Amnesty International has released a 160-page report titled Like We Were Enemies in a War: China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang. Since 2017, Amnesty argues, Chinese authorities have been using “one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance systems and a vast network of hundreds of grim ‘transformation-through-education” centers – actually, internment camps – throughout Xinjiang” to “root out the religious traditions, cultural practices and local languages of the region’s Muslim ethnic groups,” namely ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tajiks. “Torture and other ill-treatment are systematic in the camps, and every aspect of daily life is regimented in an effort to forcibly instill a secular, homogeneous Chinese nation and Communist party ideals.”

Agnès Callamard, the group’s secretary-general, calls it a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale” and believes that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is carrying out “crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations.”

Amnesty says it has interviewed 128 people, among them 55 former “detainees” who were reportedly interrogated at police stations, often in “tiger chairs,” before their transfer, often in hoods and shackles, to internment camps. During their first days or weeks in the camps, these people were made to sit still or kneel in silence while awake. Their eventual daily routines included a daily oath, disavowal of Islam and a course in forced “education.” They were also beaten, shocked with electricity, placed in solitary confinement, deprived of food, water and sleep, exposed to cold, and placed in restraints. They could only speak Mandarin.

In addition, Amnesty alleges that the CCP has made every effort to cover up its program, leaving perhaps hundreds of thousands of detainees unaccounted for.

The report – available for download in several languages – relies on testimonials, field and remote research carried out from October 2019 to May 2021, analysis of satellite imagery and data, and the work of journalists, scholars and other organizations. Amnesty has also set up a multimedia microsite.

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