A former Chinese policeman said Uighur Muslims were hanged from cell ceilings, tortured with electric batons and ordered to be raped by fellow prisoners, in what appears to be the first interview with an official whistleblower.
The former detective described the extreme abuse Uighurs were subjected to to elicit confessions as China rounded up about two million people in a social cleansing programme.
The exile’s testimony, in a CNN interview from somewhere in Europe, adds to growing evidence of the system of Uighur detention and internment that the US has said amounts to genocide.
The Telegraph could not independently verify the man’s identity, but the interview chimes with similar witness statements given by Uighur in exile across the world.
The officer, identified only by the surname Jiang, said he worked in one of the hundred internment camps dotted around far-western China.
He said that initially he felt the patriotic pull to join 150,000 police recruits to staff detention centres in Xinjiang but was quickly disillusioned by abuse against detainees as young as 14.
Jiang said every new detainee was beaten during their initial interrogation to extract a “confession” and often subjected to abuse like China’s infamous “tiger chair”, which straps a subject’s hands and feet to a chair sometimes for days, as well as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and hanging from ceilings.
Jiang said he and his colleagues would “kick them, beat them [until they’re] bruised and swollen” and “until they kneel on the floor crying”.
“If you want people to confess, you use the electric baton with two sharp tips on top,” he also said in the interview. “We would tie two electrical wires on the tips and set the wires on their genitals while the person is tied up.”
Other common tactics, he said, included forcing prisoners to gang rape male detainees. He now believes, however, none of the detainees was guilty and many appeared to have been arrested simply to fill government quotas.
After a confession, inmates would be sent to one of China’s hundreds of internment camps, referred to as “vocational training” centres by Beijing.
Jiang told CNN some of his colleagues saw their role as another job in police work or public security but others were “just psychopaths”.
Jiang appears to be the first public whistleblower from China’s ethnic Han majority, who make up more than 90 per cent of the population, to testify about conditions in detention centres.
CNN said it had studied identity documents and historic pictures to try to verify his claims. Uighur exiles have spoken to international media and US congressional hearings about similar abuse. The UK, US, Canada and the EU have also all imposed sanctions on Chinese officials linked to Xinjiang.
An estimated two million Muslim Uighurs have been sent to internment camps in Xinjiang since 2017 as part of China’s “Strike Hard Campaign” against potential terrorism and religious extremism, according to the US State Department.
The crackdown was initially triggered by a series of events including 2009 riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and a knife attack in the same city in 2014. Uighurs not living in internment centres or detention are closely monitored and forced to culturally “assimilate” into Han Chinese culture and are sometimes even forced to live with some of the one million government minders sent to monitor daily life in Xinjiang.
China continues to deny claims of abuse and genocide in Xinjiang, which it has called “slanderous” accusations from foreign governments like the US and the UK.
Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the Telegraph: “The police officer is the first person who was involved in the most coercive aspects of the Xinjiang campaign to speak out, including about him participating in torture.”
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