There’s a lot of debate over whether the United States should really be wading into another country’s political business — especially as our own anger boils because of Russian involvement in our own 2016 elections (and the unfounded conspiracy theories of Ukranian involvement). But China’s sometimes extremely violent protesters have become associated with democracy in China, and so it’s almost inevitable that the voice of the United States is heard.
This makes the here and now perhaps the best time to open up a discussion on Muslim internment camps currently operating in China’s western province of Xinjiang — and how they might compare to the “detention” camps along our own southern border, used to hold migrants flooding into the United States for longer than we legally have any right to hold them (by law).
TIME revealed that it gained access to China Cables, “a cache of classified government papers published by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday.”
According to those cables, the Muslim “camps must adhere to a strict regiment of total physical and mental control, a gruelling diet of political indoctrination, vice-like security protocols, strict secrecy and ‘labor skills training’ for longer-serving inmates.”
In a direct parallel to someone whose name you know so well, China’s government called the leaked cables “fake news.”
The same government had initially hid those camps from the international community. When the tide of evidence became so overwhelming that China’s government no longer found the coverup politically tenable, they admitted to their existence, describing them as training centers instead. China says the camps are aimed at the fight against terrorism.
But that’s not what those detained say. Orynbek Koksebek, a 39-year-old Chinese citizen, says he was arrested in November 2017, shortly before he was sent to one of the internment camps. His stories are harrowing at best and terrifying at worst. Koksebek says it was all about indoctrination through propaganda. The officers forced him to learn Chinese, interrogated, and tortured him.
During one such interrogation, “he was thrown into a hole in the ground, doused with cold water and severely beaten.” Eventually, he tried to commit suicide unsuccessfully.
Other inmates tell similar stories of torture, rape, and more.
Koksebek told TIME, “Whenever we saw a bird or a dog outside, we felt jealous of their freedom. Our fate felt endless.”
Postdoctoral research specialist for the Xinjiang crisis Darren Byler at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder said, “I’ve seen numerous police reports that indicate a person was detained because they were part of a Quran Study Group.”
This situation shouldn’t be ignored, because it provides valuable insight into the slippery slope that President Trump has our country tumbling down. First immigrants are detained. Who’s next?