How China intimidates Uighurs abroad by threatening their families

Ferkat Jawdat's mother was sent to a camp after speaking to her son in the US

By William Yang (Taipei )

At least 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are thought to be detained in "reeducation camps" in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region, in the far northwest corner of the country. Reports indicate that many of these people simply disappear from their homes and cities.

On Wednesday, ambassadors of more than 20 countries called for Beijing to end the mass detentions of people belonging to the Muslim-minority group. China describes these reeducation camps as "vocational training centers" or "boarding schools," while defending the program as a fight against "Islamic extremism." Human rights observers say it is a form of "ethnic cleansing."

And now there is evidence that China is putting pressure on the Uighur community living abroad to keep them from speaking out against the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Uighurs who fled to the US and Europe have told DW that Chinese authorities are trying to suppress the activism of the overseas Uighur community by going after family members still living in China. Activists said that their released family members were discouraging them from protesting against the internment program.

A mother's suffering

Ferkat Jawdat, a 26-year-old Uighur living in the US state of Virginia, told DW that the Chinese government has been trying to use several family members as "hostages" to silence his activism.