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Entry of 6598
Testifying party (submitted by third party)
Testimony 1-5: Tursynzhan Isanali, Kazakhstan citizen. Kazakhstan ID: 740210000472. DOB: February 2, 1974.
Testimony 6-7: Gulzira Auelkhan.
Victim's relation to testifier
Testimony 1-5: The victim is the testifier's wife.
Testimony 6-7: Herself.
About the victim
Gulzira Auelkhan (古孜拉·阿瓦尔汗), ethnic Kazakh from Xinjiang's Yining County. She came to Kazakhstan with her family in 2014, and now has a residence permit in Kazakhstan.
Home address: 4-169, Fourth Unit, Duolang Farm, Yining County, Xinjiang.
DOB: June 20, 1979. Kazakhstan ID: 790620000450.
When victim was detained
Testimony 1: On July 15, 2017, she went back to China in the hopes of taking her two daughters there back to Kazakhstan with her, but was taken to political re-education three days later. Fifteen months later, on October 7, 2018, she was released, but ten days later was taken to a factory.
Testimony 5: the transfer to the factory took place on November 15.
Globe and Mail article: Gulzira returned to China on Oct. 16, 2017 and would be kept in various camps - including a week of vocational training - for almost year, until her release on Oct. 7, 2018. She then spent a week with her family prior to being taken to a factory in late November. On Dec. 29, 2018, she was taken by police for an interrogation in a dark room, where she'd stay overnight, before being released to her father's house the next day (and being allowed to return to Kazakhstan on Jan. 5).
Probable (or official) reason for detention
For staying too long in Kazakhstan and not returning to China for three years.
Currently in forced labor at a factory, where she works for 600RMB/month at a Jiafang (家纺) textile factory (though they've allegedly only given her 300). At the end of December 2018, nine women - including the victim - "employed" at this factory were told to sign a one-year work contract with the factory, and threatened to be sent back to re-education if they did not. It's not clear if she's ended up signing or not.
Update (December 30, 2018): According to her husband, Gulzira has been released from the factory, with the XJ authorities saying that they will let her return to Kazakhstan after the New Year.
Update (January 2019): In a private communication, Serikzhan Bilash confirmed to G. A. Bunin that Gulzira has returned to Kazakhstan.
How did the testifier learn about the victim's status?
His wife told him directly over WeChat. She told him about them being threatened to sign the contract on the evening of December 28, 2018, and told her husband to give her number to international reporters ASAP. He had tried to learn the names of the all the women who were threatened with this offer, but has been unable to reach her since.
One of her daughters, Qundyz Tursynzhan (21 years old), was also previously in a camp. The other, 15 years old, is in the care of the testifier's younger brother. The testifier cannot contact her as she's deleted his WeChat.
The testifier's brother had previously done 3 months of camp in 2018 and was released to go work as a bao'an (保安), or security officer for 1600RMB/month (though they haven't paid him yet).
Testimony 6 (Gulzira's description of her experiences):
She spent a year and 7 months in the camp and a factory. She started having medical check-up two days ago (as of January 30, 2019), because she's been having headaches and nausea. The result showed that she has pancreatitis and kidney problems. According to her, the inmates in the camp were given only two minutes for going to the toilet. If you spent more than that, they hit you on the head with an electric baton. They had to study Chinese the whole day, and the inmates were handcuffed when they did something wrong and when they were transferred from one building to the other. They originally stayed in the No. 4 High School in Yining County, then were transferred to another building close to the Yining county's Zhongyi Hospital. In the beginning, the inmates were given books in their languages, but later all these were taken away, leaving only the Chinese-language books. They were required to speak Chinese with each other and to read only in Chinese. There was a "strange" policy allowing married inmates to meet their spouses for two hours in a separate room, without interruption. However, the husband had to pay 20 RMB and needed to bring a clean bedsheet with him. The woman had to take a pill before entering the room. When Gulzira was in a factory, they were told that they would be paid according to their efficiency, or ten Chinese cents (角) per pair of gloves produced. The most skilled worker could sew 60 pairs a day, which would total to 6RMB/day. Gulzira tried her best but could only sew 13 pairs. She also mentioned the camps as being split into 4 levels - she was in the lightest.
