By Claudia Cheung
The United Nations has recognized February 20 as the World Day of Social Justice.
Just weeks ago the world commemorated the International Holocaust Remembrance Day - in memory of the Nazi concentration camp victims and survivors.
The dark and violent history seems to be repeating itself right before our very eyes in in the form of “concentration camps” in China. Wherein the Uyghur ethnic minority – predominantly Muslim - detained, tortured, raped, mass murdered and “re-educated” to rid them of their religious identity. A cultural and religious genocide, unfolding.
VIBE 105 discuses with Mehmet Tohti, an Uyghur Canadian activist, and Executive Director, Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project based in Ottawa, about the plight of Uyghur Muslims brainwashed in Chinese camps.
© BBC News
Altogether, in six years (2014-2019), around one million Uyghur Muslims were detained.
Tohti believes the numbers are accurate according to the observation of foreign journalists studying in the field. However, he thinks the number should be more because the Chinese government has not released the numbers in 2020.
There is no definite answer to why the concentration camp exists, but Tohti came up with a couple of explanations for their existence. One; to eliminate Uyghur culture, language and tradition. Two; the Chinese government could not find any other way to make Uyghurs loyal to China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), so they had no other choice but to lock the Uyghur population up with intense “brainwashing and torture”.
According to Tohti, two reasons would send a person to concentration camps; being Uyghur and being Muslim. The Chinese government targets those populations to denounce their religious belief and ethnic identity.
"There are people who were detained, who have worked for the CCP. Even when they worked for the Chinese government their entire life and not practicing the Islamic faith, it still did not save them from being detained," says Tohti.
According to Tohti, believing in the Islamic faith is considered a mental illness by the CCP. To cure their "illness" and to clean up their mind from the Uyghur identity, the CCP would perform all kinds of tortures, starvation and sleep deprivation to achieve that purpose.
To get one steamed bun for breakfast, detainees would have to thank President Xi Jingping and the CCP for feeding them. They were forced to recite China's Constitution and poem. They have to read many chapters from the Chinese propaganda books and have an exam for it. The detainees were not allowed to talk to each other. They were not allowed to ask each other's names. They are surveilled 24/7 by a lot of cameras. There are only two minutes of toilet time, and there were no showers.
"Some victims testified that they prayed to be transferred from the camp to a prison so that they could at least know when they would be released. If you stay there, you're open to all kinds of abuse from the guards. The guards frequently come here to pick up girls for rape and all kinds tortures, electric shocks, sterilization and include injection of certain unknown medication liquids to their body," Tohti describes.
Tohti's family were also victims of CCP's brutality. His father taken to labour camps during the Cultural Revolution while his mother raised his brothers and sisters alone. After 1991, Tohti had to flee the country alone because he feared persecution by the Chinese government. He had been isolated from his family for 30 years because the Chinese government cuts off outside communication for Uyghurs.
As an outspoken Uyghur human rights activist, Tohti received death threats on social media last year – related to his mother. He immediately felt threatened, as he was to participate in the Parliamentary hearing for Uyghurs. He questioned whether the threats implied [the plight] his mother would face that if he continued with his testimony
Nonetheless, Tohti carried on.
"The Chinese government frequently takes hostage our family members to stop our activities. After the concentration camps and mass atrocities [in] place for a number of years, Uyghur people are more determined than ever- despite the enormous pressure and the persecution of their family members. We stay determined to continue to fight to restore justice and to bring justice to their families," says Tohti.
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