“Over 30,000 people have asked for our help. But a lot of them are not willing to show their faces because even though they are living in Kazakhstan, deep down they are in fear of the Chinese Communist Party.” – Serikzhan Bilash, Leader of Atajurt
“We were informed of the plot: someone you know had actually betrayed you for an amount of money and they had signed a contract on your behalf so you are going to be educated for a year or so.” – Roma, mother and former detainee in a re-education camp in Xinjiang
“I have one regret: I lost two years in my life. Why they injected me remains a mystery to me. I have immense hatred towards them. But I have to tell the truth. Ethnic minorities are suffering there.” – Gula, mother and former detainee in a re-education camp in Xinjiang
As we reported last week, detainees in China’s re-education camps are not only Uyghurs but also ethnic Kazakhs. Kazakhstan shares a 660-mile border with China. Many of those lucky enough to be released from the re-education camps say they were physically and emotionally traumatised by the experiences.
We travelled to Almaty, Kazakhstan to meet the human rights group Atajurt. Their leader Serikzhan Bilash is currently under house arrest. We talked to over a hundred people who came to tell us about the pleas they’d made to authorities in Kazakhstan and China. Among those who Atajurt had helped was Roma, a former detainee in the re-education camp in Xinjiang and a single mother of two young girls. She told us what was it like to be living without freedom.
We then drove three hours from Almaty to a rural village to meet an ethnic Kazakh mother born in China who had been detained in four different camps and then made to work in a “black factory”. Her name is Gula. She shared with us her deepest secrets and thoughts.
Archive link at RTHK (2019-3-23):