“Like We Were Enemies in a War": China's Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in XinjiangJune 11, 2021
Detainees were also required to write letters of “confession” or “self-criticism” in which they admitted to their “crimes”. Some former detainees reported having to write self-criticism letters once or twice during their internment; others reported this was a weekly or bi-weekly activity. Former detainees reported being given a list of “crimes” – usually the list of 75 outward manifestations of extremists behaviour– from which to choose two to “confess” to. Former detainees told Amnesty they believed that people who admitted – or were made to admitted – certain crimes, particularly crimes related to religion, were given prison sentences.
In addition to confessing one’s “crimes”, self-criticism entailed describing in writing what a detainee had done wrong, explaining that the education they were receiving enabled them to recognize the error of their ways and “transform” their thinking, expressing gratitude to the government for this education,and promising not to return to their old habits. Elnara, who says he was put in a camp for having contact with people who had “extremist” thoughts, said he was forced to admit his “crime” and was told he would be sent to a punishment room if he did not confess. “Once a month there was self-assessment acknowledging that you did a crime and that you are not a good person,” Ibrahim told Amnesty International. Ibrahim also told Amnesty he was forced to choose two crimes from a list of 75 to confess to:
They started teaching us about 75 [crimes]… We had to write our names and IDs and to choose at least two. The more the better… What I read was that it was a crime not to drink and not to smoke. And that thick [rope] – to bind straw – if you had too much then it was a crime… you had to choose which you had… for example, if you brought too much food at once to your house… and if you visited a mosque not in your hometown, it is a crime… I visited a mosque in another county to attend a funeral… So, I chose two. And I put my fingerprint on it.
Anara, who was in a camp for a year, told Amnesty that civil servants who lived outside the camp and who she likened to case managers used to come to do interrogations and what she referred to as “self-assessments and confessions”, in which detainees were required to confess to their crime, reflect on their “progress”, and often to disavow Islam.
At the beginning [the civil servants] would tell you your crimes… Then you had to write: ‘I didn’t know having WhatsApp was a crime. I didn’t know it caused damage to the CCP. Because of WhatsApp my mind was ‘compromised’. Now, after this education, I am getting better. I will not have WhatsApp on my phone again… [My other crime was going to Kazakhstan. I had to write:] I was in Kazakhstan. I got infected by ‘ideas’. Now I will do better and get rid of ideas… And [we also had to write] we had mistakenly chosen the religion of Islam. We will not choose this religion again… And there was also a list of ‘misdoings’ of Muslim believers against China. For example, praying before bed. So, you would have to write that you were sorry for this and that you would not do it again.
Anara told Amnesty International she was required to do a self-assessment once a week. “It was the same every week, except that you must acknowledge some progress, like learning Chinese,” she said.