” otherwise known as forced labor and indoctrination camps, the kind long associated with North Korea.

    “We target people who are religious…for example, those who grow beards despite being young,” one Chinese government officer admitted in a report.

    When I spoke to Abdugheni Thabit, a Uyghur Muslim journalist who now resides in The Netherlands, he told me that up to 1 million of his people are now in what he calls “prison camps.” Steven Zhang, a Hui Muslim who now lives in Houston, Texas, and who is suing the Chinese government for the murder of his Uyghur Muslim wife, described Thabit’s figure as “very conservative,” claiming, “Within the last 5 years at least 5 million Uyghurs were detained or secretly disappeared.”

    Forced disappearances have become a notable and alarming trend in the past year or two. According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Chinese security forces have forcibly disappeared at least 26 journalists, writers, bloggers, and human rights activists alone.

    “Victims are often violently abducted, denied their right to due legal process and contact with loved ones or lawyers, and are at high risk of torture while in custody,” observes The Uyghur American Association.

    All of which is happening out of the gaze of the international community, thanks largely to China’s control of the Internet and social media. Thabit told me he hadn’t heard from his Uyghur Muslim family in East Turkistan since 2009 as China controls all form of communication coming out of the area. All he knows is they were still alive in 2014, the year his sister, who lives in Washington DC, visited. Again, parallels to North Korea come to mind.

    The situation in Xinjiang has “further deteriorated,” according to a statementissued by the US Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) earlier this month.

    “Civilians are detained without cause, ‘political education’ camps proliferate, and a vast surveillance apparatus invades every aspect of daily life. These rights violations are deeply troubling and risk serving as a catalyst for radicalization,” said CECC chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

    Adding to the woes of Uygur Muslims is the absence of a friend anywhere in the international system. Traditional allies Turkey and Pakistan have been brought into China’s sphere of economic influence, and wealthy Gulf Arab states are too preoccupied with Iran, Qatar, or both.

    If history is a guide, and should the existential woes of the Uyghur Muslims continue to fall on the disinterested ears of the international community, then one can be sure that where Chinese “re-education” and “assimilation” programs fail, mass extermination will likely follow.


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    Forced Assimilation: Uyghur Muslim family in #EastTurkestan forced to sleep with Chinese officials. Part of a campaign to remove #Islam from Uyghur households and making sure they are loyal to the Chinese communist party.

    #China #Uyghurs #Xinjiang #Ummah

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    China’s mass indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution

    ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) — Hour upon hour, day upon day, Omir Bekali and other detainees in far western China’s new indoctrination camps had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticize themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party.

    When Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, refused to follow orders each day, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement, where he was deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days in the heavily guarded camp, he wanted to kill himself.

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

    “The psychological pressure is enormous, when you have to criticize yourself, denounce your thinking — your own ethnic group,” said Bekali, who broke down in tears as he described the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises. I can’t sleep. The thoughts are with me all the time.”

    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 U.S. commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

    Chinese officials have largely avoided comment on the camps, but some are quoted in state media as saying that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese.

    The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.

    The recollections of Bekali, a heavyset and quiet 42-year-old, offer what appears to be the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education camps. The Associated Press also conducted rare interviews with three other former internees and a former instructor in other centers who corroborated Bekali’s depiction. Most spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their families in China.

    Bekali’s case stands out because he was a foreign citizen, of Kazakhstan, who was seized by China’s security agencies and detained for eight months last year without recourse. Although some details are impossible to verify, two Kazakh diplomats confirmed he was held for seven months and then sent to re-education.

    The detention program 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 channeled 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.

    Rian Thum, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said China’s re-education system echoes some of the worst human rights violations in history.

    “The closest analogue is maybe the Cultural Revolution in that this will leave long-term, psychological effects,” Thum said. “This will create a multigenerational trauma from which many people will never recover.”

    Asked to comment on the camps, China’s Foreign Ministry said it “had not heard” of the situation. When asked why non-Chinese had been detained, it said the Chinese government protects the rights of foreigners in China and they should also be law-abiding. Chinese officials in Xinjiang did not respond to requests for comment.

    However, bits and pieces from state media and journals show the confidence Xinjiang officials hold in methods that they say work well to curb religious extremism. China’s top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang’s authorities this month to extensively expand what the government calls the “transformation through education” drive in an “all-out effort” to fight separatism and extremism.

    In a June 2017 paper published by a state-run journal, a researcher from Xinjiang’s Communist Party School reported that most of 588 surveyed participants did not know what they had done wrong when they were sent to re-education. But by the time they were released, nearly all — 98.8 percent— had learned their mistakes, the paper said.

    Transformation through education, the researcher concluded, “is a permanent cure.”


    On the chilly morning of March 23, 2017, Bekali drove up to the Chinese border from his home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, got a stamp in his Kazakh passport and crossed over for a work trip, not quite grasping the extraordinary circumstances he was stepping into.

