Videos in which men and women are beaten with whips, photos of organs coming from Uyghur bodies: about once a month there are images that would be about Uyghurs. According to leaked reports, an Islamic minority in China, the Uyghurs, is imprisoned in Chinese concentration camps. Thats where theyre forced to “re-educate.” We also see those videos coming along. In this article we explain why you dont always see it on our feed.
Why do I need to know this?
“ Why do you not pay attention to Uyghurs, are they not important?”
“ You certainly dont place anything because theyre Muslims.”
“ You can no longer deny this news. Show it.”
Here are a few examples of DMs we regularly get from you about these types of videos. It is true that we do not share every viral video that might be about the Uyghurs. That is not because we do not think it important, we take a certain position on it or because we do not see these messages.
hard for us to check if theyre true on many of these videos. Can we, for example, prove that the people we see in the images are Uyghurs? How recent are these images? Can these images be framed so that the story looks different than it actually is?
How do we find out whats true about Uyghurs?
News from abroad is often more difficult to control than news from the Netherlands and news about Uyghurs in particular. This has to do with a number of factors: distance, cooperation and time.
The western region of Xianjang is about 6000 kilometres from the Netherlands. To give you an idea of how far that is: put the Netherlands together twenty times. This makes it difficult for us to talk to people on location, as we can in the Netherlands.
Here comes our correspondent Sjoerd den Daas in the game. Sjoerd lives in China and knows a lot of people with whom he checks news.
The tricky thing about this situation is that the Chinese authorities continue to deny that the concentration camps exist. They say that they are voluntary reeducation camps, where Uyghurs have the opportunity to go to school and learn the language.
That doesnt make it any easier for Sjoerd. He cant just walk into a camp, he cant even get close because of the rigorous security.
The next option is to speak to the family of Uigurse prisoners, who are not themselves imprisoned. “But the Chinese government keeps a close eye on the population, especially Uyghurs, with cameras. There are few spots without facial recognition cameras, and your phone can also be checked by the police at any time,” says Sjoerd. A wrong act, a suspicious conversation, and you run the risk of being sent to camp.
“ So theres a lot at stake for people who dare to talk. Thats why we try to get as much information as possible from Uyghurs outside China.”
So finding out the news and the footage takes time. A lot of time. Even with a lot of time, we are not sure if we can find people who do dare to talk. But also have evidence of what theyre telling us and finding satellite imagery. That doesnt mean we dont do our best to check all the images.
Leaked secret documents from the Chinese government certainly show that Uyghurs are locked up in camps and that they are forced to “re-educate” there. However, the Chinese government continues to say precisely that Uyghurs voluntarily go to the camps to follow training.
Who are Uyghurs?
The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority in China. This means that they do not look like the majority of the Chinese, but more like peoples from other countries. They are from Turkish origin, and many are Muslim. Many Uyghurs live in Xinjiang, a northwestern region in China.
Why are Uyghurs in camps?
estimated that about one million of the 11 million Uyghurs living in the region are already in camps. For years the Uyghurs have been fighting for more independence, because they feel oppressed by China. To achieve this, radical Uyghurs have committed major attacks over the past fifteen years. Those attacks killed hundreds of people.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, therefore introduced measures to ensure that the “rebellious Uighurs” stop committing attacks. If anyone is a suspect, he or she goes to camp.
What do we know for sure about the situation?
Leaked secret documents from the Chinese government once again show that Uyghurs are locked up in camps and that they are forced to “re-educate” there. The Chinese Governmentsays that the camps in the western Xinjiang region are voluntary retraining camps for Uyghurs, where training is offered.
The documents state that the Uyghurs are judged by how well they speak Mandarin, the most important Chinese language. Also, they have to follow very strict rules, which go about washing to go to the toilet, and for this too they get points. Those scores determine when someone gets to go home. If the Uyghurs do not comply with the strict rules, they must be “severely punished”.
A second set of leaked government documents also confirms that the Uyghurs are imprisoned. For example, the documents state that there are security measures to prevent escape.
Some time ago, secret documents from the Chinese government appeared. This showed that Chinese officials are given a special handbook. It explains how to answer questions from Uyghurs whose relatives have disappeared. Theyre in a government training school, for example, a civil servant must say. He should also say that the person should behave well, because otherwise, due to his or her fault, relatives may have to stay longer.
What does the rest of the world do?
The US wants to take economic measures against the high peaks of Chinas largest political party, as long as the camps remain. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are also trying to increase international pressure as long as the camps remain open.
In July, 22 countries, including the Netherlands, asked China to stop imprisoning Uyghur community.