Women who have survived China’s concentration camps for Muslim ethnic minorities reported widespread rape, forced abortions, forced sterilization, and other extreme sexual human rights atrocities in accounts published this weekend.
Speaking to the Washington Post, the women echo the experiences of others who have escaped the estimated thousands of concentration camps built in Xinjiang, China’s largest and westernmost province, to house Uighur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz ethnic people. While survivors tend to be Kazakh – they can use their dual citizenship to escape to neighboring Kazakhstan – the majority of the 1 to 3 million people trapped in the camps are believed to be Uighurs. Others who have survived have been able to use their marital status to citizens of Pakistan or other neighboring countries to place pressure on Beijing to release them.
The nations themselves have not made any official statements condemning the Communist Party’s attempt to eradicate ethnic minorities in Xinjiang – sometimes actively praising it – but have quietly helped individuals with the influence to get their attention.
Camp survivors have previously testified to extreme torture, killings, live organ harvesting, infanticide, and slavery in the camps. An Associated Press (AP) report published last year revealed that some clothes made in slave facilities in the concentration camps made its way to America.
“Any woman or man under age 35 was raped and sexually abused,” Ruqiye Perhat, a student arrested in Xinjiang in 2009 for four years, told the Post. More recent survivors say that the camps had made rape more systematic than in regular prisons; guards would “put bags on the heads of the ones they wanted” and take the women out of their cells to be raped all night, returned for their fellow prisoners to see in the morning. One human rights activist told the Post they had documented at least seven cases of women being forced against their will to receive intrauterine devices as part of their entering the concentration camp, presumably to keep them from getting pregnant through rape.
Those who were arrested while pregnant – often for “crimes” like downloading the messaging application WhatsApp – were forced into harrowing abortions.
Gulzira Mogdyn told the Post that Chinese regime officials slashed her open without anesthesia and “cut my fetus out.”
The Washington Post testimonies echo those of other survivors who have endured sexual human rights violations and the killing of their unborn children. Many have also stated that the Chinese officials violated their bodily integrity in other ways, such as conducting medical examinations to prepare them for organ harvesting.
Mihrigul Tursun, a camp survivor, testified last year that Chinese authorities killed one of her infant triplets upon imprisoning her. The death occurred while the children were with Chinese authorities, forcibly taken for her. She told reporters she believes the child died of force-feeding.
An unnamed Kazakh concentration camp survivor testified to forced birth control accompanying the systematic use of rape to torture women at the camps.
“Young girls are taken out and raped all night long. If you keep resisting, they will inject you with something and kill you,” the woman told the Epoch Times. “There are usually 40 to 50 people in one small room, but five to 10 are regularly taken out and they just disappear—they never come back. People are being killed in tens all the time.”
Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA) last month, Zumuret Dawut described her forced sterilization in a concentration camp. Dawut escaped because her husband, a Pakistani national, petitioned his government to intervene.
“The family planning office gave me a letter and said: ‘Come back on the date stated in the letter and we will offer you a free operation to stop you from becoming pregnant,'” she told the outlet. “On hearing this my husband pleaded, ‘Does she have to undergo this procedure?’ … They said, ‘If you don’t comply it will effect your entry back into the country in the future, also your children’s schooling.’”
“On the day of my operation, I was taken inside the operating room, all I remember was that I was given an infusion. When I opened my eyes … There was no medical staff, doctors or nurses It was a very cold day, and I was covered with only a thin bed sheet,” she noted. “No one was allowed to visit from outside. When I looked around I heard other women moaning from pain. Once the effect of the anaesthetic wore off, I felt a sharp pain in my lower abdominal.”
Dawut added that, in the camp, she was forced to strip naked in front of multiple male officers and forced to take drugs that made her “[become] numb emotionally” and prevented her menstrual cycle from naturally taking place.
She also underwent organ testing to see if doctors could harvest them for profit, she said.
Human rights activists, journalists, and whistleblowers have testified for years to China’s policy of cutting open political prisoners to extract their organs while alive, without anesthesia, and sell them to willing buyers. Speculation first arose when observers noted that the number of organ transplants conducted in China was far greater than the official existing list of organ donors, leaving unclear how the remaining transplants were conducted without organs.
In 2014, Enver Tothi testified to cutting organs out of a live political prisoner in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital. Tohti told the China Tribunal – a coalition of international legal experts investigating the Xinjiang camps – that he believed China was preparing to conduct these operations on Uighurs and others imprisoned in Xinjiang.
China has traditionally reserved the torturous operation for use on practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that it considers a dangerous anti-communist cult.
Jewher Ilham, daughter of imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, similarly accused China of live organ harvesting against her people in July.
“They harvest prisoners’ organs for sale. At the airport, there is now a fast track security lane for organs to pass,” she said.
The Washington Post noted that activists have called these practices “genocide.” The official international legal definition of genocide lists “imposing measures intended to prevent births” on a “national, ethnic, racial, or religious group … to bring about its physical destruction.”
The issue of genocide in China came to the forefront of the sports world on Sunday evening when the NBA forced Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey to effusively apologize to the communist regime for posting a mild statement of support for anti-communist protests in Hong Kong on social media. The NBA itself also apologized to China, triggering a stern response from the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization fighting for human rights in Xinjiang and elsewhere.
“The NBA has a dismal record of silence & self-censorship on Human Rights in China,” the World Uyghur Congress said in a statement on Twitter, noting that the NBA established a training camp in Xinjiang that profits the communist regime without challenging the existence of concentration camps there. “The NBA’s willingness to appease China & overlook its abhorrent behaviour contradicts the core values & business standards it claims to espouse,” the organization observed.