Uyghur Muslims are shackled with ‘tiger chains’, witnesses tell UK tribunal
Uyghur Muslims have been shackled with ‘tiger chains’, tortured and sterilised in brutal camps in China, witnesses shockingly told a UK tribunal today.
Witnesses gave their testimony of torture and gang rapes to an independent London panel investigating the plight of Uyghurs in China on Friday, a process slammed by Beijing as a mendacious smear.
They described the squalid conditions and brutality in camps in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, with one man claiming he was in tortured and held in chains for more than seven months.
The evidence includes claims that more than 5,500 Uyghur Muslims are currently missing in China, while one witness alleged that a woman died after undergoing forced sterilisation at a camp.
The panel is seeking to investigate claims that Beijing is committing genocide in Xinjiang, where internment camps are estimated to house three million Kazakhs and Uyghurs.
Uyghur Muslims have been shackled with ‘tiger chains’, tortured and sterilised in brutal camps in China, a UK tribunal was told today. Pictured: Witness Kazakh-Uyghur Omir Bekali showing how he was kept in chains at a camp
Speaking to the ‘Uyghur Tribunal’ on Friday, witness Kazakh-Uyghur Omir Bekali demonstrated how he says he was shackled in chains at a Uyghur ‘re-education’ camp in region of Xinjiang
The nine UK-based jurors of the ‘Uyghur Tribunal’, including lawyers and human rights experts, convened the first of two evidence sessions on Friday, ahead of an intended report in December on whether China is guilty of genocide.
The tribunal is set to hear dozens of testimonies over four days in what campaigners are hoping will be the most in-depth public investigation since the abuse allegations came to light more than three years ago.
International observers believe China is trying to exterminate ethnic minorities, while China claims the camps are ‘vocational training centres’ and residents are there of their own free will.
Today, the tribunal heard shocking testimonies from witnesses including Omir Bekali, a Kazakh national with Uyghur heritage, who was arrested when visiting family in Xinjiang on a visit from Kazakhstan.
At one point in his testimony he put on chains, shackled to both of his hands and feet, to show the panel how he claimed he had been held in a ‘re-education’ camp for over seven months.
When he arrived at the camp, he claimed that a hood was placed over his head and a policeman took him to a place ‘like a hospital’, where he had a full body examination with the hood still on, The Telegraph reported.
‘For the first four days and nights, I was tortured intensely,’ he said.
‘I was hung from the ceiling,’ Bekali explained, adding that he was beaten all over his body and on the soles of his feet.
Meanwhile, teacher Qelbinur Sidik (pictured) told the hearing that she been forced to teach Chinese to so-called students who were forced to wear shackles for hours
The tribunal heard from witnesses including Omir Bekali, a Kazakh national with Uyghur heritage, who was arrested when visiting family in Xinjiang on a visit from Kazakhstan
He went on to claim that he was forced to ‘accept’ the crimes of instigating terrorism, organising terror activities, and covering up for terrorists, but he said that denied everything.
Bekali also shockingly told the panel how his father had been killed and his brother left disabled following torture at the camp.
‘My father died and my sister and brother were branded terrorists,’ he added.
Meanwhile, Qelbinur Sidik, an ethnic-Uzbek teacher from Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, told the panel how she was forced to teach in two ‘re-education’ camps.
She claimed that she was ordered by Communist Party bosses to teach Chinese in two fetid and crowded camps – one male and one female – for Uyghurs.
The so-called students were made to wear shackles during hours-long classes, she told the tribunal.
‘The police, the guards in the camp, they didn’t see the male prisoners as human beings,’ Sidik said.
‘They enjoyed watching them being humiliated and their suffering was for them their joy.’
Female prisoners were allegedly abused and gang-raped when they were taken for interrogation.
‘They were not only tortured but also raped, sometimes gang-raped,’ Sidik said.
She also claimed that the forced sterilisation of Ughur women was common in the camps and in one case, a female prisoner died from the process.
Sidik said she was also subjected to forced sterilisation before she was given a visa to visit her daughter in the Netherlands and fled China.
Another witness, Patigul Talip (pictured) broke down in tears in front of the tribunal as she held up a photo of her family, claiming she doesn’t know if her son and daughter are alive or dead
A facility believed to be a reeducation camp north of Akto in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region is shown in this photo taken in June 2019
‘The things that I have witnessed and I experienced, I cannot forget even for a day,’ she said. ‘I am a woman myself, I have a daughter. I don’t wish anyone to suffer like that.’
Another witness, Patigul Talip broke down in tears in front of the tribunal as she held up a photo of her family, claiming she doesn’t know if her son and daughter are alive or dead.
She told the jurors that she and her husband fled China after he was allegedly imprisoned and beaten for teaching the Quaran and the Arabic alphabet.
The mother claimed their children were hauled off a plane, which was set to take them to Sweden, as it was about to leave Beijing.
She said that she last had contact with them in 2015, adding: ‘Only mothers who have children can understand the pain, how a mother would suffer.’
Dolkun Isa, the president of the Congress who was granted asylum in Germany, also addressed the panel.
‘Because of my activities abroad my whole family have faced monitoring and harassment,’ he said.
‘I have no idea how many of my family members are in concentration camps or detention and how many are alive.’
The London tribunal is not affiliated with any government, and China has refused to participate, branding it a ‘machine producing lies’. Beijing has slapped sanctions on Nice, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, and others involved.
But lawyers for the tribunal said the US and Australian governments offered to provide relevant material, complementing thousands of pages of documentary evidence already compiled.
It was set up at the request of the World Uyghur Congress, the largest group representing exiled Uyghurs, which lobbies the international community to take action against China over alleged abuses in Xinjiang.
Rights groups say up to one million Uyghurs and people from other ethnic-Turkic minorities are detained in camps in Xinjiang. Pictured: Witness Kazakh-Uyghur Omir Bekali at tribunal
According to the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database (UTJD), there are 232 concentration camps, 257 prisons and 5,567 missing people in Xinjiang. Pictured: A camp in Xinjiang
But Nice and his colleagues have vowed that the panel’s work will be ‘impartial’ and led by evidence.
‘Allegations made against the PRC (People’s Republic of China) are grave,’ tribunal chair Geoffrey Nice said at the opening of the first four-day session, adding that they included numerous breaches of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Rights groups say up to one million Uyghurs and people from other ethnic-Turkic minorities are detained in internment camps in Xinjiang.
According to the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database (UTJD), there are 232 concentration camps, 257 prisons and 5,567 missing people in Xinjiang, the tribunal heard.
The allegations heard at the tribunal are consistent with many other accounts emanating from the camps, leading the US government to declare that a genocide is underway.
But China insists they are for the educational improvement of Xinjiang residents, to deter extremism and boost incomes.
‘This pseudo tribunal has nothing to do with the law. It is embezzling the name of a ‘tribunal’ to engage in anti-China politics,’ Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday.
‘This so-called tribunal has also entangled a group of people whose opposition to China is their profession and livelihood,’ he added, noting the backing of the World Uyghur Congress.