US report exposes arbitrary detention of Uyghurs, other Muslim minority groups by Chinese government

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
9 Min Read

A recent report from the United States has highlighted a range of human rights violations in China, including arbitrary arrests, restrictions on freedom of expression, and systemic abuses against ethnic minority groups.

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From criminal prosecution of journalists to restrictions on independent trade unions, the findings of the “2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”, released by the US on Tuesday, outline a disturbing pattern of harassment and injustice.

The report states that the Chinese government has arbitrarily arrested and detained more than one million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups from 2017 to 2023.

The report emphasizes that genocide and crimes against humanity have occurred in China during the year, primarily against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government; enforced disappearance by the government; torture by the government; involuntary or coerced medical or psychological practices; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions; Arbitrary arrest and detention by the government, including, since 2017, more than one million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups held in extrajudicial detention camps, prisons, and an additional unknown number on day-to-day basis Time spent subject to “re-education” training; The lack of an independent judiciary and Communist Party control over the judicial and legal system; political prisoners; International repression against individuals in other countries, and arbitrary interference with privacy, including widespread and intrusive technological surveillance and monitoring.

The report said it also included severe restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, including criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners and others, and severe restrictions on Internet freedoms, including site blocking. Are included.

Additionally, human rights abuses in China also include crimes of violence targeting members of national, racial and ethnic minority groups, including Uyghurs; trafficking in persons, including forced labour; prohibition of independent trade unions and systematic restrictions on workers' freedom of association; and the existence of some of the worst forms of child labour.

However, the government did not take credible steps to identify or punish officials who may have violated human rights, the report emphasizes.

There were numerous reports that the Chinese government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings, during 2023.

“In many cases little or no details were available. The report said there was no government transparency or public statistics on the executions.

In Xinjiang, there were reports of deaths in custody related to detention in internment camps.

Tumshuk prison in Xinjiang's Maralbeshi county handed over the bodies of at least 26 Uyghur prisoners to their families ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

Additionally, disappearances of persons continued through multiple means on a systemic scale across the country.

According to the report, “the primary means by which authorities forcibly disappeared individuals for sustained periods was what was known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL)”.

The RSDL codified into law the long-standing practice of detaining and removing from the public eye individuals whom the state considered a risk to national security or intended to use as hostages.

According to an April 2022 report by human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) Safeguard Defenders, between 55,977 and 113,407 individuals were held in RSDL (and later faced trial) from 2015 to 2021.

Highlighting cases of arbitrary arrests and detention, the report emphasized that lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders and followers, and former political prisoners and their family members were subjected to arbitrary detention or arrest. Being targeted for.

In March last year, “the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued its opinion that the deprivation of liberty of Uyghur Qurban Mamut, Ekpar Asat and Gulshan Abbas was arbitrary,” the report said.

There were numerous reports that authorities arrested or detained lawyers, religious leaders or followers, petitioners, and other rights advocates for long periods without officially issuing charges or providing reasons.

Furthermore, authorities subjected many of these individuals to illegal house arrest, denial of travel rights, or administrative detention in a variety of illegal detention facilities, including “black prisons.”

Although the law states that courts should exercise judicial power independently, without interference from administrative organs, social organizations and individuals, the judiciary did not exercise judicial power independently.

“Judges routinely receive political guidance on pending cases, including instructions on how to rule, from national and local governments and the CCP, particularly in politically sensitive cases,” the report said.

Corruption often affects court decisions because safeguards against judicial corruption are vague and poorly enforced. “The CCP-controlled committee decided most major cases, and it was the duty of trial and appellate court judges to formulate legal justifications for the committee's decisions.”

Furthermore, China also faces a lack of freedom of expression in the country, including among press members and other media.

Due to this, citizens often avoid discussing political matters, leaders, or “sensitive” topics for fear of official punishment.

“Authorities routinely took harsh action against citizens who questioned the legitimacy of the CCP or criticized President Xi Jinping,” the report said.

Additionally, some independent think tanks, study groups and seminars also reported pressure to cancel sessions on sensitive topics.

People who made comments deemed politically sensitive in public speeches, demonstrations, exhibitions, academic discussions, or comments in the media, or who posted sensitive comments online, continued to be subject to punitive measures, as did members of their families. was did.

The government extensively used mobile phone apps, cameras, and other electronics to monitor all speech and activities.

Authorities in Xinjiang used an extensive database that tracked residents' movements in the region, mobile app usage, and even electricity and gasoline consumption.

“Government officials used criminal prosecution, civil suits, violence, detention, and other forms of harassment to intimidate writers and journalists and prevent the dissemination of unapproved information on a range of topics,” the report said.

In addition, dozens of Uyghur relatives of foreign-based journalists working for RFA's Uyghur Service disappeared or were detained in Xinjiang.

The report released by the US noted concerns regarding internet freedom and said the law also allows security agencies to cut communications networks across an entire geographic area during “major security incidents”.

Domestic internet authorities, led by the Cybersecurity Defense Bureau, targeted individuals accused of defaming the government online in public or private messages.

“The law requires internet platform companies operating in the country to control the content on their platforms or face penalties. “According to Citizen Lab, China-based users of the WeChat platform were subjected to automated filtering of chat messages and images,” it added.

Additionally, there were reports of child labor in the manufacturing, service, and retail sectors, despite the country having laws prohibiting all the worst forms of child labor.

“Children were reportedly found working in machine and electronics factories, beverage stores and as waiters,” the report said.

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