From Tik Tok to News Headlines: China’s hidden camps

If you are either active on Twitter or Instagram or maybe even Tik Tok, you would’ve most likely seen the video below. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I saw the video a couple of times on my newsfeed so I thought the ‘tutorial’ must be good.

This is how you get people’s attention. You catch them off guard. Because of the extreme personalisation of filter bubbles we are all now apart of online, it is possible that if this were a news headline about China’s hidden concentration camps – it probably wouldn’t have reached many online users timelines. But because this appears to be a random Tik Tok video and was thus shared casually on Twitter and Instagram, it managed to reach mass audiences.

This video has got people talking for several reasons.

  1. This video went viral.
  2. Feroza Aziz who originally posted the video on Tik Tok tweeted that she had been banned from posting any new content on the platform.
  3. Tik Tok is owned by ByteDance – a Chinese tech company.
  4. Innocent people have been locked up in these camps since 2017 – and this is the first time many are hearing of it.

At least one million Uyghur Muslims are thought to be detained in these camps in Xinjiang, China. Uyghur Muslims are a relatively small community of China and within these camps, it is suspected that Uyghurs are being ‘re-educated’ with Chinese government propaganda. What happens in these camps is not concrete as not enough evidence has been provided. Although, leaked documents state that those who are detained are being forced to eat pork, drink alcohol and denounce Islam as their religion. China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, reportedly called the camps ‘fake news’. (See video below) Which sounds a little too familiar to Trump denying the inhumane treatment of migrants at the U.S. – Mexico border control.

Due to extreme containment of information, it is not easy for other countries to put pressure on China to release statements about the camps. But what we know is that people are going missing, specifically people of the Uyghur community.

Last week I visited the Amnesty International Office in Amsterdam and I took a masterclass about current human rights issues and one of those issues involved these camps. I learned about a young husband and father, Yiliyaijiang Reheman, who is thought to be detained in a camp in Xinjiang. Mairinisha Abuduaini, Yiliyaijiang’s wife, has been looking for her husband since 2017 – alone with two young children. Getting answers about her husband’s disappearance is a basic human right, and there are many families like Yiliyasijiang’s who are just as desperate to know if their missing family members are even still alive.

This calls for other countries to increase pressure on China’s government. Reading news articles, as well as threads on Twitter and Instagram and talking about these camps with other people – all of this adds pressure. We all have a voice and we all need to use it.

For Amsterdammers: On Tuesday, December 10th, there is a Write for Rights event at Keizersgracht 177, 1016 DR Amsterdam, which is running from 10 am – 11 pm. You have the chance to write as many letters as possible to president Xi Jinping.

For everyone outside of Amsterdam, you can also find out when a Write for Rights event is happening near you this December. But for now, you can also virtually send a letter with the link below.

Since writing this article, it has been reported that detainees have been ‘released’ from the camps. However, there is no physical evidence just yet to prove that. Until we have evidence and Yiliyasijiang is reunited with his wife and family – we continue to push for answers.

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