    Bekali was born in China in 1976 to Kazakh and Uighur parents, moved to Kazakhstan in 2006 and received citizenship three years later. He was out of China in 2016, when authorities sharply escalated a “People’s War on Terror” to root out what the government called religious extremism and separatism in Xinjiang, a large Chinese territory bordering Pakistan and several Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan.

    The Xinjiang he returned to was unrecognizable. All-encompassing, data-driven surveillance tracked residents in a region with around 12 million Muslims, including ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs. Viewing a foreign website, taking phone calls from relatives abroad, praying regularly or growing a beard could land one in a political indoctrination camp, or prison, or both.

    The new internment system was shrouded in secrecy, with no publicly available data on the numbers of camps or detainees. The U.S. 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 1 million. Government bids and recruitment ads studied by Zenz suggest that the camps have cost more than $100 million since 2016, and construction is ongoing.

    Bekali knew none of this when he visited his parents on March 25. He passed police checkpoints and handed over his decade-old Chinese identity card.

    The next day, five armed policemen showed up at Bekali’s parents’ doorstep and took him away. They said there was a warrant for his arrest in Karamay, a frontier oil town where he lived a decade earlier. He couldn’t call his parents or a lawyer, the police added, because his case was “special.”

    Bekali was held in a cell, incommunicado, for a week, and then was driven 500 miles (804 kilometers) to Karamay’s Baijiantan District public security office.

    There, they strapped him into a “tiger chair,” a device that clamped down his wrists and ankles. They also hung him by his wrists against a barred wall, just high enough so he would feel excruciating pressure in his shoulder unless he stood on the balls of his bare feet. They interrogated him about his work with a tourist agency inviting Chinese to apply for Kazakh tourist visas, which they claimed was a way to help Chinese Muslims escape.

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

    They asked for days what he knew about two dozen prominent ethnic Uighur activists and businessmen in Kazakhstan. Exhausted and aching, Bekali coughed up what he knew about a few names he recognized.

    The police then sent Bekali to a 10- by 10-meter (32- by 32-foot) cell in the prison with 17 others, their feet chained to the posts of two large beds. Some wore dark blue uniforms, while others wore orange for political crimes. Bekali was given orange.

    In mid-July, three months after his arrest, Bekali received a visit from Kazakh diplomats. China’s mass detention of ethnic Kazakhs — and even Kazakh citizens — has begun to make waves in the Central Asian country of 18 million. Kazakh officials say China detained 10 Kazakh citizens and hundreds of ethnic Kazakh Chinese in Xinjiang over the past year, though they were released in late April following a visit by a Kazakh deputy foreign minister.

    Four months after the visit, Bekali was taken out of his cell and handed a release paper.
    But he was not yet free.


    Bekali was driven from jail to a fenced compound in the northern suburbs of Karamay, where three buildings held more than 1,000 internees receiving political indoctrination, he said.

    He walked in, past a central station that could see over the entire facility, and received a tracksuit. Heavily armed guards watched over the compound from a second level. He joined a cell with 40 internees, he said, including teachers, doctors and students. Men and women were separated.

    Internees would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7:30 a.m. They gathered back inside large classrooms to learn “red songs” like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China,” and study Chinese language and history. They were told that the indigenous sheep-herding Central Asian people of Xinjiang were backward and yoked by slavery before they were “liberated” by the Communist Party in the 1950s.

    Before meals of vegetable soup and buns, the inmates would be ordered to chant: “Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!”

    A child rests near the entrance to the mosque where a banner in red reads “Love the party, Love the country” in the old city district of Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region.

    Discipline was strictly enforced and punishment could be harsh. 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 even outhouses. Baths were rare, as was washing of hands and feet, which internees were told was equated with Islamic ablution.

    Bekali and other former internees say the worst parts of the indoctrination program were forced repetition and self-criticism. Although students didn’t understand much of what was taught and the material bordered on the nonsensical to them, they were made to internalize it by repetition in sessions lasting two hours or longer.

    “We will oppose extremism, we will oppose separatism, we will oppose terrorism,” they chanted again and again. Almost every day, the students received guest lecturers from the local police, judiciary and other branches of government warning about the dangers of separatism and extremism.

    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?”

    One by one, internees would stand up before 60 of their classmates to present self-criticisms of their religious history, Bekali said. The detainees would also have to criticize and be criticized by their peers. Those who parroted official lines particularly well or lashed into their fellow internees viciously were awarded points and could be transferred to more comfortable surroundings in other buildings, he said.

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

    “I traveled outside China without knowing that I could be exposed to extremist thoughts abroad,” Bekali recalled another saying. “Now I know.”

    A Uighur woman told AP she was held in a center in the city of Hotan in 2016. She said she and fellow prisoners repeatedly were forced to apologize for wearing long clothes in Muslim style, praying, teaching the Quran to their children and asking imams to name their children.

