China detains Uyghurs again, as authorities try to ‘silence relatives abroad’

The Xinjiang government has “combatted violent terrorist crimes in accordance with law” and carried out “deradicalization work…through education,” the statement said, adding, “During the past five years, Xinjiang has been free of violent terrorist incidents. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have been able to lead a happy and peaceful life.

The embassy did not comment on Mr. Bahti’s specific case or other alleged recent detentions. The Urumqi Public Security Bureau did not respond to email inquiries about people who have been returned to custody in the past two years.

Xinjiang has undergone something of an overhaul since Mr Zakir announced in December 2019 that all “interns” in the camps had “graduated”. The government has endeavored to paint a picture of a safe region ripe for tourism. Traditional Uyghur neighborhoods in cities like Urumqi and the ancient city of Kashgar have been Disneyified, with Uyghurs enlisting to dance and sing while wearing costumes in front of tourist attractions.

Security checkpoints and surveillance cameras, which were ubiquitous in Xinjiang until 2020, have been scaled back somewhat.

Minorities detained “indefinitely on the blacklist”

Rian Thum, a lecturer in East Asian history at the University of Manchester whose research focuses on Uyghurs and other marginalized ethnic groups in China, said internment has never ended in China.

“The internment phase is not really over as claimed by the Chinese state, although many people have been released from the internment camps,” Thum said. “But for the lucky ones who got out of the internment camps, they now live in an open-air prison… Unfortunately, they risk being targeted by the state again.”

For ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, having been punished by the state becomes a crime in itself, with people being blacklisted indefinitely, Thum said. Such marks can play out in more minor ways, like being ignored for jobs or movement restrictions.

“At the most extreme end of things, people are being arrested again based on apparently mostly this,” he said.

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