The repression of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslim minority in China amounts to “crimes against humanity,” according to a report published Thursday by human rights group Amnesty International.
In a 160-page document of testimonies from former inmates in camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, Amnesty describes what it called “systematic state-organized mass detention, torture and persecution that amount to crimes against humanity.”
The report documents what the rights group called “extreme measures” taken by Chinese authorities since 2017 against Uyghurs and people from other ethnic Turkish minorities.
“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale,” Amnesty General Secretary Agnès Callamard said.
“Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations,” she added, saying the violations “should shake the conscience of humanity.”
The report documents how large numbers of men and women have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang since early 2017.
“Among them are hundreds of thousands who have been sent to prisons, in addition to hundreds of thousands – perhaps even a million or more – who have been sent to internment camps,” the report said.
All of the more than 50 former detainees Amnesty interviewed said they had been detained for conduct such as possessing a religiously themed photo or communicating with someone abroad.
Many detainees described being first taken for questioning in police stations, where they were fastened to steel chairs with leg irons and handcuffs.
They said beatings, sleep deprivation and overcrowding were common, and in “extremely regulated” internment camps they had no privacy or autonomy and risked severe punishment.
“The Chinese government has gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up its violations of international human rights law in Xinjiang,” Amnesty said.
The US government accuses China of committing “genocide” in Xinjiang. Britain has refused to use that designation, but last month joined the United States and Germany in calling on Beijing to end the oppression of the Uyghur minority.
Beijing has repeatedly denied abuses take place there, saying they are labor camps designed to deter extremism and boost incomes.
“China must immediately dismantle the internment camps and release the people arbitrarily held in them and in prisons,” Callamard said, calling for a UN investigation under international law.