Shocking accounts detail 'horrific' rape culture inside Chinese camps

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

WARNING- DISTRESSING CONTENT: Shocking accounts of sexual violence and rape have emerged from the controversial labour camps in China’s Xinjiang province that are widely condemned by Western nations including Australia.

Several women involved in the camps have spoken out about “a culture” of abuse inside the camps which the UN estimates have housed more than one million detainees made up of the country’s muslim minority communities.

China has repeatedly refuted allegations of human rights abuses inside the network of camps, which Beijing insists are for “re-education” purposes to nullify religious extremism in the Muslim diaspora that makes up close to half of the western province’s population.

Tursunay Ziawudun, who spent nine months inside one of the internment camps, told the BBC she was raped and abused multiple times, while claiming there was sexual abuse and torture on a mass scale.

FILE - In this file image from undated video footage run by China's CCTV via AP Video, Muslim trainees work in a garment factory at the Hotan Vocational Education and Training Center in Hotan, Xinjiang, northwest China. China's state broadcaster CCTV aired the report Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, on the so-called vocational education and training center, with Muslim trainees telling the camera how they have been saved from dangerous and poor lives and how grateful they are to the authorities. (CCTV via AP Video, File)
A still image from China's CCTV showing Muslim trainees working in a garment factory at the Hotan Vocational Education and Training Center in Xinjiang. Source: CCTV via AP

“They don't only rape but also bite all over your body, you don't know if they are human or animal... they didn’t spare any part of my body,” she said.

“It is not just one person who torments you, not just one predator. Each time they were two or three men."

Ziawudun said detainees received internal electric shocks, were injected with an unknown jab twice a month and women were sterilised.

Guards ‘would pay for prettiest young inmates’

Another woman inside the camp, who was employed as a teacher, said rape inside the camps has become “a culture” and women were subject to “horrific torture”.

One female detainee who spent 18 months inside a camp told the BBC she was tasked with undressing women and placing them in handcuffs before men entered the room and she was forced to leave.

This photo taken on June 2, 2019 shows buildings at the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center, believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Kashgar in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. - As many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in a network of internment camps in Xinjiang, but China has not given any figures and describes the facilities as Òvocational education centresÓ aimed at steering people away from extremism. (Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP) / TO GO WITH China-Xinjiang-media-rights-press,FOCUS by Eva XIAO        (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)
An internment camp pictued in Artux in 2019. Source: Getty

She claims Chinese men would pay for the “prettiest young inmates”.

The accounts echo previous evidence to emerge on the camps, where detainees are kept behind bars and forced to spend large parts of the day consuming Communist Party propaganda.

The women claim many inhabitants are left mentally broken after months of “re-education” which entails memorising endless books on China and leader Xi Jinping.

There is also strong evidence obtained by multiple media organisations to indicate there is widespread forced labour in the camps, which have rapidly grown in the region as revealed in satellite imagery.

One of the newly built detention camps, according to the ASPI. Source: ASPI
A newly built detention camp, according to the ASPI. Source: ASPI

Western nations including the UK, the US and Australia have repeatedly condemned the camps, calling for them to be shut down. However the vocal stances taken have angered Beijing, with Canberra’s position on Xinjiang contributing to the rapid deterioration of Sino-Australian relations during 2020.

Dr Michael Clarke from the Australian National University, a leading expert on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, told Yahoo News Australia in December that China’s actions amount to genocide.

“China's goal – in my view – is that of cultural genocide,” he said.

“These individuals are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices,” he argued.

China rejects accounts as fake

On Wednesday evening, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed the BBC’s report as “false”.

“The report on alleged abuses of women's rights in Xinjiang you mentioned has no factual basis at all,” he said.

“Some of the interviewees turned out to be actors spreading false information.”

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