Concentration Camps in China


Chloe Hefner, Writer

TW: rape and forced abortion 

Imagine not being able to talk or see the person who raised you because the country you live in doesn’t like your ethnic group.  This is a reality for Jewher Ilham and many other Uighur Muslims.  

Ilham Tohti is an economics professor and vocal advocate for Uighurs and other minorities’ rights  (Human Rights Commision).  In 2009 there were riots between the Uighurs and Han Chinese people in Urumqi.  After the riots, Tohti’s location was unknown until he was released by the Chinese government 39 days later.  In 2014, he was found guilty of separatism charges and sentenced to life. Since then all access he had to the outside world has been cut off.  This is only one out of thousands of horrific stories about how the Xinjiang government has treated the Uighurs.

In the Metro article “Inside China’s ‘re-education camps’ where women are raped and sterilised,” they describe how the Chinese communist party has detained from one to three million Uighurs and other minorities in these concentration camps they call “re-education camps.” In these detention centers, any man or woman under the age of 35 is raped and women are forced to have abortions without anesthetic.  One survivor told the Washington Post that she was raped multiple times by the Han Chinese guards which resulted in two pregnancies that ultimately ended in abortions. Gulzira Auelkhan, a survivor, said men would “put bags on the heads of the ones they wanted.”  Women are allegedly being forced to put ground chili pepper on their genitals before showers and being implanted with intrauterine devices against their will.  China is also accused of keeping Uighur children from their parents in camps posing as schools or orphanages. 

In the camps, the Uighurs are forced into doing factory labor. Big multinational companies like Nike, Adidas, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and 83 others were linked to forcing Uighurs to work across China. 

A lot of the Uighur population in these detention centers or concentration camps are put in because they have more than two kids. China’s one child policy was created by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to try and reduce the enormous rate China’s population was growing at. The one child policy allowed most urban couples to have one child while it let ethnic minorities have up to three, although many couples choose to have more. This policy lasted 35 years, which made the final year of the one child policy 2014.  They have since then created a new policy allowing two children per couple.   

The camps are used as a threat to families that don’t comply with the pregnancy checks, abortions, or birth control. This has made the birth rate drop by nearly one-third since 2018, as News Grio reports.  Some experts are calling this mass sterilization “demographic genocide.”  The dropping birth rate was announced from the Xinjiang government to CNN in reply to a previous article released by the news organization about the mistreatment of Uighur women.  Xinjiang officials said the birth rate in the region had fallen from 15.88 per 1,000 people in 2017 to 10.69 per 1,000 people in 2018 which is approximately 40,000 babies.  When being accused of genocide against the Uighurs the Chinese officials said that it was “pure nonsense.”

Zehnishan Berdibek, a 49-year-old who was detained in one of the camps for most of 2018, said that “Some of the younger people were not as tolerant as us – they cried and screamed and shouted (Buzzfeed News).”  She watched silently as a younger woman got dragged away and put into solitary confinement. Berdibek said, “I wanted to die inside the camp…I lost hope.” 

Breitbart reported that the Chinese government has forced hundreds of thousands of Uighur children into “boarding schools” or “orphanages”.  A researcher allegedly confirmed that 10,000 of the children in these “schools” have lost at least one parent to the concentration camp system.  The current dictator of China, Xi Jinping, made it illegal for children to participate in any religious activities.  There have been many reports of police officers storming into houses and hauling screaming children away to unmarked locations. “The government has been building thousands of these so-called ‘bilingual’ schools, where minority children are taught in Mandarin and penalized for speaking in their native tongues,” the AP at the time announced.  A lot of people don’t know about these concentration camps.  The whole world should be talking about these horrific actions.  These concentration camps are completely transforming and ending lives.  This is a very impactful thing that is happening and everyone is ignoring it.