Human rights organisations say around one million Uighurs are being held at detention camps in the Xinjiang province – which China denies. Video / Sky News / GettyBy Guyon Espiner, RNZ
A young Uighur man living in New Zealand says he has lost all contact with his family in China and fears they are in concentration camps in the Xinjiang region.
More than a million Muslim Uighurs are in what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) calls re-education camps – but others say are concentration camps – in the North Western region of China.
In the new Red Line podcast, which examines the influence of the CCP in New Zealand, the man gives an interview using the pseudonym Sam, with his voice disguised for extra protection.
“I cannot feel really safe,” he says. “Last time I had one [media] interview and just after that interview I received a phone call from the Embassy of China in New Zealand. And it really frightened me – like somebody is monitoring me, even in New Zealand.”
Sam, a New Zealand resident, said that in 2019 he lost all contact with his family and fears they have been sent to the camps.
“I cannot call them. Nobody is picking up the phone. I have no idea what’s going on and what happened to my family.”
He said there were no security reasons why the CCP should be interested in his family.
“I think our family are really good people and we don’t have any legal things or don’t have any criminal or any convictions,” he said.
“I’m not sure if they are in the concentration camps or not. I’m not really sure of that because I cannot get any information about that.”
He said it was hugely distressing to not even be able to contact them and that the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand had refused to help.
“It’s really heartbreaking. It’s not only me. I believe a lot of Uighurs in other countries are also facing the same issues,” he said. “How are they doing in China? What kind of living conditions? And there is no clue.”
Sam likened what the CCP is doing in Xinjiang to the Holocaust.
“What’s happening in China in the Xinjiang region is just like Nazi Germany during the World War,” he said. “They just take people to the concentration camps without any reason and without any charges.”
Canterbury University China expert Professor Anne-Marie Brady believed comparisons with Nazi Germany were valid.
“It definitely has parallels with how the Nazis treated the Jews,” she said.
“Now some of them are being moved into jails … and the children are in orphanages. There is documented evidence of the women being sterilised. The people who are coming out of these camps show signs of torture.”
The Chinese Embassy did not respond to interview requests. China has previously denied human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It says it runs a re-education camp system and it is trying to root out Islamic terrorism from militants who want an independent state.
New Zealand Chinese writer Tze Ming Mok, who has written about her fears a missing friend was in the concentration camps, said the CCP’s claim that it was trying to suppress terrorism did not stack up.
“All the writers, all the intellectuals, all the professionals – it’s nothing to do with terrorism, or state security. It’s a really specific genocide campaign to extinguish the culture of an indigenous people.”