China video shows blindfolded and shackled ‘Muslim’ prisoners

UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office calls video ‘deeply concerning’

Zamira Rahim
Monday 23 September 2019 23:26
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Drone footage purports to show prisoners in China shackled and blindfolded

Footage which appears to show blindfolded and shackled Muslim prisoners held in Xinjiang, China, has prompted widespread condemnation after it was posted anonymously online.

International human rights groups are investigating the clip published by a YouTube channel named War on Fear and is titled “Xinjiang: A New Explanation.”

China has detained at least a million Uighur and other Muslim minority people in the western region.

The clip was also published on Twitter by an account with the same name.

Dozens of young men, blindfolded and handcuffed, can be seen waiting at a train station in the footage.

Their heads are shaved and many wear identical purple vests. Guards, dressed in black uniforms, can be seen keeping watch.

“This video is deeply concerning,” a spokesperson from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

“There is a growing body of evidence on the disturbing situation that Uyghurs and other minorities are facing in Xinjiang.

“Ministers and senior officials have raised our concerns directly with the Chinese authorities and the UK has consistently highlighted the issue at the UN Human Rights Council.”

The footage appears to have been filmed from an overhead drone.

“Chilling footage of blindfolded and bound men hardly makes the mass detention of Muslim [mostly Uighur] seem like the benign “vocational training” that China, against all the facts, pretends it is,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, said on Twitter that he believed the video was genuine.

Mr Ruser added that he thought the clip had been filmed in August 2018.

His comments on Twitter spread quickly online, prompting a response from Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister.

“I am aware of the deeply disturbing video that has been published online,” she said, according to news.com.au.

“I have previously raised Australia’s concerns about reports of mass detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim peoples in Xinjiang.”

An unnamed European security source told Sky News that the clip was believed to be genuine and filmed earlier in 2019.

Researchers from Amnesty International’s China team are understood to be examining the video.

Human rights officials have previously claimed the Xinjiang detention centres are being run like “wartime concentration camps” as part of a systematic campaign of social re-engineering and cultural genocide.

The Chinese government however has described them as “boarding schools”, offering vocational training and rejected allegations of torture and other abuses as “fake news”.

Former detainees have alleged that they were beaten and electrocuted as well as being forced to eat pork, attend political re-education lessons and sing political songs.

Research published in July also alleged that thousands of children, whose parents have been detained, were enrolled in “compulsory” re-education facilities.

China has claimed its detention centres are meant to combat extremism. This explanation has been repeatedly dismissed by the UN and human rights experts.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said Beijing’s detention of Muslims had nothing to do with terrorism, but was an attempt “to erase” minority cultures and religions.

“I want to make clear that China’s repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism,” he said after a meeting in New York on Sunday.

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“It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens.”

Beijing has attempted to pressure countries to which Uighur people have fled, to send them back to China, but Mr Pompeo urged such nations to resist.

“We call on all countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate the Uighurs,” he said.

The Independent has contacted the Chinese embassy in London for comment.

Additional reporting by agencies

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