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UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps (reuters.com)
188 points by adventured 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments



Also happening right now: "China mosque demolition sparks standoff in Ningxia" https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-45140551

Although this isn't the Uighur population, the Han Muslim population also faces some level of discrimination.


A Christian church in China was demolished by government not long ago for similar bureaucratic reasons as this mosque. This may not be a case of anti-Muslim discrimination as more general anti-religious discrimination. (Or anti-religious group not blessed by the party).

Which is not to say there isn't lots of anti-Muslim/anti-Uighur repression in China.


Parable of the Leopard:

Once upon a time there was a leopard who returned from hunting to find that his cub had been killed.

He went and asked the baboon “Tell me who killed my cub for I must visit terrible vengeance upon them.“

The baboon replied, “It was the elephants”, whereupon the leopard exclaimed “Surely, you lie, it was the goats.”

Immediately afterward, the leopard went out and slaughtered a great many goats to avenge the death of his cub.

———

The tech companies will eloquently criticize the governments of the West concerning human rights secure in the knowledge that no real consequences will come of their criticism. However, the Chinese government is too powerful and the Chinese market too lucrative for tech companies to seriously criticize the Chinese government and risk getting banned in China.


I think a fair amount of that action is PR for internal consumption in order to attract and retain people who are attracted by idealism. The real world is a bit dirtier.

In addition, a company will find it difficult to unilaterally hold a moral position because competition, foreign or domestic may not entertain the same ideals and this advantage can result in long term financial and competitive advantage.


It seems that by using this analogy that you're making a fairness argument that China should be criticized more, because they're worse, and Western governments shouldn't be criticized, because they're innocent.

But that doesn't make sense. In the US, for example, when injustice happens, it's possible to fight it in court. No guarantees, but it can be quite effective. Getting attention in the press is sometimes useful too.

Taking advantage of available opportunities to make things better is not "unfair". It's just smart.


That's not how I read that comment at all. RcouF1uZ4gsC is saying that companies are cowards. Speaking out only when it's safe or beneficial for them to do so. "Heartfelt beliefs" as marketing tools.


"Speaking out only when it's safe or beneficial for them to do so."

You say that like it was a bad thing.

I'm not sure what "coward" even means when applied to a large organization that has a duty to keep its employees safe. Is hiring someone else to take the risk brave?


Or, say, Saudi Arabia. See Canada.


As someone libertarian-leaning, what I find disturbing about all this - we all told ourselves that companies in various totalitarian regimes went along with the regime's line because they'd be "disappeared" if they didn't. Here in our country, it seems that murder, jail time, and mysterious "disappearances" are not required. Most companies will happily go along with any regime's censorship plans just to make a few more bucks, not risk losing their market position, or not be a target of a twitter outrage mob.

How are we going to maintain a free society if nobody is willing to make any effort at it?


I really do think in a few years this will be in the history books as the next chapter of the history of internment camps established by despots throughout the years, next to south America and eastern Europe.

I really fear for what we may find out about 10 years after it's said and done and we'll all reflect on how surely this wasn't so crazy when we heard about it in the press.


Also North Korea


I met someone who was from China say that these people in these camps are being “harmonized”.

It’s interesting how things can be perceived when the government controls the media.


From a purely Orwellian standpoint, I think the Russian model of government/media interaction is more effective.

There is "freedom of press" in Russia, and there are opposition media groups, but they are toothless. Journalists that publish scoops on high-level Russian government figure are in serious danger. Therefore, the opposition media produces watered down, safer takes. This allows state media to refute the opposition points step by step, so that the next time the argument is made, the viewer feels that it has already been addressed.

Contrast this with media blackouts like in North Korea. While NK's propaganda is extremely effective at training their population not to believe foreign accounts, they have a serious problem when it comes to South Korean movies/TV/music. NK citizens are fed the narrative about dire conditions in SK their entire lives. When they begin watching smuggled SK media, they realize that SK is in a much better economic place than them. This results in a serious erosion of trust towards the NK government, which is evident in the number of NK refugees who point at SK entertainment as being the impetus for their escape. This seems ridiculous on the face of it, but makes sense in light of how it results in a breakdown of belief towards the NK government.

If, instead, the NK government accurately portrayed what life looks like in SK, but provided reasons and justifications for the difference, they would not have this problem. There would not be the cold water shock when citizens saw a SK movie for the first time and realized that their world was a lie.

You also see this type of thing with $POLITICAL_PARTY's big social media personalities. They take a watered-down, strawman version of the other side's argument and refute it. When their followers see the real version of the argument elsewhere, they are primed to disregard it, and they roll their eyes and laugh and move on. Whereas, if they saw the argument and it was novel to them, they would be much more inclined to read and consider it on merit.

