Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, a woman from China's Uighur minority related the torture she had experienced in a reeducation camp run by China's Communist Party. The Chinese government has denied that any such camps exist.
Who are the Uighur people?
The Uighur people are a largely Muslim minority who live in the Xinjiang province in the far western reaches of China.
In August, a United Nations Human Rights panel announced that it had “many numerous and credible reports” that 1 million Uighurs were being held in what appeared to be a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”
The U.S. State Department estimated that the number could actually be as high as 2 million.
Uighurs are detained for practicing their religion or for studying their native language. In September, one Uighur man was reportedly detained for setting his watch to a pre-Mao time zone, which allegedly made him a terror suspect.
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied that any forcible reeducation or torture of the Uighurs is happening.
In October, the top Chinese official in the Xinjiang region said that the Uighurs were being sent to “vocational education” centers to prevent terrorism. He said that the Uighur at these centers were “trainees.”
In November, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that any reports about reeducation camps were “gossip or rumor,” saying that “the Xinjiang regional government, of course, understands the situation in Xinjiang best, and not some other people or organizations.”
Who is Mihrigul Tursun?
Mihrigul Tursun, now 29, is an Uighur from China. After moving to Egypt to learn English and attend a university, she went back to China to visit her family in 2015. By that time, she was married and had three children. When Tursun reached China, she was arrested and detained for three months. By then, one of her children had died, and the other two had health issues. All three had apparently been operated on.
In 2017, she was arrested again. This time her head was shaved and she received what she described as intrusive medical examinations. She was released, only to be detained a third time shortly afterward.
This time she was detained for three months. She said that this time she was subjected to torture, and forced to sing songs about China's Communist Party, and locked in a single prison cell with 60 other women.
“I thought that I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me,” she told reporters Monday at the National Press Club.
She was also forced to ingest pills and an unknown white liquid. She was not sure what the intended purpose of these treatments were, but other women in her cell suffered bleeding and loss of menstruation from it.
“The authorities put a helmet-like thing on my head, and each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I would feel the pain in my veins,” Tursun said.
“I don't remember the rest. White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness,” she added. “The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uighur is a crime.”
After she was released, Tursun fled with her remaining children to Egypt and from there to the United States. She is currently living in Virginia.
Olivia Enos, a policy analyst focusing on Asia for the Heritage Foundation, told TheBlaze, “The U.S. should continue to strongly condemn China for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and take steps to hold the Chinese government accountable for its persecution of Uighurs.
"In particular, Treasury should consider sanctioning [Communist Party Secretary for the Xinjiang region] Chen Quanguo for the role he’s played in violating human rights in both Xinjiang and Tibet.”