Testimony 7 (Gulzira's description of her experiences):
They wore uniforms in camp. When she said she was living in Kazakhstan and her husband and children are in Kazakhstan, the head of the camp told her off, saying they hadn't told her to go there, that she had gone herself and was a Chinese citizen, and should never say "Kazakhstan" again. There was a military discipline in the camp. Inmates couldn't cry. If you did you'd be considered to be infected with wrong thoughts and have to sit on a hard chair for 14 hours (7:00-21:00), or you could be transfered to another camp where the rules were even stricter.
There was no freedom at all in the camp. They put you in different cells, where the number of inmates varied from 18 to 60. They tried to not let two Kazakhs be in the same cell. So, she usually stayed with Uyghurs and also had to stay with 17 Han, who were detained for their beliefs (possibly, they were Christians or Falungong). When entering the camp, they had to have their hair cut short, in addition to having an anti-flu injection that cost 250RMB. After two months, they also had a blood test, for reasons unknown.
Gulzira was supposedly detained because she had visited one of the 26 dangerous countries and had watched foreign movies where people wore hijabs, especially in Turkish TV series. She later found out that she ended up there because the head of the Dadui in her village, Hamit, had signed a contract with the re-education camp that she would be educated from July 18, 2017 to July 18, 2018 and was awarded 5000RMB for his "contribution".
After being released from the camp she was forcefully sent to a factory. Although they promised to pay 600RMB per month, she only got paid 300RMB upon her release after a month and half. There was Chinese study in both the camp and the factory. "Workers" who spoke fluent Chinese were encouraged to go to the factories in inner China, which is where one of her relatives ended up going. The ages of inmates in the camps ranged from 17 to 72. After being in a camp, your ID card would ring whenever you went through metal detectors and they'd take you to the police station to be interrogated, making it impossible to be free after being released from camp because of the omnipresent surveillance.
All Kazakhs' passports were taken by the local authorities, and in some villages even the bank cards of retirees have now been confiscated by the local government bodies. You need to go to their office to get your pension, where you tell them your password and they withdraw the money for you without giving you your card. Upon her release from the factory, Gulzira asked the head of the village why they did this. They weren't paid, though they were promised at least 600 RMB or 10 Chinese cents per each pay of gloves they could sew.
Gulzira arrived in Kazakhstan on January 5, 2019.
Mention in AFP (https://sg.news.yahoo.com/camps-factories-muslim-detainees-china-using-forced-labour-041047367.html):
As Gulzira Auelkhan toiled stitching gloves in a factory in China's troubled Xinjiang region, her managers made no secret of where her production would be sold.
"They told us openly that the gloves will be sold abroad, so we should do a good job," Auelkhan recalled of a labour stint she says was enforced by Chinese "re-education" officials.
Auelkhan, a 39-year-old Chinese citizen of Kazakh descent, says she was part of a network of mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang who pass from what China calls "vocational training centres" to factories where they are forced to work for far less than the local minimum wage.
Auelkhan says she was transferred to the glove factory at the Jiafang industrial estate in Xinjiang's Yining county after spending 15 months in two different "re-education" facilities.
Auelkhan has residency rights in Kazakhstan but had travelled to China to see family when she was detained and put into a re-education centre.
She said life in the camps was brutal, with residents struck over the head with electrified batons for spending more than two minutes in the bathroom.
So even though they were not free to leave, it was an improvement when she and hundreds of other camp inmates were transferred to work at the factory, Auelkhan told AFP in Kazakhstan's biggest city Almaty.
"Every day we were taken to and from a dormitory three kilometres from the factory," she said, hugging the five-year-old daughter she didn't see for nearly two years.
"When we were studying at the camp they told us we would be taught a trade and work for three months," Auelkhan said.
Auelkhan said she was paid only 320 yuan ($48/42 euros) for close to two months' work before her time at the factory was curtailed in December and she was allowed to return to her family in Kazakhstan.
Auelkhan believes she was only released from forced labour because of a public campaign launched by her husband and supported by a Xinjiang-focused rights group in Almaty.
