The repression of hundreds of thousands of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority amounts to “crimes against humanity”, a report published Thursday by human rights group Amnesty International said.
In a 160-page document that includes testimonies from former detainees in camps in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, Amnesty detailed what it called “systematic state-organised mass imprisonment, torture and persecution amounting to crimes against humanity”.
The report documents what the rights group called “extreme measures” taken by Chinese authorities since 2017 against Uyghurs and people from other ethnic-Turkic minorities.
“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale,” Amnesty’s secretary general Agnès Callamard said.
“Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations,” she added, saying the abuses “should shock the conscience of humanity”.
The report documents how, since early 2017, huge numbers of men and women in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained.
“They include hundreds of thousands who have been sent to prisons in addition to hundreds of thousands — perhaps even a million or more — who have been sent to internment camps,” the report said.
All of the more than 50 former detainees that Amnesty interviewed said they had been detained for conduct such as possessing a religious-themed picture or communicating with someone abroad.
Many detainees described first being taken for questioning in police stations where they were attached to steel chairs with leg irons and handcuffs.
They said beatings, sleep deprivation and overcrowding were common, and in “extraordinarily regimented” internment camps they had no privacy or autonomy and risked harsh punishments.
“The Chinese government has gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up its violations of international human rights law in Xinjiang,” Amnesty charged.
The US government accuses China of waging “genocide” in Xinjiang. Britain has declined to use that designation, but joined the United States and Germany last month in calling on Beijing to end repression of the Uyghur minority.
Beijing has repeatedly denied that abuses take place there, saying they are work camps meant to deter extremism and boost incomes.
“China must immediately dismantle the internment camps, release the people arbitrarily detained in them and in prisons,” Callamard said, calling for a UN investigation under international law.