The Chinese government has operated a program since 2017 to detain and kill Uighur Muslims, a minority ethnic group in China, and President Donald Trump should be calling for their liberty.
Chinese authorities assert these camps built across the state of Xinjiang over the past three years serve as “voluntary re-education purposes to counter extremism,” according to the BBC.
Leaked government files called the Chinese Cables sent to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, suggest these camps are far from educational facilities.
The documents instruct camp officials to manage camps “with strict discipline, punishments and no escapes,” according to the BBC. The documents include provisions for “students” to have communications with family at least weekly and not allow “abnormal deaths.”
Yet, former inmates describe a facility synonymous with horror. Mihrigul Tursun, an Uighur Muslim now living safely in the U.S., recounts witnessing nine women die due to inhumane conditions and no medical staff, according to information from the ICIJ investigation.
Sayragul Sauytbay, another Uighur Muslim, recalls the scenes of prisoners hanging on the wall while officers beat and electrecuted them. Other witnesses testify to the rape, water torture and abuse that occurred, according to the ICIJ.
The Chinese government has infiltrated apps such as Zapya – an app used to read the Quran – to target and locate these Uighur Muslims based on material shared on the app that displays “violent terrorist characteristics,” according to the China Cables.
Using mobile apps such as Zapya and WeChat, the Chinese government has infiltrated users’ phones to gain information about sent messages and videos. Officials use this data to justify detaining those whose suspicion cannot be eliminated, according to the ICIJ report.
One victim, Zumrat Dawut, recounts how Chinese officials would not believe her explanation for traveling internationally frequently due to running a family business. A year prior, authorities took a DNA sample, confiscated her passport and installed spyware on her phone.
These are internment camps, a repeat of past horrors elsewhere in the world.
The Chinese government denies all of these claims and have said its mission is to eliminate religious extremism and terrorism. What no one realized, though, is this goal would be achieved through systemic discrimination, abolishing privacy and family separation.
Global responses have been made, including in the U.S. House of Representatives, where legislation was introduced that would require President Trump to increase his demands on China to close the internment camps and place sanctions on Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also condemned the practices as “draconian,” he said in an interview with PBS.
What is really needed right now, however, is the president’s voice. The House should not have to force Trump to take a public stance against these internment camps. He has to decide which is more important: a trade deal, or the lives of voiceless Muslims in an authoritarian China.