Merdan Ghappar, a Uighur fashion model, gave the world a rare glimpse into China’s reeducation camps when he sent a video from inside one. The camps, located in the primarily Uighur Xinjiang region, aim to eliminate the unique cultural and ethnic features of the Uighur people. The video and messages he sent show cruel, inhumane, and arbitrary imprisonment of an entire ethnic group.
Damning Video and Messages
Ghappar sent his uncle a video of his condition in a Chinese prison cell. In the video, he has one arm handcuffed to his bed while he films himself with the other. He uses the camera to give a full view of his cell, which was squalid and cramped.
In the background, a Chinese voice booms on a loudspeaker. The man says, “Xinjiang has never been an ‘East Turkestan’. The so-called ‘East Turkestan State’ has never existed or been recognized either.”
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The speech shows the Chinese Communist Party’s paranoia that the Uighurs want to secede from China and form a new state. The man on the loudspeaker continues, “Separatist forces at home and abroad have politicized this geographical term and called for those who speak Turkic languages and believe in Islam to unite.”
In Ghappar’s text messages to his uncle, he also described the appalling conditions and practices of the reeducation camp. He described flea-infested quarters, as well as draconian measures to isolate the sick. He also told of police mercilessly beating teenagers for playing ball outside during the quarantine.
No official reason has been provided for Ghappar’s detention. Like so many Uighurs in China, he was simply rounded up and brought to a reeducation camp. If still alive, he is an indefinite prisoner of the Chinese state.
His uncle, who lives in the Netherlands, is confident that his nephew’s detention is because of him.
“Yes, I am 100% sure about it. He was detained just because I am abroad and I take part in protests against Chinese human rights abuses,” Abdulhakim told media.
Though he knew it put his nephew at risk, Abdulhakim decided to release his nephew’s messages in order to reveal the human rights abuses taking place against the Uighur people. “Staying silent will not help him either,” said his uncle of the added risk.
Footage Likely Genuine
While the text messages and video cannot be confirmed, experts are confident that both are genuine accounts of life in Uighur reeducation camps.
Georgetown University professor James Millward is an expert on China’s Xinjiang policies. He told the BBC that the description is rare, valuable, and likely authentic: “This firsthand description of the police holding cell is very, very vivid. He writes in very good Chinese and gives, frankly, a lot of horrific detail about the way these people are treated. So, it’s quite a rare source.”
The Chinese government denies any persecution of the Uighur people, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. This video will not change the Communist Party’s denial, but it may help the world to unite against this ethnic cleansing.
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