Dear President Xi Jinping, Secretary Chen Quanguo, and Chairperson Shohrat Zakir:
I am distressed to learn about the cases of more than 60 people from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups who have been allegedly interned in camps or sentenced without a fair trial and sent to prison in Xinjiang. These cases are representative of the perhaps 1 million or more men and women estimated to have been detained by the Chinese government in Xinjiang since 2017.
Based on the evidence collected by Amnesty International in the report “Like We Were Enemies in a War,” the Chinese government has committed, at the least, the crimes against humanity of mass imprisonment in violation of the rules of international law, torture and persecution in Xinjiang. Lawful activities many of us take for granted such as living, travelling, studying abroad; communicating with people abroad; reciting the Qur’an or wearing religious clothing can be considered a reason to be sent to an internment camp or a prison, where detainees are subjected to a relentless forced indoctrination campaign, physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Family members living overseas are desperate to get in touch with their loved ones, many of whom they have not heard from in years. Further to their desperation is the fact that, without any access to a lawyer of their choice, the detained individuals (mostly Uyghurs, Kazakhs and those from other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups) are at even further heightened risk of torture or ill treatment.
I therefore urge you to:
• Immediately release all people detained in internment camps and in prisons in Xinjiang, unless there is sufficient, credible and admissible evidence that they have committed an internationally recognized offense.
• Pending their release, disclose detainees’ whereabouts, allow them access to their family and a lawyer of their choice, and ensure they are not subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.