For immediate release | Thursday, April 16, 2020

Persecuted Uighur Population In China At Risk Of Coronavirus Exposure In Xinjiang Camps

Press Contact:

Media at CEP

Threat Of Starvation, Death Elevated By Conditions Imposed By Chinese Communist Party

(New York, N.Y.) – China’s continued detention of more than one million Uighur’s in what U.S. officials have called “concentration camps” has put the persecuted population at heightened risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. More than 50 coronavirus cases have been reported in the northeastern region of Xinjiang. Many worry the camp-like conditions make social distancing implausible.

Uighur communities, who already face gross human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), have not been able to prepare for COVID-19, putting millions at risk for starvation, illness, and death. According to the McCain Institute, the CCP has also been accused of forcing Uighurs to labor in factories across the country to make up for laborers in quarantine. Since the beginning of the year, a large number of Uighurs have reportedly “graduated” from the camps and have been assigned to work in factories dedicated to manufacturing for 83 multinational corporations.

Following international condemnation of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) camps in July of 2019, Chinese officials claimed that they released the majority of the detainees. The U.S., experts on China, and ethnic Uighur Muslims contested the claim. The CCP has not offered convincing evidence of those mass releases claimed last year, and it is reported that people who had been freed effectively remained in captivity as many were forced into labor programs instead.

In the past, Chinese authorities have claimed the detention campaign against this minority group stemmed from the idea that extremist religious ideology, often promulgated over the Internet, has corrupted the Uighurs in Xinjiang, prompting many to pursue separatism through terrorist means. Beginning in early 2017, China implemented broad campaigns in the XUAR under the guise of countering extremism. In April of 2017, the XUAR government mandated “re-education” programs for members of ethnic minority communities and students who study overseas in an effort to better “assimilate” back into Chinese society. Citing terrorism concerns, authorities in the XUAR required all residents to install a surveillance application on smart phones that automatically detects “terrorist and illegal” religious videos, images, e-books, and electronic documents.

To read CEP’s China resource, please click here.