Academics condemn China over Xinjiang camps, urge sanctions

Mihrigul Tursun (right), a Uighur, detailed torture and abuse she said she suffered during several months in detention [Maria Danilova/AP]

Countries must impose sanctions on China over the mass detention of ethnic Uighurs in its western Xinjiang region, hundreds of scholars said, warning that a failure to act would signal acceptance of “psychological torture of innocent civilians”.

At a briefing in Washington, DC, on Monday,representatives of a group of 278 scholars in various disciplines from dozens of countries called on China to end its detention policies, and for sanctions directed at key Chinese leaders and security companies linked to abuses.

“This situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion,” the group said in a statement.

Countries should expedite asylum requests from Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities, as well as “spearhead a movement for UN action aimed at investigating this mass internment system and closing the camps”, it said.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received credible reports that one million or more Uighurs and other minorities were being heldin what resembled a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy” in its far western region.

Tursun was arrested for a second time about two years later and, when she was detained a third time, she spent three months in a prison cell with 60 other women having to sleep in turns, use the toilet in front of security cameras and sing songs praising China’s Communist Party.

Tursun said she and other inmates were forced to take unknown medication, including pills that made them faint and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women and loss of menstruation in others. Tursun said nine women from her cell died during her three months there.

One day, Tursun recalled, she was led into a room, placed in a high chair and had her legs and arms locked in place.

“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 in a statement read by a translator.

“I don’t remember the rest. White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness,” Tursun said. “The last word I heard them saying is that you being Uighur is a crime.”

She was eventually released so she could take her children to Egypt but was ordered to return to China. Tursun contacted US authorities in Cairo and settled in Virginia in September.



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