I've worked with Chinese students who are studying abroad who slowly begin to lose belief in their government when living outside of China. It is not the hardcore, biting Western anti-Chinese propaganda that makes them lose their trust, but the day-to-day life of living in a place where there is substantially less corruption, genuine freedom of the press, and information is much more open.


> If, instead, the NK government accurately portrayed what life looks like in SK, but provided reasons and justifications for the difference, they would not have this problem.

I think they still would. People (at least some) would look at the difference, look at the alleged justification for the difference, and think that the justification was bunk.


Russia has had much more time to hone their information warfare and propaganda abilities. And now that they're led by a KGB officer with extensive experience in political manipulation, they're effectively a Chekist state and can synchronize narratives in very politically savvy ways, like you stated.


It's not so different when private entities control both the government and the media - in the case of conservative money controlling conservative propaganda arms such as Fox News and in turn conservative money also controlling congresspeople via PACs and campaign funding. Sometimes the things my Fox News Junkie Parents In Law say makes me very worried for their mental well being and the well being of our voting public..


There are many similarities between oppressive states and large corporations, but they are not the same. If there is a market for a spectrum of biases in the media, which there clearly is, the spectrum of those biases will manifest in available media, which it has.

Your parents have chosen the lense through which to consume information, so have you. This is not a luxury afforded by an oppressive state.


I heard the expression "qu xuexi": The went “studying”.


> A U.N. human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

> Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that another 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities are forced into so-called “political camps for indoctrination”.

One million in a single camp? Is that right? I always got the impression that the camps were smaller and more distributed.

If true, someone needs to publish the coordinates of the camp, there's no way such a thing could be hidden from satellites.


It's not a single camp.. because a few months ago, there was a story about contracts for running these camps across the country: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/15/opinion/china-re-educatio...


Also follow this feed from Shawn Zheng from UBC, incredible research done by him at a personal peril. Scale of these camp is an atrocity in itself.

https://medium.com/@shawnwzhang/list-of-re-education-camps-i...


It’s hard to have a sense of scale at these numbers.

This camp would be the size of a pretty big town. Bigger than Boston or Antwerp for instance.


no, not bigger than boston or antwerp. The rohinga camp has 1m people:

https://amp.businessinsider.com/images/5a259aa13dbef48d0e8b9...

Edit: I've updated the image to a more recent one.


1M is bigger than Boston proper, but not the metro area (looks like close to 5M).


I interpreted as land area.. since the thread is about "hiding it from satellites". The rohinga camp in the picture is only about 3 miles x 2 miles.


A million people probably have at least 10x more relatives and friends on the outside. Ways of breaching the great firewall are well known even within China. Shouldn't there be...numerous reports of missing persons if this is the case?


Reports, such as the ones gathered in the posted link?

There have been many other articles about Uighurs in Xianxing, too. The Economist covered the latest reports a few months ago, which was discussed on HN:

* https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/05/31/china-has-turn...

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17215966

This is not a surprise, if you've been paying attention to the CCP's ham-handed attempts to handle Uighurs and to a lesser degree Muslims in general, but rather something that has been building up for years.


No, because the posted link doesn't provide any numbers of reports. What does it say?

> The allegations came from multiple sources, including activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which said in a report last month that 21 percent of all arrests recorded in China in 2017 were in Xinjiang.

I was thinking multiple orders of magnitude more reports if there really were 2 million missing people. Like, thousands of reports from disparate people. I'm not saying this didn't happen, because I have no special knowledge - all I'm saying is that if 2 million people disappeared from somewhere, I would imagine there would be no shortage of reports on it happening all over the place, and not that the reports would be routed through a few human rights groups.


Would it be better if there were only 500k Uighurs interned for political reasons, one of the more moderate estimates cited? I ask because I notice you went from 1 million in your original comment to 2 million in your reply.

Where do you expect to hear these reports, if not from human rights organizations? On Chinese censored social media or state news? It's not like the prisoners are on Twitter and Facebook.

Reading the reports, it's hard even for dedicated journalists and investigators to convince people to open up. Do you expect families of the victims to be less afraid to speak to tourists?

The articles linked in the comments in this thread provide numerous personal reports, if the statistics used to arrive at the estimates of people detained are too impersonal for your liking.

EDIT: Another report: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/new-eviden...


> A million people probably have at least 10x more relatives and friends on the outside. Ways of breaching the great firewall are well known even within China. Shouldn't there be...numerous reports of missing persons if this is the case?

