Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions, bulldozed their homes as punishment for having children and tortured them as lawyers investigate ‘genocide’

  • Three Uighur exiles who will give evidence at tribunal gave accounts toda
  • Mother says she was made to abort her child at six-and-a-half months pregnant
  • Another witness said the houses of those who had too many babies were razed
  • And a third witness said he was imprisoned and tortured by Chinese soldiers
  • They are appearing at tribunal which is probing if China committed genocide

Uighur exiles who fled China say they were forced to have abortions while heavily pregnant, tortured and made to inform on relatives, and had their houses bulldozed if they were found to have more children than allowed.

The horrifying accounts are from three exiles living in Turkey who will give testimony tomorrow at a tribunal in London which is investigating whether Beijing’s actions amount to genocide.

They include a mother-of-four made to abort her fifth child at six-and-a-half months pregnant, a former obstetrician-gynaecologist who witnessed homes being knocked down if mothers had too many babies, and a man who was beaten and tortured by soldiers who wanted information on his brother.

The tribunal, which is not backed by the British government, is chaired by Geoffrey Nice QC, famous for his prosecution at The Hague of former Serbia President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Kosovo.

The China Tribunal is non-binding but hopes the evidence it hears will prompt international action to tackle the alleged abuse in Xinjiang province against the Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group.

Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
ASSOCİATED PRESS PHOTO

Mother-of-four Bumeryem Rozi (pictured in Istanbul on Tuesday), said authorities in Xinjiang rounded her up along with other pregnant women to abort her fifth child in 2007. She said she complied because she feared that otherwise authorities would have confiscated her home and belongings and endangered her family.

Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
Detainees listening to speeches in a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, China (BBC PHOTO)
Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021 (AP PHOTO)

Bumeryem Rozi, said authorities in Xinjiang rounded her up along with other pregnant women to abort her fifth child in 2007. She said she complied because she feared that otherwise authorities would have confiscated her home and belongings and endangered her family.

‘I was six-and-a-half months pregnant … The police came, one Uighur and two Chinese. They put me and eight other pregnant women in cars and took us to the hospital,’ Rozi, 55, told the AP from her home in Istanbul.

‘They first gave me a pill and said to take it. So I did. I didn´t know what it was,’ she continued. ‘Half an hour later, they put a needle in my belly. And sometime after that I lost my child.’

Semsinur Gafur, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who worked in a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and other female clinicians used to go from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if anyone was pregnant.

‘If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the home … They would flatten the house, destroy it,’ Gafur said. ‘This was my life there. It was very distressing. And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn´t trust me. The Uighur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.’

A third Uighur exile, Mahmut Tevekkul, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who interrogated him for information about one of his brothers. Tevekkul said the brother was wanted partly because he published a religious book in Arabic.

Tevekkul described being beaten and punched in the face during questioning.

‘They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until the morning and then they took us to the maximum-security area of the prison,’ he said.

The tribunal is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for alleged rights abuses against the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkic minorities.

Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
Members of Uighur community living in Turkey stage a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday, (AP PHOTO)
Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
Semsinur Gafur, an ethnic Uighur who fled from China to Turkey. Gafur, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who worked in a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and other female doctors used to go from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if anyone was pregnant ( ASSOCİATED PRESS PHOTO )
Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
‘If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the home … They would flatten the house, destroy it,’ Gafur said. ‘This was my life there. It was very distressing. And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn’t trust me. The Uighur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.’ ( ASSOCİATED PRESS PHOTO )

An estimated 1 million people or more – most of them Uighurs – have been confined in re-education camps in Xinjiang in recent years, according to researchers. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture, and separating children from incarcerated parents.

Beijing has flatly rejected the allegations. Officials have characterized the camps, which they say are now closed, as vocational training centers to teach Chinese language, job skills and the law to support economic development and combat extremism. China saw a wave of Xinjiang-related terror attacks through 2016.

The hearings´ organizers said Chinese authorities have ignored requests to participate in the proceedings. The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment, but officials in China have said the tribunal is set up by ‘anti-China forces’ to spread lies.

‘There is no such thing as genocide or forced labor in Xinjiang,’ the region’s government spokesperson Elijan Anayat told reporters Thursday. ‘If the tribunal insists on going its own way, we would like to express our severe condemnation and opposition and will be forced to take countermeasures.’

In April, Britain´s parliament followed those in Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada in declaring that Beijing´s policies against the Uighurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. The U.S. government has also done the same.

But Nice, the lawyer leading the tribunal, said so far those declarations of genocide have come with limited analysis of evidence about the intentions behind the Chinese government´s policies.

‘It is the mental state of those organs (of the Chinese government) that would have to be examined or established and proved if any finding of genocide is ever to be made,’ Nice said. ‘It´s pretty obvious that purpose and intent is going to be critical.’

Uighur people say China forced them to have abortions bulldozed their homes and tortured them
Mahmut Tevekkul, an ethnic Uighur who fled from China to Turkey, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who interrogated him for information about one of his brothers. ‘They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until the morning and then they took us to the maximum-security area of the prison,’ he said. ( ASSOCİATED PRESS PHOTO )

Nice was one of nine British citizens sanctioned by China in March for spreading ‘lies and disinformation’ about the country.

The move came after the UK and other Western governments took similar measures against China over its treatment of the Uighurs.

The lawyer said he isn’t intimidated, but admitted that the sanctions have resulted in some participants withdrawing from the tribunal.

Organizers also said they have been subjected to cyber targeting. They had to increase the event´s security after about 500 of the hearings´ free tickets were booked up by people with fake email addresses.

While her fellow exiles said they agreed to testify to seek justice, Rozi, the woman who reported the forced abortion, says she is motivated to speak out for a more personal reason. Her youngest son has been detained since 2015, when he was just 13, and she hopes the tribunal´s work will help lead to his freedom one day.

‘I want my son to be freed as soon as possible,’ she said. ‘I want to see him be set free.

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