China smears female Uighur ex-detainees as 'inferior', adulterers and liars

China smears female Uighur ex-detainees as 'inferior', adulterers and liars
Chinese officials have targeted Uighur former detainees in recent months, rejecting allegations of forced sterilisation and abuse.
3 min read
01 March, 2021
At least a million Uighur Muslims are detained in Chinese camps [Getty]
China has launched unprecedented attacks on Uighur ex-detainees in recent months as part of a bid to dispel international criticism against abuses of the Muslim minority.

Officials have named and shamed women who have spoken out against alleged rights abuses they experienced while in detention in an attempt to invalidate their claims, according to a Reuters review of official presentations and literature.

Allegations of severe human rights violations in China's vast network of detention camps in the northwestern Xinjiang province have increased in recent months.

Several reports have accusd Chinese authorities of targeting women in particular with systemic rape and forms of forced birth control including sterilisation.

In a bid to discredit female witnesses to those claims, Chinese officials have disclosed what they say is private medical data about the women.

Officials have accused some of the ex-detainees of adultery and one of having a sexually transmitted disease, evidence for Chinese authorities that they are unreliable witnesses with "poor character".

Xu Guixiang, the deputy head of Xinjiang's publicity department, told a December press conference that Chinese authorities had "taken a series of measures" to "rebuke some media's disgusting acts".

Among those measures are publishing pre-recorded video testimonies from former inmates in the Xinjiang camps, which Beijing describes as re-education centres designed to guide Muslim minorities away from Islamist extremism and ethnic separatism.

But the tightly controlled press briefings have also seen Chinese officials target specific ex-detainees who have given testimonies to international media.

Read more: China forces birth control on Uighur women to suppress Muslim population

In a press conference last week, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused one woman of spreading "lies and rumours".

As evidence Wang pointed to the fact the woman had not alluded to sexual abuse in the camps in previous interviews. 

He also shared purported medical details about the woman's fertility.
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In a similar incident last month, Xinjiang officials shared what they said were the private medical records of another ex-detainee, accusing her of having syphilis.

Another former detainee was described by a Xinjiang official as having "inferior character".

"She's lazy and likes comfort, her private life is chaotic, her neighbours say that she committed adultery while in China," the official said last month.

James Millward, a professor of Chinese history at Georgetown University and an expert in Xinjiang policy, told Reuters the smear attempts show "how this has nothing to do with terrorism".

At least a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are held in detention camps in Xinjiang.

Read more: Disney's new Mulan is an insult to China's Uighurs and Muslims everywhere

China has been accused of subjecting them to rape, forced sterilisation, torture, forced labour and other abuses.

A recent BBC news report alleging systemic rape and sexual abuse in the Xinjiang camps was met with a ban on the British broadcaster by Chinese authorities.

Last month, Twitter removed a "dehumanising" post by the Chinese embassy in the United States that bragged of "liberating" Uighur women from a future as "baby-making machines".

The tweet was met with widespread outrage from activists who pointed to allegations of a "widespread and systematic" campaign of forced contraceptive measures and sterilisation of Uighur and other Muslim minority women in Xinjiang.

Birth rates have dramatically plunged in the Uighur-majority northwestern province in recent years; experts have tied the drop to forced abortions, sterilisations, IUD insertions and detentions for having too many children reported by ex-detainees.

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