A former Chinese public security officer in exile in Europe was quoted by the U.S. media CNN on Oct. 4 as showing documents certifying his service and revealing anonymously details of torture against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Many of these episodes are consistent with the testimony of two other Uyghur interviewees interviewed by CNN, and the circumstances are appalling.
The image shows police officers standing at the outer gate of Urumqi Detention Center No. 3 on April 23, 2021. Urumqi Detention Center No. 3 is the largest detention center in China, twice the size of the Vatican, and can hold at least 10,000 prisoners.
(Deutsche Welle) CNN reports that in 2015, police officer Jiang, who has worked in the Chinese police force for more than 10 years, received an official document titled “Assistance to Xinjiang”.
The document mentioned that the central government planned to recruit 150,000 police assistants from all provinces and encouraged the provinces to provide assistance to the Xinjiang region, including public security resources, “to join the national fight against terrorism,” according to an important directive from the Chinese president following a briefing on counter-terrorism efforts.
Jiang’s supervisor asked him to join, telling him, “The separatist forces want to split the motherland. We must take them all out.” In addition to fighting the threat of state security, Jiang was also eager for a promotion, and the temporary job paid twice as much as his original salary, with other benefits.
Upon arrival in Xinjiang, these police officers called in from around the country were required to conduct routine arrests based on a list of people rounded up by their superiors, as official regulations require a certain quota of Uighurs to be detained.
It was all planned and there was a system in place,” he said. Everyone needs to hit a target.” He added that if someone resists arrest, the police will “put a gun to his head and say don’t move. If you move, you’ll be shot.”
According to Jiang, teams of police would also search people’s houses and download data from their computers and cell phones; another tactic was to use the area’s neighborhood council to bring local residents together for a meeting with the village chief, who would then detain them en masse.
Jiang described that time as a “period of fighting,” saying officials treated Xinjiang as a war zone and police were told that Uighurs were enemies of the state. He said police were aware that 900,000 Uighurs and other minorities were detained in the region in a year, and that he himself would have been arrested if he had resisted those actions.
“We take them all by force in one night. If there are hundreds of people in a county in this region, then you have to arrest those hundreds of people.”
At the height of China’s strict anti-terrorism campaign, Jiang was assigned to different areas of Xinjiang three or four times. But he grew confused about the purpose of his new job and the crackdown. He says each new detainee was beaten during interrogation , including men, women and children as young as 14 years old. “Each one used different methods. Some even used batons, or chains with locks.”
“The police would step on the suspect’s face to make him confess, or kick them and beat them until they were bruised and battered and on their knees on the floor crying.”
Other tortures included handcuffing people to metal or wooden “tiger chairs,” hanging them from the ceiling, sexual violence, electric shocks, and waterboarding. Prisoners were often forced to stay awake for days on end and were deprived of food and water, he said. Jiang said the suspects were charged with terrorism, but he believes “none” of the hundreds of inmates he was involved in arresting had committed a crime. “They were all ordinary people,” he said.
He said torture only stops when a suspect confesses to a crime. Those who confess are then usually transferred to another facility, such as a prison or detention camp guarded by prison guards.
He admits he often has to play “bad cop” during interrogations, but avoids using the most severe violence, but his colleagues do not always. “Some people see it as a job, others as psychopaths,” he said.
Jiang said he was actually frustrated by the growing corruption within the Chinese Communist Party even before he went to work in Xinjiang. That’s why he decided to flee China and expose everything, but his family stayed behind. “The CCP pretends to serve the people, but they are a group of people who want to achieve dictatorial rule.” Jiang says he wants to “be on the side of the people.”
Jiang knows he will never be able to return to China. “They would beat me half to death. I would be arrested. There would be a lot of problems. Defection, treason, leaking government secrets, subversion,” he said, adding, “The fact that I helped speak for the Uighurs means I could be charged with involvement in a terrorist organization. I could be charged with every conceivable crime.”
When asked what he would do if he came face-to-face with victims of past arrests, he said he would be “scared” and would “leave immediately.
