From June 4 to June 7, a four-day independent people’s tribunal was held in London, England. Testimonies were heard describing forced abortion, torture, sexual violence, and other atrocities committed against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in “re-education” camps run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China.
Presided over by prominent human rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice QC and eight others, the tribunal featured testimonies from 24 witnesses and hundreds of other written witness statements. Out of more than 50 experts who were approached, 14 experts testified.
Despite offers for The People’s Republic of China (PRC) to participate, Beijing refused and instead denounced the proceedings as “illegal” and a “serious provocation to the 25 million members of ethnic groups in Xinjiang.” The CCP claimed that “anti-China” forces arranged the proceedings to spread lies.
Rape, forced abortions, torture, and fear atrocities
Omir Bekali, one of the persecuted Uyghurs, spoke on the first day of the tribunal. Bekali grew up attending Uyghur schools and said he was taken into custody while visiting family in China away from his home in Kazakhstan, reported Newsweek.
He described tortuous interrogation techniques in his testimony, being locked in a small cell for a month, being heavily surveilled, and being forced to ingest “unknown medicines.” He said, “They made me sit on a ‘tiger chair’… hung me from the ceiling, chained me to a wall and beat me with plastic, wooden, electric batons and metal wire whip. They pierced needles under my nails.”
A “tiger chair” is an iron contraption with restraints used to secure detainees’ hands and feet while locking them in a sitting position. Prisoners are forced to sit in the chair for days at a time, enduring excruciating pain and discomfort. Witnesses also described “water rooms,” where detainees are shackled and forced to stand up to their necks in freezing liquid.
In a conversation with the Associated Press, one woman described being forced to have an abortion when she was six and a half months pregnant. She said, “The police came, one Uyghur and two Chinese. They put me and eight other pregnant women in cars and took us to the hospital.”
“They first gave me a pill and said to take it. So I did. I didn’t know what it was,” she continued. “Half an hour later, they put a needle in my belly. And sometime after that I lost my child.”
Another witness, Mahmut Tevekkul, was imprisoned and tortured in 2010. Authorities were attempting to gather information about his brother, who was being investigated for writing a religious text, reported The Associated Press.
“They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until the morning and then they took us to the maximum-security area of the prison,” he told AP.
Others described the torture of a young girl who was forced to confess to spurious “crimes” and repeatedly raped by prison guards in front of a hundred other detainees.
“Young girls were taken away at night for the sexual gratification of camp guards and returned beaten, bloody and broken, and according to one camp teacher, others were earmarked for lethal injections and organ harvesting. All without exception were starved and humiliated,” reported Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights.
Many of the detainees in China’s “re-education” camps were purportedly forced to undergo unwanted surgeries to harvest their organs, often resulting in death.
A report titled “Organ Procurement and Extrajudicial Execution in China: A Review of the Evidence” by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that “over [a] four-year period from 2000 to 2004, China more than tripled the number of hospitals performing transplants. This resulted in transplant volume growth in kidney transplants of 510%, in liver transplants of 1,820%, in heart transplants of 1,100%, and in lung transplants of 2,450%.”
While Chinese authorities claimed the organs were taken from death row inmates, a much more plausible source was from unwilling detainees, primarily Uyghurs and Falun Gong practitioners. The report states, “a close examination of PRC transplant activity indicates that Chinese hospitals have been performing at least several times more transplants than even the largest estimates of death-row prisoners are able to account for.”
The report concludes, “only the Chinese authorities are in a position to put these allegations to rest. Instead of doing so, they have co-opted international medical elites, responded with propaganda to those making the allegations, and engaged in an elaborate scheme of data falsification.”
Currently, upwards of three million people are estimated to be imprisoned in China’s “re-education” camps. Another tribunal will follow the four-day tribunal in September, with a final judgment expected in December.