International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2019: Chinese officials complicit in the torture of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples should be sanctioned

For immediate release

June 25, 2019 3:30 pm EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on all concerned governments to sanction Chinese officials for the torture of individuals held in Chinese government concentration camps.

UHRP calls on states to implement or pass Global Magnitsky Acts so the perpetrators of human rights violations in East Turkestan can be held to account.

“There is sufficient evidence of China’s use of torture against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in Chinese government concentration camps to enact sanctions. Survivor accounts and reports of death in custody of internees should result in consequences for the officials complicit in these crimes. Global Magnitsky Act sanctions targeting Chinese officials are not only actionable, but also send a warning about the decision to torture in the future,” said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat in a statement.

Former internees of the camps describe a pattern of physical and psychological torture. A May 18, 2018 Associated Press report noted: “Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.”

Camp survivors Mihrigul Tursun, Omar Bekali, and Kayrat Samarkand have testified to experiencing and witnessing torture inside the facilities. In November 2018, Mihrigul told reporters “I thought that I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me.”

Radio Free Asia, independent researchers, and human rights organizations have recorded a number of deaths in custody or shortly after release, including those of Muhammad Salih Hajim, Abdulnehed Mehsum, Yaqupjan Naman, Abdulreshit Seley Hajim, Abdusalam Mamat, Yasinjan, Hamit Himit, Abdusattar Qarahajim, Erkinjan Abdukerim, Ehet Aman, and Mutellip Nurmehmet. The Xinjiang Victims Database has documented 70 deaths in camps since January 2017.

In June 2019, family members of Uyghur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti told Voice of America he had died in a concentration camp after denial of medical treatment for diabetes and heart disease.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have passed Global Magnitsky Acts with the European Union and Australia also considering similar legislation. UHRP joins Human Rights Watch and a bipartisan group of U.S. legislators in calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials complicit in human rights abuses, including torture. As the architect of the concentration camps, “Xinjiang” Party Secretary Chen Quanguo should receive a visa-ban and have assets frozen.

The torture of Uyghur internees in concentration camps is consistent with frequent reports of physical abuse and other maltreatment of Uyghurs in Chinese government custody. In late 2005, after making his first official visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumchi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed “torture was widespread” in China. Nowak added that there has been a “consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs.”

In November 2015, UHRP and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) jointly submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT). The submission documented no progress in ending the practice of torturing Uyghur detainees since Manfred Nowak’s visit ten years earlier.