A shocking BBC report (with some images from Bitter Winter) led politicians from all over the world to call for an UN-led investigation of “crimes against humanity.”
by Daniela Bovolenta
Depending on the time zone, it was in the evening of February 2 or in the early morning of February 3 that the world was shocked by an exceptional and deeply disturbing BBC reportage on how “mass rape, sexual abuse, and torture” are commonplace in Xinjiang’s dreaded transformation through education camp.
BBC’s David Campanale, a noted specialist of human rights issues in China, Matthew Hill, interviewed former detainees and one guard, and heard from scholar Adrian Zenz (Joel Gunter co-authored the subsequent article). They were also able to show video images from inside the camps, filmed by a Bitter Winter reporter who was subsequently arrested. We gladly supplied to the BBC footage from our archives, which in part was never published before.
Not only did the witnesses interviewed by the BBC ridicule the Chinese propaganda theory that the camps are “vocational schools” rather than jails, they described a horrific system where rape was not occasional but was used systematically to break the Uyghur women’s personal integrity and will.
Gulzira Auelkhan, an ethnic Kazakh who spent 18 months in the camps, told the BBC that she was forced to systematically “remove the clothes [of women detainees] above the waist and handcuff them so they cannot move,” so that police and even Han Chinese civilians introduced from the outside, who “would pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates,” could rape them.
Tursunay Ziawudun, a woman who escaped from Xinjiang to Kazakhstan after she was released from the camps, and then to the U.S., reported how she and her cellmates were savagely beaten and raped. She was tortured with an electric stick inserted into her genital tract to deliver electric shocks. Some of the women who were taken in the night to the rooms where they were raped by the police and masked Chinese men lost their mind, Ziawudun said. Others “never returned.”
“They don’t only rape, Ziawudun added, but also bite all over your body… They did not spare any part of the body, they bit everywhere leaving horrible marks… I have experienced that three times. And it is not just one person who torments you, not just one predator. Each time they were two or three men.”
Qelbinur Sedik, an ethnic Uzbek woman who now lives in exile, went to the camps as a Chinese language teacher. She told the BBC that she befriended a policewoman, who told her that in the camps “the rape has become a culture. It is gang rape and the Chinese police not only rape them but also electrocute them. They are subject to horrific torture.” Sedik reported to the Uyghur Human Rights Project that electric batons were used for “four kinds of electric shock: the chair, the glove, the helmet, and anal rape with a stick. The screams echoed throughout the building. I could hear them during lunch and sometimes when I was in class.”
The BBC also interviewed Sayragul Sauytbay, the ethnic Kazakh woman whose story is well-known to readers of Bitter Winter. Asked about rape in the camps, she said it was “common,” and told the story of a young girl, 20 or 21-year-old, who was brought in front of some 100 detainees for self-criticism. After that, “in front of everyone, the police took turns to rape her.” The women inmates who tried to close their eyes or look away were in turn taken by the police for “punishment.”
Ziawudun and a former camp guard also offered information on how the “thought reform” process, or deprogramming, of the inmates works. Detainees should listen to propaganda for long hours and memorize books by President Xi Jinping. They are punished if they fail to remember them. They are compelled to spend long hours singing CCP songs, and watching videos featuring Xi Jinping. Alone, this would not break their will, but they were also forced to take pill and injected every 15 days with “vaccines” that made them sick and confused, and subjected to sleep and food deprivation.
Zenz said that the BBC report “provides authoritative and detailed evidence of sexual abuse and torture at a level clearly greater than what we had assumed.” It also confirmed that torture, rape, and “thought reform” are unable to overcome the courage and determination of many brave women, who fled China and are willing to take great risks to tell the truth about the camps to the world.
The BBC report will not remain without consequences. Politicians from all over the world, united in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), are calling for an UN-led international investigation of the crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated in Xinjiang. “These atrocities must be stopped, they said.”