Detailed mention in the Globe and Mail (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-i-felt-like-a-slave-inside-chinas-complex-system-of-incarceration/):
Before she was shocked with a stun gun to the head for spending more than the allotted two minutes in the toilet, and before she was handcuffed for 24 hours because guards accused her of letting another woman participate in religious washing, and before she was forced to make winter gloves for two pennies a piece − before all of that, Gulzira Auelhan remembers a Chinese police officer telling her she needed to be educated.
The classes would only last 15 days, the officer told her in mid-October, 2017. “You will be released very soon,” Ms. Auelhan, 38, remembers hearing. An ethnic Kazakh who was born in China but had been living in Kazakhstan, she had returned to China’s far western Xinjiang region to visit her father, who was ill.
Instead, over the course of 437 days, she was detained in five different facilities, including a factory and a middle school converted into a centre for political indoctrination and technical instruction, with several interludes of a form of house arrest with relatives. The Chinese government has said it offers free vocational education and skills training to people such as Ms. Auelhan. But over more than 14 months, “that training lasted one week,” she said, not including the time she spent forced to work in a factory.
The remainder of the time, she spent inside a complex system of incarceration and control that has been built in a region where Chinese authorities say they are combatting extremism through education. Early this year, she was released back to Kazakhstan, where she recounted her experience in a lengthy interview with The Globe and Mail. What she experienced, she said, “is really cruel.”
Ms. Auelhan, like most of the people interviewed for this article, is a Chinese-born ethnic Kazakh, a mother of three who says her main ambition in life has been to raise her children well.
She moved to Kazakhstan in 2014, but returned to China for a visit on Oct. 16, 2017. Chinese border officials seized her passport and ordered her to wait until the arrival of police, who escorted her to her hometown in Duolang Village.
They told Ms. Auelhan she could not go to see her father.
Instead, they told her she needed to get some schooling. She offered to pack her clothes and collect some money for expenses. No need, they replied. Everything would be free of charge. She was confused. “I said, ‘Okay, what kind of place is it, if you don’t even need to spend money or wear clothes?’ ”
Ms. Auelhan discovered what kind of place she was being taken to almost as soon as she arrived. The sign read “Yining County Vocational School,” but it was surrounded by high walls and guard towers. It was ”completely like a prison,” she said. Inside, staff ordered her to change into a uniform − red shirt, black track pants − and cut short her hair, saying it was for hygienic purposes. They locked her in a cell with 32 other women, each with their own bunk bed.
It was the first of four centres where she would be incarcerated over the following year − her own personal journey through the complex assemblage of internment in Xinjiang. She stayed at a converted hospital, a middle school and a new mid-rise facility that seemed purpose-built for what China calls vocational training.
“They told us, ‘You are here to be educated because you were infected with evil thoughts of religion,’ ” she recalled.
Soon after arriving at the first centre, Ms. Auelhan began to learn the rules of her new life. Each night, she and the others took two-hour shifts to watch each other. “Even if you wanted to kill yourself, there was no possibility, because you are being monitored everywhere,” she said.
“We couldn’t even cry because if you cry, they say you have evil thoughts in your mind.”
Trips to the toilet had to be done in pairs, so one woman could keep an eye on the other, in part to prevent forbidden religious expression, including ablution. Once, Ms. Auelhan accompanied to the toilet an older lady who accidentally splashed urine on her own feet. When guards noticed that the woman had rinsed herself clean, they saw it as ritual washing, and punished Ms. Auelhan by handcuffing her hands behind her back for 24 hours.
In April, 2018, she said, prison staff brought out buckets of prayer mats and ordered the detainees to set them on fire.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to detailed questions sent about her account.
But for Ms. Auelhan, who calls herself Muslim but does not pray, one of the chief hardships was use of the toilet, because women were restricted to two minutes each time. Detainees frequently experienced constipation − she’s not certain whether it was the infrequency of bathroom access or the daily diet of steamed buns, rice, potatoes and maize. But if they spent more than 120 seconds on the toilet, “you can expect you will be electric shocked,” she said. Stun guns would typically be applied to the head. “They explained that if they did it on the body, it might leave a mark,” Ms. Auelhan said.
