China: Uyghur student detained and at risk of torture

Under the leadership of the Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, numerous detention facilities have been set up within the region. Referred to as “counter extremism centres”, “political study centres” or “education and transformation centres”, these are facilities in which people are arbitrarily detained for unspecified periods and forced to study Chinese laws and policies. People are often sent to these detention facilities if they are known religious practitioners, have relations with “foreign contacts” or have themselves been caught up in social stability campaigns or have relatives who were involved in the same.

Media reports and information obtained by Amnesty International indicate that people in the Xinjiang are at great risk of arbitrary detention if they communicate with their relatives who live overseas. Authorities have detained people who receive phone calls from outside of China. Authorities have also tried to ensure that nobody uses encrypted messaging apps, forcing people to rely instead on domestic apps that have no encryption or other privacy safeguards.

While Uyghurs and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang have long suffered violations of their rights to freedom of religion and association and other human rights, over the past year or more authorities there have begun targeting them more comprehensively in an unprecedented crackdown. Techniques of repression include the widespread use of arbitrary detention, technological surveillance, heavily armed street patrols, security checkpoints and an array of intrusive policies violating human rights. There have been numerous reports that Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang have effectively sidestepped the procedural protections afforded to criminal defendants under Chinese law, many Uyghur detainees have been denied legal counsel.

In addition to information gathered by Amnesty International, media reports from Radio Free Asia, Buzzfeed, the Globe and Mail, the Associated Press and others indicate that authorities throughout the region began detaining Uyghurs en masse in the spring of 2017, either sending them to administrative detention facilities or sentencing them to long prison terms. This crackdown has been applied not only to Uyghurs, but also to other predominantly Muslim ethnicities, such as Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz.