BEIJING – Ethnic Uyghurs living in exile have launched their version of the #MeToo social media campaign, demanding information on their relatives detained by China in the so-called vocational training camps in Xinjiang region.
The #MeTooUyghur movement by the Uyghur diaspora demanding video proofs that their captive friends and relatives are alive comes after China released a clip of a prominent musician, Abdurehim Heyit, detained in one of these camps, showing he is in good health amid reports of his death.
The video, in which the detained musician is saying he was “never” abused, was apparently done to dismiss criticism of China’s treatment of an estimated one million detainees in the camps in Xinjiang, home to 10 million Uyghurs with 45 percent Muslim population.
“Chinese authority responded to Abdurehim Heyt’s scandal by releasing a video to show he is alive. Are millions of detainees too alive,” Halmurat Harri, a Uyghur activist tweeted, hashtaging MeTooUyghur.
The #MeTooUyghur, inspired by the #MeToo feminist movement against sexual harassment, was launched on Tuesday across social media websites including Twitter and Facebook – both banned in China.
Harri, a Finland-based human rights activist, whose parents are detained in what he calls “concentration camps,” demanded to know about his father, mother and others held by the Chinese authorities.
He posted a collage of 72 faces, apparently intellectuals who have been allegedly detained at these internment camps, and asked China to show their videos if they are alive.
Others also posted messages and photographs of many detained during the campaign against radicalization of population in the traditionally Muslim dominated region.
“Show me that my father is alive and well! Release my father immediately,” Twitter user @adilemijit wrote.
However, Beijing has answered none of these petitions.
“We have a very big population. Does that mean that we will have to provide video clip for each everyone,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.
According to international human rights organizations, Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are being detained in these camps arbitrarily on frivolous charges like refusing to give DNA samples, speaking in a minority language or arguing with government officials.
Hua lashed out at the western media for propagating alleged false information about the centers. She claimed the Uyghurs in these camps are trained to find dignified jobs.
The official claims contradict testimonies of those who were earlier detained in these centers, where they had reported torture, linguistic and cultural indoctrination and abuse during the period of their detainment.
The campaign across social media by exiled Uyghurs has encouraged human rights experts like Amnesty International’s Patrick Poon.
“Uyghurs have overcome their fear to speak up about their missing relatives in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. This is a strong solidarity effort and we hope that more people will come out to talk about their relatives to counter the Chinese government’s unreasonable narrative about ‘vocational training’ in the camps,” Poon told EFE.
Poon said such testimonies were needed so that more foreign governments dare to stand up to China like Turkey, the only Muslim-majority country to do so.
China on Monday denied Turkey’s allegations that nearly one million Uyghur Muslims were subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration camps.
“We believe that when more people are willing to talk, more countries will also raise their concern. Ordinary people’s testimonies are strongest evidence about the rampant crackdown targeted on the ethnic groups,” said Poon.