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China's Treatment Of Uighurs


We're learning more about the chilling moves by China against Uighur people. It's been happening in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China. Uighurs are a Muslim minority. China has rounded up a million and imprisoned them in camps. Now the Uighur Human Rights Project reports that the Chinese government has destroyed more than 100 mosques. Bahram Sintash is the author of that report and joins us now from Fairfax, Virginia.

Mr. Sintash, thanks very much for being with us.

BAHRAM SINTASH: Thanks for having me in your interview.

SIMON: I gather your family is from Xinjiang. Have you heard from them? Do you know how they are?

SINTASH: I have no information about them. I lost connection with my family members for more than two years.

SIMON: So you have no idea where they are right now?

SINTASH: I still know my mother and sister are living in their home in Urumqi, but I learned my father taken to one of the concentration camp near (unintelligible) since the beginning of 2018. But I only know his detention. He's not in his home now.

SIMON: So he's been detained and is in jail or a concentration camp?


SIMON: Mr. Sintash, what was it like for you to read those documents in The New York Times, where the Chinese government is quoted as saying they're handling citizens with - the quote is, infected thinking?

SINTASH: Yes. What is China doing is a crime against humanity. They're trying to de-radicalize Uighurs, who are Muslim. But Uighurs are not radical Islamists. We just peaceful and normal minority group. So what is China doing is trying to wipe out Uighur identity. And they'll wipe out their religion in the Uighur region.

SIMON: The Chinese government says these are job-training camps.

SINTASH: It's false because my father is 70-years-old. He's in his retirement. He doesn't need any job training, any kind of education. So China has detained - we reported it - more than 3 million Uighurs. Those are aged between 20 to 45, who are healthy males, who could take street to ask their ultimate rights, which is independence.

SIMON: Mr. Sintash, with the Uighur Human Rights Project, I know you've been trying to follow the destruction of mosques - and it's not just Uighur Muslims, but Kazakhs and other Turkic ethnic groups. What have you been able to find out about the destruction of mosques?

SINTASH: This can expose what is China doing against Islam. They demolished more than 10,000 mosques, according to my research. And I've found 150 demolished mosques and religious sites using that satellite imagery. So this is not only prosecution against Uighurs and other ethnic groups in the region. This is also a threat to the world.

SIMON: The United States has put Chinese tech companies in the Xinjiang region - 28 as I recall - on a list for sanctions. What does that do? Is it enough?

SINTASH: I say this is not enough. There's two ways. Like, one is stop importing goods made in Uighur region of China. Also, stop exporting the high-tech technology and the system to the Uighur region.

SIMON: High-tech surveillance systems.

SINTASH: Yeah, high-tech surveillance system, which is how to detect people's facial recognition and also emotional recognition of people. They're also forced to install spy app - each citizens of Uighur region. So people even cannot use their own smartphones fairly. Uighur region become the testing ground of Chinese to understand how control people was using AI technology.

SIMON: Bahram Sintash of the Uighur Human Rights Project, thank you so much for being with us.

SINTASH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.