China hunts down Uyghurs abroad, says report

China hunts down Uyghurs abroad, says report

China is not only mistreating Uyghurs within China's borders, but it is hunting them down abroad, with help from countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to clamp down on criticism of Beijing's repression of Muslim minorities.

The scale of the Chinese Ministry of State Security's efforts to harass, detain and extradite Uyghurs from around the world and the cooperation it is getting from governments in the Middle East and North Africa is described in unprecedented detail in a new report, Great Wall of Steel, by the Woodrow Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.

More than 5,500 Uyghurs outside China have been targeted by Beijing, hit with cyberattacks and threats to family members who remain in China, and more than 1,500 Uyghurs have been detained or forced to return to China to face imprisonment and torture in police custody, according to the report.

The report's author, Bradley Jardine, a Schwartzman fellow at the Wilson Center and director of research at the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, said it is the first major study to place the Xinjiang humanitarian crisis in a global context, showing the international dimension of Beijing's campaign to suppress the Uyghurs.

The forced repatriations to China are ongoing.

On April 13, Saudi Arabia deported a Uyghur woman and her 13-year-old daughter to China, where they risk being detained in the vast web of re-education camps in western China's Xinjiang province. The girl's father and another Uyghur, a Muslim scholar, are still being held in the kingdom. It is not known if any of them were charged with a crime.

Anthropologist Adrian Zenz, who has studied and documented Beijing's systematic repression of Uyghurs, says Beijing is using economic might and gifts of infrastructure projects — its Belt and Road initiative — to pressure countries, including those with majority Muslim populations that might be sympathetic to the Uyghurs plight.

Zenz, who is a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said the Chinese are quite scared of what Muslim populations think of their treatment of the Uyghurs and have exerted particular efforts in influencing government and popular opinion in those countries.

In 2017, Chinese authorities in Xinjiang began rounding up women and men - largely Muslims from Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnic minorities - and detaining them in camps designed to rid them of terrorist or extremist leanings.