Uyghur women remember horrors of China’s labor camps


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In 2017, Tursunay Ziyawudun was arrested on the street in northern China’s Xinjiang region, forced by police to hand over her passport, and taken to a prison camp about 30 minutes from her village. There she was forced to sing Communist songs of patriotism and repeatedly said that her Muslim religion did not exist. After a month, she developed stomach problems, passed out, and was released.

“They sent me to the hospital,” Ziyawudun, who came to the United States as a political refugee in 2020, told The Post. “If they hadn’t, maybe I would be dead.”

The year after being arrested on the street, still in China, she was summoned to a police station and told that she had to complete her training. She was sent back to the “re-education” camp, where her hair was cropped – likely to be sold as a wig – and her earrings were pulled out. “They pulled him so hard my ears were bleeding,” Ziyawudun recalls. “I was treated like an animal. “

Collapsing and crying, she said, “I was gang raped and my private parts were tortured with electricity. You end up with marks on your body that prevent you from looking at yourself.

Tursunay Ziyawudun told the BBC that this aerial image from 2019 looks like the site of the camp where she was held.
Google earth

“They gave me sterilization pills,” Ziyawudun said. “I’m pretty sure that’s why I can’t have a baby now.”

Its history is, tragically, not uncommon for members of the minority Uyghur religion, of Turkish origin, in the China of President XI Jinping. Since around 2016, they have been taken off the streets and sent to re-education camps – where reports of people being tortured, raped and even killed. They are sent there under the auspices of learning a trade and strengthening their patriotism.

On Thursday, the US Senate followed the House’s lead in passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which promises to ban imports from the Xinjiang region – home to some 12 million Uyghurs – in unless there is proof that the goods were not produced by forced labor. . It is now waiting to be signed by President Biden.

Gulzira Auelkhan, who has been buried for two years, told the Post that she "felt a slave."
Gulzira Auelkhan, who has been buried for two years, told the Post that she “felt like a slave”.
Ron Sachs / CNP for NY Post

Amelia Pang, author of “Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods”, admitted that this act is a huge deal that “hurts China’s plan.” China has invested a lot of money in the creation of a major trade route [that goes through Xinjiang] a key element of what is called its “Belt and Road” initiative. It is a trillion dollar project aimed at connecting China with Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It’s almost too big to fail.

“They are afraid of an uprising in the region. They are so afraid of losing their investment.

But she stressed that, to be effective, the law needs the teeth of business leaders: study finds published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, companies such as Nike, BMW and Apple use components and materials produced directly or indirectly through forced labor.

“The supply chain is murky… and there’s not a lot of accountability,” Pang told The Post, adding that big companies often look the other way and avoid asking the right questions. “They must ask themselves if the money they are paying [for manufacturing] can realistically reach wages in this region. Factories monitor the bottom line and contract out to prison camps where workers are mostly slaves. “

An Apple spokesperson told The Post: “We have conducted over 1,100 audits, including surprise audits, and interviewed over 57,000 workers to make sure our standards are being met … no evidence of forced labor in our supply chain. Representatives for Nike and BMW did not respond to requests for comment.

Gulzira Auelkhan says her husband saw her working in the glove factory in a Chinese state media video on YouTube.
Auelkhan says her husband saw her working in the glove factory in a Chinese state media video on YouTube.
Chinese State Media

The next time you’re tempted to shop for a pair of China-made leather gloves, consider Gulzira Auelkhan. She spent two and a half months in a forced labor camp near the northern border of the country, working for pennies an hour sewing gloves.

“There were cameras and police and you couldn’t sit down,” she told the Post. “I was working constantly, 14 hours a day, and I was being yelled at so much that it was starting to feel normal.”

Surprisingly, what kept Auelkhan, who was granted political asylum in the United States earlier this year, from slowing down the assembly line was the fear of being relieved of his job.

“If you said you didn’t want to work, you would go back to [prison] camp, where you would be tortured, ”she said. “I felt like a slave but it was better than being on the other side.”

Kuzzat Altay, the wealthy CEO of Cydeo, has now been taken to a re-education camp.
Kuzzat Altay, CEO of Cydeo, said his father spent two years in a re-education camp.
Provided by Kuzzat Altay

Indeed, Ziyawudun recalled the imminent threat of being summoned to a space that the women of her prison camp called “the dark room”.

“We were all afraid of it. When the police wanted to threaten us, they said they were going to take us to that room, ”Ziyawudun said. “Everything you can think of including rape takes place in this room. “

Pang is not surprised: “Rape is quite common in forced labor camps,” she said. “The goal is to brainwash the prisoners to be patriotic and extremely aligned with the Chinese state.”

Bob Fu, founder and chairman of China Aid, an organization with a mission to advance religious freedom in China, was told by a former prisoner that sexual brutality comes with a commercial component.

“We saved a woman who was an eyewitness to a government-organized program for prostitution,” Fu told the Post. “She was handcuffed to the bed, the man did his thing and she cried. She said she heard the man screaming and complaining that he paid a lot of money for it and that she was crying.

Devilishly convenient for the Chinese, according to Kuzzat Altay, CEO of Cydeo, an international software coding boot camp, the use of forced labor in hundreds of camps and factories scattered across the country is helping the Chinese government reduce manufacturing costs around the world.

“China keeps the prices low and Americans continue to buy Chinese goods at low prices,” said Altay, a former Xinjiang resident who moved to America in 2008 and is a staunch opponent of human rights violations in the country. the country.

“The entire manufacturing supply chain in China involves forced labor. They make shoes, pants, solar panels in these forced labor factories, ”he told the Post. “The Chinese economy is a vector of oppression and a source of influence in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street. This money comes from slavery.

A perimeter fence is built around what is officially known as a vocational training center in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.
A perimeter fence is built around what is officially known as a vocational training center in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.
Thomas Pierre / REUTERS

Altay’s father, 67, was held in a prison camp for two years, supposedly there, so the government could teach him a trade that could help the Communist Party.

Two years later, Altay said, “I didn’t know if he was alive or not. I cried every day. It was mental torture.

Fortunately. Altay’s father came out with his organs intact. “Organ harvesting is normal in the Chinese Communist Party,” Altay said. “They’re known for it. There are wealthy Middle Eastern customers who want Muslim kidneys ”- which is alcohol and pork free. “So the Uyghurs had their kidneys removed. “

In 2019, a group called the China Tribunal testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council, claiming that “forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been committed for years across China on a massive scale. significant ”.

Altay sees this as more than pure cruelty – saying it’s also a form of slow-motion genocide. “The women are sterilized because the Chinese government wants to minimize the Uyghur population,” he said. “Right now, the population growth is almost zero percent. In 10 years, it will be zero.

Chinese government spokespersons denied this.

An image that allegedly shows prisoners at a Chinese political re-education camp in Lop County, Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang.
This image is said to show prisoners at a Chinese political re-education camp in Lop County, Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang.
Xinjiang Justice Bureau / WeChat

Pang thinks the way to help end all of this is for Western consumers to stop buying products made with forced labor – a movement she calls “ethical consumerism” – and the Nike of the world. react appropriately.

“If it’s not lucrative for Chinese factories to resort to forced labor, if they can lose important contracts,” she said, “it will have an impact on these camps.

And that will allow American manufacturers to compete on a level playing field. As Altay said, “You buy something made in China, you give China a bullet to shoot in America.”

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