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Uighur model reveals extreme situation inside Chinese internment camp

/ 08:01 PM August 08, 2020

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In a huge leap from the glitz and glamor of his profession, a Uighur model got detained in a high-security and secretive Chinese internment camp. Recently he revealed the harsh reality of living inside the internment camp.

Merdan Ghappar shared a short video he took while in detention, as per BBC’s exclusive report on Aug. 4.

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The gloomy footage shows Ghappar dressed in dirty, black clothes inside a very small room as he sits anxiously on a bed with one wrist handcuffed to its metal frame.

From beyond his room’s dirty walls and the metal screen of his small window, recordings of a female voice talking about the history of the far western region of Xinjiang and its politics can be heard playing on a loudspeaker outside. Xinjiang is officially known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, often called and known as East Turkestan.

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“Xinjiang has never been East Turkestan. The so-called ‘East Turkestan State’ has never existed or been recognized either (translated from Uighur and Chinese languages to English),” claimed the recording, which the report has labeled as “propaganda messages.”

“Separatist forces at home and abroad have politicized this geographical term and called for those who speak Turkic languages and believe in Islam to unite,” the announcement at one point said.

The Chinese government has long been accused of committing crimes against humanity, specifically against the Uighur Muslim minority of the Xinjiang region.

The region, which borders several Central Asian countries, was once mostly populated by Uighur Muslims until recent times, according to BBC. Xinjiang has been ruled by China since the 18th century, but gained independence briefly in 1949 as the “East Turkestan State,” before being subjugated again by Communist China.

The plight of the Uighur

Aside from the footage, Ghappar also sent numerous texts to his family detailing what he and other Uighurs have been going through under the hands of Chinese authorities.

He shared that besides being tortured and abused, the Uighur community, including children as young as 13 years old, was also being subjected to psychological pressure by being forced to “repent and surrender”; the said message can be seen in a photo of a document Ghappar also shared.

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Ghappar also recounted his experience inside a Chinese jail in Kucha (also in Xingiang), where he and other prisoners were kept in a small, cramped and unsanitary room.

They were made to wear a black head sack, handcuffs and leg shackles that were connected to each other via a metal chain, a practice China has been criticized for before.

Other than being subjected to very poor living conditions, Ghappar also shared that prisoners were tortured. “One time I heard a man screaming from morning until evening,” he recalled in one of the text messages.

The news outlet has clarified that while it is “impossible to independently verify the authenticity of the text messages,” experts believe the footage Ghappar sent are genuine.

After a few days in the said jail, Ghappar shared that because he had a cold, he was separated from other prisoners who were loaded into a minibus headed for an unknown location. He was sent to what he called an “epidemic control center,” where he was detained in a small room shown in the video.

The “slightly more relaxed” regime of the said facility compared with the police station allowed Ghappar to secretly use his phone and share his story, according to the report.

His family revealed that they have not heard from Ghappar ever since a few days after the model shared his firsthand accounts—this was five months ago. Authorities did not provide any formal notification of his condition, the report said.

Ghappar was arrested in August 2018 for allegedly selling marijuana, although his politically vocal uncle, who is currently living in the Netherlands, believes otherwise.

“He was detained just because I am abroad and I take part in protests against Chinese human rights abuses,” his activist uncle Abdulhakim Ghappar was quoted as saying.

Ghappar’s family told the news outlet that the release of the video might increase the punishment the model faces, but going public with the information is needed to highlight both the plight of Ghappar and the Uighurs in general.

An estimated 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims have been incarcerated by Beijing in its crackdown against minorities, according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which tracks human rights abuses in the Asian power.

The Chinese government has since denied the claims and has accused the United States of making “unwarranted accusations against China” after US lawmakers urged their government to take action.

It has also denied that Uighurs and other minorities are being detained in high-security camps, which China has claimed as voluntary schools for anti-extremism training.

Official regional data, policy documents and interviews with ethnic minority women recently showed that China has been forcibly sterilizing Uighurs to try to control their population, a claim the Chinese government also denies. Ian Biong /ra

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TAGS: BBC, China, Chinese government, Discrimination, internment camps, Uighur, Uighur Muslims
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