China is detaining and torturing Muslim minorities, human rights group says

China detaining Muslim minorities
(Image credit: OZAN KOSE / AFP / Getty Images)

China is persecuting, detaining, and even torturing Muslims under the guise of combating terrorism, a report compiled by Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental advocacy organization, reveals.

The apparent rights violations are happening in China's northwest Xinjiang region, where Turkic Muslims used to be in the majority. But the Uyghur and Kazakh minorities now make up just half the population, and Human Rights Watch's interviews suggest China's "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism" may be to blame.

China has long sought to repress Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities' culture by forcing them into "political education camps" if they're caught with "religious materials." In one case, having some e-books in a native language constituted a crime, one Uyghur told Human Rights Watch. Detainees have to learn at least 1,000 Mandarin Chinese characters and memorize intense anti-Uyghur rules before leaving, in an attempt to "eradicate" their religious and ethnic roots, authorities have said. Many Uyghurs that Human Rights Watch interviewed said that more than half of their immediate families are in these camps, awaiting trial, or in prison. And if they're not detained, Uyghurs still have to go to Mandarin classes and other Chinese cultural education programs.

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But these camps have recently taken their offenses beyond education, Human Rights Watch says. Detainees describe being strapped to a metal "tiger chair" and interrogated for days, and saw others beaten and hanged until they admitted to terrorism charges. Some Uyghurs have left the country in search of asylum, but the Chinese government has requested that other nations deport them back to China, and they've complied. This "loyalty drive" has transformed into "human right violations ... of a scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution," Human Rights Watch says.

Read the full report at Human Rights Watch.

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