Fears are growing that China’s internment camps could spread across the country as a province home to a two-million-strong Muslim minority signs an “anti-terrorism” agreement with Xinjiang, an area which has seen a significant crackdown on Muslims. Local authorities in Ningxia province, home to the Hui Muslim minority, have signed a “cooperation anti-terrorism agreement” with Xinjiang officials to “learn from the latter’s experiences in promoting social stability,” according to a Chinese state media report. As part of those efforts, Zhang Yunsheng, the Communist party head of Ningxia, has gone “to study and investigate how Xinjiang fights terrorism and legally manages religious affairs.”
“These are good reasons to be worried that the Xinjiang model would spread to other regions… with grave consequences for religious freedoms,” said Maya Wang, a senior researcher on China for Human Rights Watch. Hui Muslims account for more than one-third of Ningxia’s population of 6.8 million. Loudspeakers on mosques have reportedly been removed as the call to prayer is now banned to reduce “noise pollution,” and mosques deemed to be in “Arab-style” are no longer allowed. There have also been reports of Arabic script being removed, bans on fasting during religious holidays, and restrictions on halal food said Wang. In August, hundreds of Huis protested a government demolition of a mosque. On Tuesday, Hui Muslim writer Cui Haoxin, also known by his pen name An Ran, posted on Twitter, “Police take me to go.” He later tweeted saying that five policemen in China had detained him that afternoon and that authorities had asked him to delete his Twitter account. Mr Cui told the Telegraph that he has been detained twice by authorities in the past, and before sent to a “re-education” camp. This time, he said he was also interrogated about his comments regarding Muslims in China and religious freedom, and made to swear a legal statement, a photo of which he posted online, along with a short video of the police station. A person who answered the phone at the police station Cui claimed to have been held at denied such a detention had occurred and refused to give his name.
Similar religious restrictions on Muslims were put in place in Xinjiang under a campaign led by Xi Jinping, China’s president, to crack down on religious expression across the country over the last few years. His move to “Sinicise” organised religion to have “Chinese characteristics” have hit Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims. More recently, a growing body of evidence of detention camps in Xinjiang has been disclosed by former detainees, human rights experts and foreign governments. The United Nations estimates as many as one million Uighurs, a Muslim minority home to Xinjiang, are being held in those concentration camps. About a dozen foreign governments, including the UK and the US, have denounced Beijing for these camps, calling for them to be closed.
The US also recently introduced legislation asking the White House to consider sanctions on Chinese officials believed responsible for the detention of Muslim minorities. Chinese authorities have vehemently defended their actions, describing them as necessary counter-terrorism measures and calling the camps “vocational training centres.” But accounts from former detainees describe a very different situation, of physical and psychological torture, and being forced to praise China’s ruling Communist Party. “My hands bled from their beatings,” said Mihrigul Tursun, 29, a Uighur woman, who testified to US lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday. “Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I could feel the pain in my veins. I thought I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me.”
Credit: Sophia Yan for The Telegraph, 29 November 2018, with additional reporting by Paula Jin.
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