There are numerous reports of missing persons:

Former inmates of China’s Muslim ‘reeducation’ camps tell of brainwashing, torture (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/former-inm...)

‘We’re a people destroyed’: why Uighur Muslims across China are living in fear (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/07/why-uighur-musl...)

After U.S.-Based Reporters Exposed Abuses, China Seized Their Relatives (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/world/asia/china-xinjiang...)

Especially consider this account:

China’s mass indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution (https://apnews.com/6e151296fb194f85ba69a8babd972e4b):

> At first, Bekali did not want the AP to publish his account for fear that his sister and mother in China would be detained and sent to re-education.

> But on March 10, back in China, the police took his sister, Adila Bekali. A week later, on March 19, they took his mother, Amina Sadik. And on April 24, his father, Ebrayem.

> Bekali changed his mind and said he wanted to tell his story, no matter the consequences.

> “Things have already come this far,” he said. “I have nothing left to lose.”


> A million people probably have at least 10x more relatives and friends on the outside.

An ethnically targeted detention would very likely involve entire family and social circles.

> Ways of breaching the great firewall are well known even within China. Shouldn't there be...numerous reports of missing persons if this is the case?

Retribution against those piercing the firewall with politically inconvenient information to the regime are also known, even inside of China; oppressive control of information is not just a technical issue.

Plus, there are reports. That's the whole issue.


The situation in Xinjiang is different than in China proper: it's so poor and remote that there isn't a lot of internet access to begin with, and the state security apparatus is much more intense. Foreign journalists aren't even allowed in Xinjiang at all. Repressing news like this is probably well within the abilities of the government there.


That's what I was thinking too. Westerners visit Xinjiang province with cameras. If 1m people disappeared, I'm sure someone would come up to a Westerner to tell their story.

40,000 people were disappeared en masse in Chile by Pinochet. That story made it out very quickly, and only a few photographs exist of it


https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/meghara/the-police-stat...

KASHGAR, China — This is a city where growing a beard can get you reported to the police. So can inviting too many people to your wedding, or naming your child Muhammad or Medina.

Driving or taking a bus to a neighboring town, you’d hit checkpoints where armed police officers might search your phone for banned apps like Facebook or Twitter, and scroll through your text messages to see if you had used any religious language.

You would be particularly worried about making phone calls to friends and family abroad. Hours later, you might find police officers knocking at your door and asking questions that make you suspect they were listening in the whole time.


The human rights situation is appalling in Xinjiang, dont get me wrong. Chinese goverment doing this are near genocidal.

However it is another thing to claim 1m Uighurs are being forcibly detained somewhere. That is a lot of people. The Uighurs are not a large population. Everyone would know someone politically detained. We would have thousands of videos of people begging for information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.


> However it is another thing to claim 1m Uighurs are being forcibly detained somewhere. That is a lot of people.

There were a lot of Jews in Europe, once upon a time. Vast numbers of them were detained. What's so unbelievable about a massive country with a well-developed construction industry building such camps?

> The Uighurs are not a large population. Everyone would know someone politically detained.

They do, and you've given able evidence of that.

> We would have thousands of videos of people begging for information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Why would they do that? I might get more of their family detained. Also, it's not like these people have access to Youtube, and I have no doubt a video like you desire would be immediately censored if posted to any Chinese site.

You've been given ample evidence from dozens reputable sources about these existence of these camps and their scale. If you cared to read them, they would have answered many of your objections. Doubt at this point is irrational denialism, akin to holocaust denialism.


> That's what I was thinking too. Westerners visit Xinjiang province with cameras. If 1m people disappeared, I'm sure someone would come up to a Westerner to tell their story.

China isn't a western country, and I don't think you can count on being granted western-levels of freedom of movement there, especially in "sensitive" areas. For instance, I understand you need a special permit to visit Tibet, which is another province with similar ethnic tensions.

The level of surveillance in Xinjiang is so intense that the locals will often get questioned by the police about contacts with foreigners (e.g. getting a phone or skype call from abroad). The locals probably aren't eager to talk to foreigners about sensitive topics because they fear reprisal.

China also has special visas for journalists, and something tells me that that they'll deny the application if your itinerary includes areas where they don't want people poking around. If you're applying for a tourist visa, in some cases (like if you work for a newspaper) it's advised that you promise that you'll not engage in journalism during your trip. I'm guessing the Chinese will interpret a bunch of foreigners poking around sensitive areas with cameras as people practicing unauthorized journalism, put a stop to it, and maybe even deport those people for visa violations.