    Praying at a mosque on any day other than Friday was a sign of extremism; so was attending Friday prayers outside their village or having Quranic verses or graphics on their phones.

    While instructors watched, those who confessed to such behavior were told to repeat over and over: “We have done illegal things, but we now know better.”



    Other detainees and a re-education camp instructor tell similar stories.

    In mid-2017, a Uighur former on-air reporter for Xinjiang TV known as Eldost was recruited to teach Chinese history and culture in an indoctrination camp because he spoke excellent Mandarin. He had no choice.

    The re-education system, Eldost said, classified internees into three levels of security and duration of sentences.

    The first group typically consisted of illiterate minority farmers who didn’t commit any ostensible crimes other than not speaking Chinese. The second class was made up of people who were caught at home or on their smartphones with religious content or so-called separatist materials, such as lectures by the Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti.

    The final group was made up of those who had studied religion abroad and came back, or were seen to be affiliated with foreign elements. In the latter cases, internees were often were sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 15 years, Eldost said.

    While he was teaching, Eldost once saw through the window 20 students driven into the courtyard. Two rows of guards waited for them and beat them as soon as they got out of the police van. He later heard that the internees were recent arrivals who had studied religion in the Middle East.

    Violence was not regularly dispensed, but every internee AP spoke to saw at least one incident of rough treatment or beatings.

    Eldost said the instruction was aimed at showing how backward traditional Uighur culture is and how repressive fundamentalist Islam is compared to a progressive Communist Party. The internees’ confessions of their backwardness helped drive the point home.

    “Internees are told to repeat those confessions to the point where, when they are finally freed, they believe that they owe the country a lot, that they could never repay the party,” said Eldost, who escaped from China in August after paying a bribe.

    Eldost said he tried in little ways to help his internees. Tasked with teaching the Three Character Classic, a Confucian standard taught widely in elementary schools, he would make up mnemonic devices to help his students — including elderly or illiterate Uighur farmers who barely knew their own language — recite a few lines. He also advised students to stop habitually saying “praise God” in Arabic and Uighur because other instructors punished them for it.

    Every time he went to sleep in a room with 80 others, he said, the last thing he would hear was the sound of misery.

    “I heard people crying every night,” he said. “That was the saddest experience in my life.”

    Another former detainee, a Uighur from Hotan in southern Xinjiang, said his newly built center had just 90 people in two classes in 2015. There, a government instructor claimed said that Uighur women historically did not wear underwear, braided their hair to signal their sexual availability, and had dozens of sexual partners.

    “It made me so angry,” the detainee said. “These kinds of explanations of Uighur women humiliated me. I still remember this story every time I think about this, I feel like a knife cut a hole in my chest.”

    Kayrat Samarkan, a Chinese Kazakh from Astana who was detained while running errands in a northern Xinjiang police station in December, was sent to an internment camp in Karamagay in northern Xinjiang with 5,700 students.

    Those who didn’t obey, were late to class or got into fights were put for 12 hours in a loose body-suit that was made of iron and limited their movement, he said. Those who still disobeyed would be locked in a tiger chair for 24 hours. As one form of punishment, he said, instructors would press an internee’s head in a tub of ice and water.

    After three months, Samarkan couldn’t take the lessons anymore, so he bashed his head against a wall to try to kill himself. He merely fell unconscious.

    “When I woke up, the staff threatened me, saying if I did that again they would extend my sentence to 7 years there,” he said.

    After 20 days, Bekali also contemplated suicide. Several days later, because of his intransigence and refusal to speak Mandarin, Bekali was no longer permitted to go into the courtyard. Instead, he was sent to a higher level of management, where he spent 24 hours a day in a room with 8 others.

    A week later, he went to his first stint in solitary confinement. He saw a local judicial official walking into the building on an inspection tour and yelled at the top of his lungs. He thought even his former detention center, with the abuse he suffered, would be better.

    “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.

    That’s when Bekali was released, as suddenly as he was detained eight months earlier.

    A Baijiantan policemen who had always gone easy on Bekali during interrogation appeared and checked him out of the facility.

    “You were too headstrong, but what the department did was unjust,” he told Bekali as he drove him to his sister’s home in Karamay.

    Bekali was free.



    The next morning, a Saturday, the police opened their immigration office for Bekali to pick up a unique, 14-day Chinese visa. His original had long expired. Bekali left China on December 4.

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

    Seeking compensation from the Chinese government is out of the question. But Bekali keeps a plastic folder at home of evidence that might prove useful someday: his passport with stamps and visas, travel records and a handwritten Chinese police document dated and imprinted with red-ink seals.

    The document is the closest thing he has to an official acknowledgement that he suffered for eight months. It says he was held on suspicion of endangering national security; the last sentence declares him released without charge.

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

    But on March 10, back in China, the police took his sister, Adila Bekali. A week later, on March 19, 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, no matter the consequences.

    “Things have already come this far,” he said. “I have nothing left to lose.”



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