NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with Rushan Abbas, director of Campaign for Uyghurs, about campaigning for the rights of Uighur Muslims living in China. Many have been detained by the Chinese government.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
All right. We’re going to stay with that last topic – the mass detainment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities in China. To talk more about it, we turn now to Rushan Abbas. She lives here in the U.S. and has actively campaigned for Uighur human rights in China. Last year, she suspects, her aunt and older sister were sent to internment camps due to her activism.
RUSHAN ABBAS: I spoke about the conditions of the camps on September 5, 2018 at the Hudson Institute. Six days later, my sister and my aunt both disappeared at the same day.
CHANG: Since then, she and her family have heard almost nothing about their whereabouts.
ABBAS: I have no idea where my sister is. I heard my aunt was released from the distant relatives, but I have no information on my sister.
CHANG: So do you have any sense of what their lives have been like in these camps that they were sent to? Do you know for sure that they were sent to camps?
ABBAS: I assume that they are in the camps because I hear many people – such as my sister, they are just disappearing. I don’t know what kind of condition that my sister is being held. But I know the conditions of the camps. We have been talking to former detainees who’s been released from these camps. People there facing forced indoctrinations, mental and physical abuses, forced to take unknown medicines, food and the sleep deprivations. The conditions are extremely bad.
CHANG: I mean, it’s not only the people who are in these camps whose lives have been affected by this crackdown by the Chinese government. It’s also the lives of people who are just living in Xinjiang. Can you describe what daily life is like for them?
ABBAS: The people in the entire region is facing Orwellian-style-like police state. They are being monitored 24 hours a day. There are news reports that 1.1 million Chinese cadres deployed to the Uighur homes to live with.
CHANG: Officials who are just sitting there in the homes…
CHANG: …With the families…
ABBAS: …Living with the families.
CHANG: …To watch them.
ABBAS: Yes, to watch them, to ask children to spy on their parents. They are eating with them, living in their bedrooms with them. This is, like, unprecedented.
CHANG: So the question is, what should the U.S. government do? The U.S. has not used any of the leverage it has in these trade talks with China to address these internment camps. Is there a specific response you would like to see from the U.S. government?
ABBAS: We have been working more than a year now with the U.S. government State Department and the administration about targeted sanction under the provisions of the global Magnitsky Act to people who are responsible for this mass atrocity.
CHANG: This is legislation that targets officials around the world for human rights abuses.
ABBAS: Yes, exactly. We were hoping that will move forward, but…
CHANG: It hasn’t yet.
ABBAS: Currently, the trade negotiation and the Commerce Department is putting a block to that. That’s not happening. That saddens me because every time when we talk about trade or policies or defense or public security, the human rights should be included when it’s dealing with China. The Chinese human rights abuse, this current crime against humanity, should be a subject in every negotiation with the Chinese government.
CHANG: Rushan Abbas, thank you so much for coming into the studio and talking with us today.
ABBAS: Thank you so much.