Uyghur Activist Calls for Action to Stop China Spying on Ethnic Minorities

LONDON—World leaders must take a tougher line on Chinas use of high-tech surveillance to monitor and crackdown on its ethnic minorities, a Uyghur activist urged on Nov. 14, after his mother was detained and then imprisoned.

More than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims have been detained in massive complexes built in Chinas northwest Xinjiang region since 2017, according to the United Nations.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, says Uyghurs are being used for forced labor.

Beijing has denied any mistreatment and says the sites are “vocational training centers,” but former detainees have described interrogations, torture and brutal indoctrination.

Ferkat Jawdat, 27, a software engineer who moved to the United States in 2011 with three siblings to join his father, turned to activism last year after his mother Minaiwaier Tuersun was sent to a camp.

Seven other of his relatives have also been detained.

“More and more camps are being built. Im not seeing any end to whats happening to our people,” said Jawdat, who will address the Thomson Reuters Foundations annual event, Trust Conference, in London on Thursday.

“I know its not going to stop with my mum. It will be extended to other regions of China. Thats why I choose to become the voice of the voiceless.”

Jawdat believed many people were targeted for having family outside China. None of his family have committed crimes and no reason has been given for their internment, he said.

After he started speaking out, his mother was sentenced to seven years in prison, and an aunt and uncle to eight years.

But his mother became so ill in jail that she was returned to the camp. She was released in May but remains under watch.

A Uyghur woman (C) going through an entrance to a bazaar in Hotan, in Chinas northwest Xinjiang region on May 31, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Constant Surveillance

“Her cell phone is being monitored all the time. Everything we say is being listened to,” Jawdat said.

The United States said last week it was deeply troubled by reports the Chinese regime had harassed or detained relatives of Uyghur activists who made their stories public.

Jawdat said there was also evidence China was using Uyghurs for forced labor in factories in Xinjiang which produces most of Chinas cotton.

“Theres a huge possibility that things we use in our daily lives come from those camps, especially clothes,” he added. The United States recently blocked imports from one Xinjiang-based clothing company, citing concerns over forced labor.

Jawdat said China wanted to erase the culture of its 10 million Uyghur population as part of a wider effort to assimilate its 55 minorities into its majority Han culture.

China insists Xinjiang is its internal affair, and the issue there is not a religious or ethnic one, but about preventing terror and separatism.

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