A report by Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Thursday said that Han Chinese men have been assigned to monitor the homes of Uyghur Muslim women while their husbands are held in Chinese re-education camps.
These men, portrayed as “relatives” of the Uyghurs, “regularly” sleep in the same beds as the women they monitor.
RFA described this practice as an extension of a Chinese program instituted late in 2017 that requires households in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to invite officials into their homes, answer intrusive questions, and endure “political indoctrination” from their “guests.” According to RFA:
The “Pair Up and Become Family” program is one of several repressive policies targeting Uyghurs in the region, which have also seen the build out of a vast network of camps, where authorities have held up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.
RFA’s Uyghur Service recently spoke about the program with a ruling Communist Party cadre in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Yengisar (Yingjisha) county, who said that 70 to 80 families in the township he oversees have Chinese, mostly male, “relatives” that stay for up to six days at each household—many of which have male family members in detention.
“The ‘relatives’ come to visit us here every two months … they stay with their paired relatives day and night,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They help [the families] with their ideology, bringing new ideas. They talk to them about life, during which time they develop feelings for one another.”
The “sleeping together” business is supposedly necessitated by cold temperatures in the region, conditions which often oblige Xinjiang residents to sleep close together in the same room for warmth during the winter.
The Communist Party official who spoke to RFA insisted the people of Xinjiang are completely comfortable with these phony “relatives” living in their homes and are “very keen” to make them comfortable. He also claimed there has never been a single instance of a Chinese minder attempting to take advantage of a Uyghur woman.
“They help [Uyghur families] with their ideology, bringing new ideas. They talk to them about life, during which time they develop feelings for one another,” the Communist official said.
“Reports suggest that Uyghurs who protest hosting ‘relatives’ as part of the Pair Up and Become Family program, or refuse to take part in study sessions or other activities with the officials in their homes, are subject to additional restrictions or could face detention in the camp system,” RFA observed.
RFA quoted Human Rights Watch saying “there is no evidence to suggest that families can refuse” visits from Han Chinese overseers. The human rights organization denounced China’s policy as “deeply invasive forced assimilation.”
Part of RFA’s research for the report involved talking to village leaders who said the Chinese “relatives” sometimes bring food and drink forbidden to Muslims, such as alcohol and pork, and pressure the Uyghur families into eating them.
“We are not so insane as to tell them that we are Muslim, so we cannot eat the things they eat,” one of these village sources said.
Peter Irwin of the World Uyghur Congress told the UK Independent on Tuesday that China’s “Pair Up and Become Family” program represents “the complete destruction of the line between private and public life.”
“Having Chinese men or Chinese police officials basically staying in their homes is not a new thing, but it’s about keeping tabs on people as closely as possible,” Irwin said. “It’s a program to eliminate the identity of Uyghurs by ensuring that people cannot express themselves.”
“In any other country or any other place on Earth, we would think this is insane, but in China it just seems like par for the course in terms of what they’ve been doing in the past two or three years,” he said.
Human rights activist Dr. Habib Siddiqui wrote an extensive op-ed for Eurasia Review on Monday in which he called China’s forced assimilation policies “repugnant and dehumanizing.”
“This is the height of immoral crime not only against the families of those detained Uyghurs whose wives but now ‘pair up’ with a Han Chinese but also against all the established norms of civility and decency that we enjoy as human beings,” Siddiqui wrote.
“It is a slap to nearly 1.7 billion Muslims who consider such Han supremacist programs as sacrilegious, let alone being dehumanizing, shocking, shameful and highly offensive,” he added.
Siddiqui vented his exasperation at Muslim leaders who refuse to respond to that slap by denouncing Beijing, wondering how they would feel if their spouses were “forced to ‘pair up, sleep in the same bed, and become family’ with Han supremacists while they rot in concentration camps.”