Go on youtube and instagram and check out all of the normal white dudes posting content from Xinjiang.


> Go on youtube and instagram and check out all of the normal white dudes posting content from Xinjiang.

Are they poking around, looking for evidence of mass detentions? Or are they complaining about how they "spent more time being frustrated, bored, and whinging about lost funds than actually enjoying ourselves" (https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/why-we-didnt-like-traveling-...)?


For all of his dismay at the population for being distrustful towards foreigners, it's probably for a good reason.

People disappear if they talk to foreign journalists and nosy travellers with cameras and western ideals.


I was in Tibet in 2007 and a lot of locals came up and talked to me, asking America to do something about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Our hired driver had no problem showing us his picture of the Dalai Lama(which was(still is?) illegal to possess).


> I was in Tibet in 2007 and a lot of locals came up and talked to me, asking America to do something about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Our hired driver had no problem showing us his picture of the Dalai Lama(which was(still is?) illegal to possess).

2007 was a different era, a lot has changed politically in the meantime.

I posted this elsewhere in the thread, but maybe you didn't see it:

China’s mass indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution (https://apnews.com/6e151296fb194f85ba69a8babd972e4b):

> At first, Bekali did not want the AP to publish his account for fear that his sister and mother in China would be detained and sent to re-education.

> But on March 10, back in China, the police took his sister, Adila Bekali. A week later, on March 19, they took his mother, Amina Sadik. And on April 24, his father, Ebrayem.

> Bekali changed his mind and said he wanted to tell his story, no matter the consequences.

> “Things have already come this far,” he said. “I have nothing left to lose.”


http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/china-s-xinjiang-p...

> When DER SPIEGEL visited Hotan in 2014, it was still possible to meet with a man who told us about the Chinese government's harsh measures in the surrounding towns. Such a meeting would be out of the question today, the man now informs us through a messaging app. It's not even possible to drive from one town to another without written permission, much less meet with a foreigner. "Maybe in a few years," he writes, adding: "Delete this conversation from your phone immediately. Delete everything that could be suspicious."

> There is a modern shopping center at the edge of the city, though barely one in five stores is still open. Most of the others were closed recently due to "security and stability measures," according to the official seals adhered to the doors. "Everyone was sent to school," one passerby says quietly while looking around.

> "Qu xuexi," meaning to go or be sent to study, is one of the most common expressions in Xinjiang these days. It is a euphemism for having been taken away and not having been seen or heard from since. The "schools" are re-education centers in which the detainees are being forced to take courses in Chinese and patriotism, without any indictment, due process or a fair hearing.

> More than half the people we met along the way during our journey spoke of family members or acquaintances who were "sent to school." One driver in Hotan talked about his 72-year-old grandfather. A person in Urumqi told the story of his daughter's professor. An airplane passenger spoke of his best friend.

> The stories differ, yet they all contain important parallels. Most of the people affected are men. The arrests usually occur at night or in the early morning. The reasons cited include contacts abroad, too many visits to a mosque or possessing forbidden content on a mobile phone or computer. Relatives of those who are apprehended often don't hear from them for months. And when they do manage to see them again, it's never in person but rather via video stream from the prison visitor area.

> During a conversation with a rug salesman at the market in Hotan, a woman in a short dress shows up and joins the chat. She says she works for an office nearby, and that she has taken the day off. She offers to translate the conversation with the salesman from Uighur into Chinese. No, she will later say as she walks across the nearly empty market, the store closures have nothing to do with re-education camps. "The employees were sent away for technical training," she says. Then she politely says goodbye.


Wonder which camp Rose Pak's kidney came from.


As of 2016, there were 4,080 registered organ donors in China, that number was less than 100 ten years prior. Yet, for going on two decades, tens of thousands of organ transplant operations are performed in China each year. Many of the operations were performed on foreigners, as China could come up with cheap organs at a faster pace than waiting for a compatible match with someone on a list.

China has a history of harvesting organs from religious and political prisoners[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_transplantation_in_China


That's not what the report says, at least in the parts quoted in the article: "(China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy".

There is a difference between "secret camps" and an autonomous region that "resembles an [...] internship camp"


What good is this higher than the Himalayas friendship if the Pakistan Foreign Office can’t see over them?


Decentral.ized block chain for information can't come fast enough


what?


This crime against humanity deserves all the attention it can get. State-sponsored oppression like this is only a stone's throw away from genocide.


According to Google.cn, this is a debunked conspiracy theory /s


Google is still forbidden in China. So where does the news come from?


Woooosh


Please don't do this here.


If so, why not invite foreign journalists and United Nations official to investigate it?




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