Electric rods were used on male prisoners’ private parts, hammers were used to break the legs of inmates, some were left to starve while others ate in front of them.
by Ruth Ingram
Wang Keizhan, not his real name for fear of reprisals, admitted that Chinese authorities have unleashed tens of thousands of untrained recruits in Xinjiang from all over the country to inflict as much damage as they can on Turkic peoples. In the short time he worked there, 150,000 were sent from inner China.
Untrained in policing, many minimally educated and unemployed, and drawn with the prospect of good salaries, they are taught that Uyghurs are enemies of the state, he explained, and as such are fair game for every kind of gratuitous torture they can devise, he claimed.
The policeman, now exiled in Germany, appeared on screen at the Uyghur Tribunal wearing sunglasses, a large mask, and a police uniform. His voice was disguised heavily, terrified of state recriminations towards him or his family, as he recounted his few months as a mid-ranking officer connected to one of the so-called transformation through education camps in Southern Xinjiang in 2018.
Nothing was off limits, he said, describing the arsenal of torture techniques at their disposal. There are no rules, he said, the novices learning from the more experienced, as they force the prisoners to kneel, punch them, and tie plastic bags over their heads until they stop breathing. “Sometimes, their limbs were tied, and waterpipes were inserted in their mouth to force water into their lungs,” he said, explaining that this was done in order to force Uyghurs to reject their religion and to confess that they had committed the crimes they were accused of. “They were forced to sign confessions to admit that they are terrorists and also to ‘denounce’ and provide a list of their relatives and friends as being terrorists,” he said.
Other methods of torture included using electric rods on a male prisoner’s penis. This was designed to humiliate and target the ego of Uyghur prisoners, he explained, and very rarely because of a genuine crime they had committed. “Very often, I noticed that the criminal charges against Uyghurs were just pretexts for arrest—for instance, because they sent or received money internationally,” he said.
During his ten-year career as a police officer, even before he left for Xinjiang, he saw first-hand that Uyghur suspects were treated differently and harsher than other suspects. He described the no-questions-asked powers of arrest strategy based on a national Chinese policy that defines Uyghurs as enemies or terrorists.
On arrival in Xinjiang, Wang described how he and the new recruits, armed with only a few basics of political ideological training, swarmed throughout the surrounding villages corralling 300,000 Uyghurs into camps on a variety of pretexts such having a knife at home, behaving “differently” or indicating obviously they were Uyghur or Muslim. “In some villages in Xinjiang, the whole population of a village was taken to the concentration camps,” he said, adding, “these re-educations have nothing to do with education or training,” but they are about putting psychological pressure on prisoners.
In the camps torture was used systematically against Uyghurs.
Sometimes hammers were used to break the legs of prisoners. Sometimes, they were left to starve, and other prisoners were used to break them mentally and psychologically by eating food in front of them to taunt them. “This caused some prisoners to go crazy,” he admitted. And when this happened, he said, prisoners were stripped naked and doused in cold water.
Severe repression and torture against Uyghurs are encouraged by the Chinese government, admitted Wang, because Uyghurs are mistrusted and seen as enemies. “Many of my fellow police officers were ready to accept these explanations to repress the Uyghurs,” he said, explaining the CCP philosophy that every Uyghur was a terrorist in waiting.
“If a Chinese police officer decided to arrest Uyghurs, we were told to invent reasons and pretexts and to make the arrest appear as legal and plausible as possible,” he added. “This is why torture and electrocutions were also routinely administered to Uyghurs,” he said.
Xinjiang was a law unto itself where treatment of prisoners was concerned, said Wang and rules were devised in secret by a committee. Whereas in inner China all interrogations were now videotaped, there was no such protection for Uyghurs and Turkic peoples, all of whom were considered terrorists. It was an open season now in Xinjiang, he suggested, where anything goes. Rules of treatment towards interned Uyghurs was a heavily guarded secret, said Wang, and nothing was written down. “The state security police has every power to carry out its own rules,” he said.
But one rule was very clear, remembered Wang. Woe betided any police officer who showed mercy. “Uyghurs are enemies of the state and as such deserve degrading and inhumane treatment”. From teenage girls to 80-year-old grandmothers, they should all be crushed.
When asked for the rationale behind this philosophy, Wang replied that the purpose was to inculcate complete obedience. “They are tortured to remove all disagreement,” he said. “After the worst treatment they will completely obey and be in line with the Party. They will have no thoughts of their own left,” he said.
Many of those arrested were academics and intellectuals with their own ideas and opinions, he pointed out. “Only through such cruelty can the Party’s purpose be achieved.”