China ‘separates Muslim children from families’

China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families in the region of Xinjiang, according to reports this morning. At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools is under way.

Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region.

New research has found that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to internment, either in the camps or in prison. This constitutes a “campaign” to “systematically remove children from their roots,” says the BBC.

China’s tight surveillance and control in Xinjiang, where foreign journalists are followed 24 hours a day, make it impossible to gather testimony there. But it can be found in Turkey.

In a large hall in Istanbul, dozens of people queue to tell their stories, many of them clutching photographs of children, all now missing back home in Xinjiang.

China ‘separates Muslim children from families’

“I don’t know who is looking after them,” one mother says, pointing to a picture of her three young daughters, “there is no contact at all.”

Another mother, holding a photo of three sons and a daughter, wipes away her tears. “I heard that they’ve been taken to an orphanage,” she says.

In 60 separate interviews, in wave after wave of anxious, grief-ridden testimony, parents and other relatives give details of the disappearance in Xinjiang of more than 100 children.

Although Beijing insists the Uighurs are being educated in “vocational training centres” to counter violent religious extremism, testimony and other evidence has revealed that many are being detained for simply expressing their faith by wearing a veil or praying.

“Thousands of innocent children are being separated from their parents and we are giving our testimonies constantly,” one mother tells me. “Why does the world keep silent when knowing these facts?”

Back in Xinjiang, the research shows that all children now find themselves in schools that are secured with “hard isolation closed management measures.” Many of the schools bristle with full-coverage surveillance systems, perimeter alarms and 10,000 Volt electric fences, with some school security spending surpassing that of the camps.

Xu Guixiang, a senior official with Xinjiang’s Propaganda Department, told the BBC that the state denies caring for large numbers of children left parentless.

“If all family members have been sent to vocational training then that family must have a severe problem,” he said, laughing. “I’ve never seen such a case.”

“Despite China’s efforts to tell what is really happening in Xinjiang, some western media and politicians insist on making and spreading fake news,” said the state-run Global Times.

However, Dr Zenz says: “I believe the evidence points to what we must call cultural genocide.”