Inmates initiate hunger strike amid mass incarceration crackdown



Friday, May 18, 2018

A man in a torture position used in
detention camps that target Kazakhs
and Uyghurs. (Photo: ChinaAid)
ChinaAid

(Tacheng, Xinjiang—May 18, 2018) Kazakhs and Uyghurs detained in notorious prisons across China’s northwestern Xinjiang initiated a hunger strike to protest Muslim prisoners’ forced consumption of liquor and pork.

More than 6,000 Kazakh and Uyghur people have been detained in Emin County. These people come from two of China’s 56 minority groups and are predominantly Muslim, with many following the halal diet. However, Chinese prison guards have been forcing them to consume pork and liquor, which their religion expressly forbids.

In response, a group of Kazakhs and Uyghurs locked in a “political training center,” one of the many jails dedicated to holding ethnic minorities, launched a hunger strike, refusing the prison food until they accommodate the beliefs of the prisoners.

This enforced violation of diet is symptomatic of the Chinese Communist Party’s recent clamp down on Muslim activities. Deeply suspicious that people who practice Islam might have terrorist connections, especially if they have family members living abroad, they have begun violating Muslim’s rights to peacefully practice their faith, including enforcing bans on religious clothing and ordering shopkeepers to mix halal and non-halal foods. Anyone who questions whether or not food products are halal is subject to arrest and placement in a “political training” or “anti-extremist” center, where they often suffer torture.

An 87 year-old Kazakh man spoke of his time in an “anti-extremist center” while on his deathbed. According to him, the authorities blasted noise from a high-pitched speaker, and many of the inmates slipped into comas. He reiterated that Muslims were required to drink poor quality alcohol and eat pork against their will.

Another Kazakh with knowledge of the situation said prison officials forced their charges to wear a special helmet that played noise for 21 hours per day. Many of the prisoners suffered mental breakdowns.

In some cases, China has placed Kazakh people in these centers for simply traveling to Kazakhstan. Amen Saniya, a Kazakh woman who was born in Xinjiang but immigrated to Kazakhstan, plead for help after her husband disappeared in Xinjiang. “We filed complaints at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking the government of Kazakhstan to negotiate with the Chinese government. We also asked human rights organizations to help me and my children reunite with my husband.”

ChinaAid is currently unaware of his precise location.

Additionally, Xinjiang authorities arrested Muhan Mamutihan, a famed leader of a Chinese organization called Otandas El in Kazakhstan and a former official at the land management bureau in Ili. His wife formerly served on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Mamutihan even participated in activities organized by the Chinese embassy in order to show his patriotism.

ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those enacted against people in Xinjiang, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.

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