“Like we were enemies in a war”

China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang

“Like we were enemies in a war” China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang

Illustrations by Molly Crabapple


Healthcare without consent

All former detainees were subjected to health-related procedures without their consent. This occurred both during their pre-detention health check and during their time in the camp. Nearly every former detainee reported being given injections and having their blood drawn. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] Almost none were told what the injections or blood samples were for, even after they asked. “They injected me with a liquid, to clean inside my artery. They didn’t have my consent. They said that if I didn’t [allow them] then they would put me in the ‘strict’ group,” Aslan told Amnesty International. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] A few were told that some of the injections were flu shots or other vaccinations. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]]

There is a widespread belief among detainees that they were being injected to affect their memory or to sterilize them. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] Amnesty International has no basis upon which to assess these suspicions.

While government documents indicate that detainees were required to be vaccinated, the frequency with which some detainees report being injected is suspicious. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] A few former detainees claimed they were give injections or made to take pills every couple of weeks. “I can’t remember exactly [how frequent the injections were] but it was approximately every 10–15 days,” Abzal said.” [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] “They give pills regularly in camp. Sometimes every 2–3 weeks. You didn’t know what the pill was – no box, no paper – just blue pills. Everyone gets them… I heard that they prevent you from having children,” Meryemgul told Amnesty. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]]

Former detainees remarked that after people received injections they were “happy” or seemed inebriated. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] “All of us were injected [before entering the camp]. They explained that it was to prevent the flu… After the flu shot people looked happy. I’m not sure why,” Patigül told Amnesty. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] Many journalists have also reported instances of detainees being injected repeatedly without explanation. [[[BBC News, “The Kazakh Muslims detained in China’s camps,” 15 January 2020 ; AFP, “China sterilising ethnic minority women in Xinjiang, report says: Uighurs are among those facing involuntary contraception or threats over birth quotas,” 29 June 2020 ]]]

Most former detainees reported becoming sick and weak while in the camps. Most claim they did not receive adequate healthcare. Many report developing chronic health problems. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] Many stated that after leaving the camps they could no longer sit for long periods without being in pain. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] Others stated that after leaving the camps they had problems with their memory and with sleeping. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] A few said they had problems with their eyesight. “There is light in our cells 24/7, but not enough to read [and we were expected to read]. It affected our eyesight,” Alikhan said. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]] A few male former detainees claimed they were unable to function sexually after being released. [[[Amnesty International interviews.]]]