Special to WorldTribune.com
ALMATY — An ethnic Kazakh man from China, Omirbek Bekaly, says his 80-year-old father died in a so-called “reeducation camp” in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Bekaly told RFE/RL on October 22 that his father, Ibrahim, died a month ago but that he had only learned about it this weekend.
UN human rights officials said in August that an estimated 1 million Muslims were being held at “counterextremism centers” in China and that millions more have been forced into reeducation camps.
The UN agency said the northwestern Xinjiang Province had been turned into “something that resembles a massive internment camp.”
Bekaly is one of several whistle-blowers in Kazakhstan who have raised the issue of the camps in Xinjiang.
He says he spent more than seven months in such a camp himself in 2017 after Chinese authorities arrested him when he visited relatives in Xinjiang.
In August, a court in Almaty refused to extradite Sairagul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese citizen who was wanted in China for illegal border crossing.
Sauytbay fled China in April and testified at her trial in Almaty that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang are undergoing “political indoctrination” at a network of “reeducation camps.”
She testified that Chinese authorities had forced her to train “political ideology” instructors for reeducation camps, giving her access to secret documents about what she called a state program to “reeducate” Muslims from indigenous ethnic communities.
Uyghurs are the largest indigenous community in Xinjiang, followed by Kazakhs, and the region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz and Hui, also known as Dungans. Han, China’s largest ethnicity, are the second largest community in Xinjiang.
On October 19, the state-run China Daily newspaper said in an editorial that Muslims in Xinjiang were vulnerable to foreign extremist propaganda and needed education and vocational skills.
The editorial accused the Western media of “double standards” when it comes to reporting on Xinjiang, adding that the “false picture” of the province in the foreign media was “aimed at smearing the Chinese government”.