Guards told detainees that they were “under military discipline,” with cameras constantly watching − including in bathrooms and during weekly showers. Even so, monthly conjugal visits were allowed, she said, for a fee of $4; another detainee confirmed the existence of such visits.
Yet such allowances were a rare break from days filled with Chinese language classes and lectures on health, politics and law. Instructors regularly ordered the writing of confession letters, which included thanks “to the Communist Party for the education it provided,” and for “giving us this opportunity to clear our evil thoughts.”
Ms. Auelhan found herself experiencing flashes of agreement, reflecting as she wrote on the happiness she had felt growing up in Xinjiang.
But the feeling did not last, because “everything else they did to us was a complete lie,” she said. That extended to appearance: When her hair began to go grey, she was given dye to make it black when dignitaries visited, and told to smile.
But Ms. Auelhan could not stop thinking about the gap between what she was being told and what she saw unfolding around her. “They say all of the ethnic groups in China are together in peace and love,” she said. Why, then, she wondered, were Muslims virtually the only ones in detention?
In nearly a year spent in various indoctrination centres, she received a single week of instruction on a sewing machine, before being released Oct. 7, 2018.
But she was not yet free. Instead, after a week spent with family, the next chapter of her detention was about to begin, in a factory. The indoctrination wasn’t over, either.
In late November of 2018, the village secretary in Ms. Auelhan’s hometown arrived with a document. It said she needed to report for work to a glove-making factory. “You need money,” the official told her.
At the factory, her superiors told her the gloves, whose brands she could not recall, would be sold abroad, “so we needed to try our best,” she said. She was taken to work at the Yining County Home Textile and Clothing Industrial Park where, according to a government website, the Yili Zhuowan Clothing Manufacturing Co. produces US$15-million a year in gloves for export to the United States, Russia, the European Union and Japan. A person who answered a phone at the company said he knew nothing about its hiring practices.
Ms. Auelhan was promised pay of $119 a month, in a region where the local minimum wage is $290, until the factory’s owners, citing the cost of feeding her and ferrying her home for weekly Sunday family visits, switched to a piecemeal system, paying two cents a completed pair. On her best day, she completed 11 pairs.
While at the factory, Ms. Auelhan lived in a dormitory roughly three kilometres away, where she could leave her room but not the compound. Here, too, education continued. Workers received readings in the factory before work and, at day’s end, 45-minute Chinese lessons in the dormitory, where they were watched at night by an official.
Then, on Dec. 29, police took her for interrogation and held her overnight in a dark room. The next day, officials bought her a lunch of besbarmak, a Kazakh dish with horse meat and noodles. “They told me, ‘You must miss meat,’” she said. After lunch, they released her to her father’s house. She was paid $45.50 for her factory labours.
On Jan. 5, officials escorted her to the Kazakhstan border. “Remember that you are not allowed to say anything about the camps or what you have been through while you were in China,” she recalled them saying.
“If you do, then remember that it’s very easy for the Chinese government to find you.”
Ms. Auelhan’s family has also struggled. She has a daughter still in Xinjiang, while in Kazakhstan, her husband struggles to believe that she vanished into detention centres for so long. He “is very good to me,” she said.
“But sometimes he asks, ‘Did you really spend that time there? You weren’t with another man?’ ”
Mandarin coverage by Taiwan Reporter: https://www.twreporter.org/a/xinjiang-re-education-camps-truth
In an interview given to Apple Daily (https://uat-xinjiangcamps.appledaily.com/%E5%8F%97%E5%AE%B3%E8%80%85/%E5%8F%A4%E5%AD%9C%E6%8B%89-%E9%98%BF%E7%93%A6%E7%88%BE%E6%B1%97), Gulzira mentions that one had to memorize 3000 characters to pass the Chinese-language exam (in camp).
RFA report mention: https://www.rfa.org/uyghur/xewerler/lager-shahit-10222019172818.html
Entry created: 2018-12-31
Last updated: 2019-11-26
Latest update from testifier: 2019-01-30