“I’m guilty, and I hope that something like this doesn’t happen to them again. I hope to get their forgiveness, but it’s too hard for people who have suffered like this.”
Jiang, who now lives in Europe, suffers from insomnia, and images of those tortured in pain reverberate in his mind, bringing him close to a breakdown.
“How am I going to face these people? Even if you’re just a soldier, you’re still responsible for what happened. You need to carry out orders, but so many people are doing this together. We’re responsible for this,” River said.
Security personnel in protective clothing are pictured standing at the reception desk in the visiting hall of Urumqi Detention Center No. 3 on April 23, 2021.
Torture and sexual violence
In his interview, Jiang referred to sexual torture that many past testifiers had also recounted. “If you want someone to confess, you use an electric stick with two tips on it. We would tie two wires to the tips and put them on their genitals while the person was tied up.”
He even said that a “very common measure” was for guards to order inmates to rape and abuse new male inmates. Abduweli Ayup, a 48-year-old Uyghur scholar from Xinjiang, confirmed his account.
Ayup was detained on Aug. 19, 2013, when police armed with rifles surrounded the kindergarten he runs to teach young children their native language. He said that on his first night in police custody in Kashgar, he was gang-raped by a dozen Chinese inmates who were “under the command of three or four prison guards” who also witnessed the attack.
Ayupu fainted during the rape and woke up to find his own vomit and urine all over his body. “I saw flies, like they were flying around me. But I found that the flies were better than me. Because there was no one to torture them or rape them.”
“I saw the men laughing at me, saying he was too weak.” The guards continued to humiliate him the next day, asking him, “Are you having fun?”
Police then sent him to a re-education camp, where he was eventually released on Nov. 20, 2014, after being forced to confess to the crime of “illegal fundraising.
Now living in Norway, Ayupu still teaches and writes books in Uighur for children, trying to keep his culture alive. But he says the trauma of being tortured will stay with him forever. He says, “It’s a scar on my heart. I will never forget it.”
Ayupu suffered from the nightmares of his detention and could not shake the feeling that he was being watched. But he says he has forgiven the prison guards who tormented him. “I don’t hate. Because all of them were victims of that system.”
Omir Bekali, 45, was born in Xinjiang to an ethnic Uighur mother and Kazakh father. he moved to Kazakhstan in 2006 and was granted citizenship. during a business trip to Xinjiang on March 26, 2017, police arrested him. A week later, he was interrogated and tortured for four days and four nights in the basement of a police station in the city of Karamay.
“They put me on a tiger bench and hung us up, beat us on our thighs with wooden torches, beat us on our buttocks, and whipped us with iron whips.”
The police tried to force him to confess to supporting terrorism, and he was sent to a re-education camp for eight months as a result. “When they put chains on my legs for the first time, I immediately understood I was going to hell,” he said. He said the heavy chains were attached to the prisoners’ hands and feet, forcing them to stay bent over and sleep.
He lost almost half his body weight in captivity and left the re-education camp “looking like a skeleton.
I survived this psychological torture because I am a man of faith,” Becali said. Without my faith, I could never have survived this situation. My faith in life, my passion for freedom has kept me alive.”
He noted that two people he knew died there during his stay in the camp. He also said his mother, sister and brother were held in a re-education camp and was also told that his father, Bakri Ibrayim, died while in detention in Xinjiang on Sept. 18, 2018.
He took the official Chinese form stating that he was released on bail in November 2018, pending trial. Omir Bekali, now settled in the Netherlands, told told CNN, “The pain and suffering we had [in the camp] will never go away and can never be erased from our minds.”
Guards stand on a tower on the outskirts of Urumqi Detention Center No. 3 on April 23, 2021.
CNN’s submission of the above witness allegations to the Chinese government regarding Jiang and Ayupu has so far gone unanswered. As for Bekali, Xinjiang government officials confirmed that he was detained for eight months on suspicion of terrorist crimes. But officials stressed that the claims of torture and family detention were “complete rumors and slander,” saying his father died of liver cancer and his family is “currently leading a normal life.