A new report published Thursday revealed the Chinese government is going to "extraordinary lengths" to cover up the state-backed torture of a Muslim minority group in its detention camps in the Xinjiang province.
Amnesty International, a non-government organization, released a comprehensive report that included firsthand accounts of the cruel and degrading treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang "re-education" camps. The report included interviews with more than 100 people, including 55 camp survivors and several government employees who worked in the camps.
Most survivors who spoke to the organization said they were taken from their homes without any due process or reason. They also recounted being brought to a police station where they had their medical data recorded before being interrogated in "tiger chairs."
For context, tiger chairs are steel chairs with affixed leg iron shackles and handcuffs. This device is used to restrain the victim in painful positions.
The survivors also detailed suffering from beatings, sleep deprivation, and overcrowding in the police stations. After being transferred to the camps, the survivors said they were punished using electric shocks or by being hung from a wall
.The report also revealed the lengths Chinese officials went through to cover up the torture in the camps. This included one incident where Chinese officials allegedly created a massive bonfire in 2019 to burn as many documents from an office overseeing the camps as part of an effort to paint the facility in a positive light.
"It took five or six days to burn everything [in the office]. It was not only the [detainees'] files. It is any re-education-related materials. For example, all notes from meetings," a government cadre told Amnesty.
The burning came after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published leaked documents showing Beijing's plans of establishing the detention camps. The leaked memos included strategies to be used to "re-educate" the Uyghurs and rid them of extremist leanings by forcing them to study Marxism and renounce their religion.
Amnesty's interviews were conducted in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, and several other countries in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Jonathan Loeb, the lead author of the report said that the Chinese government is still continuing its cover-up. He also said that the government is preventing people from leaving Xinjiang.
The Amnesty report is the largest compilation of firsthand accounts from survivors of the detention camps in Xinjiang and follows a series of reports about China's mistreatment of the minority group. On June 8, CNN also published more than a dozen accounts detailing the detention and deportation of Uyghur refugees in three Arab countries, including Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
In Egypt, activists said they recorded hundreds of incidents of detentions, 20 of which resulted in deportations, in 2017. The majority of the victims were Uyghur students enrolled at the prestigious Islamic University of Al-Azhar. In Saudi Arabia, at least one Uyghur Muslim was detained and deported after performing the Umrah pilgrimage between 2018 and 2020.
The Xinjiang region is home to a wide variety of Muslim ethnic groups, with Uyghurs being the largest of these.