China’s state media aired a horrifying documentary, “The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang,“ which disclosed that dozens of “separatists,” most of them elites from Uyghur society, have been heavily punished and that two of them have been sentenced to death after being convicted of terrorism.
According to this documentary, Sattar Savut, former deputy director of the XUAR’s education department, and his allies wanted an independent state for their people—the Uyghurs—and wanted to introduce this idea to others through education. No evidence was presented that there was any action that harmed any individuals or property. Under international law, this could never be a crime, but rather part of a struggle for civil rights spurred by a political point of view. For this, Sattar was sentenced to death, as was another “separatist,” Shirzad Bawudun, former secretary of law of the Political Committee for Regional Government, because he contacted foreigners considered “terrorists,” although his actions likewise caused no harm to individuals or property.
In the most egregious part of the documentary, both men, in late middle age, appear on screen, tearfully expressing their repentance for their “separatist” crimes. Regardless of whether they were forced to do this or wanted to, the scene shows the brutality of the threats and torture they have faced. If such cruelty is being made public, what tragedies are happening behind the scenes, in the prisons and camps in East Turkestan?
The documentary makes clear that China not only removed these men from their offices and deprived them of their physical freedom because of their political views, but also attempted to destroy their place in the hearts of their relatives, followers, and friends by broadcasting their repentance, which brutally attacked their human dignity, their last and most precious asset.
The international community is aware that China consistently uses prisoners’ onscreen “confessions,” designed to turn their families against them, to persuade the international community that the prisoners have committed crimes. In this case, the confessions are nothing more than China’s attempt to cover up its own crimes by committing another crime.
The accusations and inhumane punishments described in the documentary are proof that the purpose of punishing prisoners is not to rehabilitate and return them to society, but to destroy them and the nation to which they belong.
I urge the international community to pay close attention to the facts about the Uyghur genocide that China is exposing in this documentary, recognize the situation for the genocide that it is, and take urgent action to stop it before another day goes by.
Rabiye Qadeer, leader of the Uyghur National Movement