PART III: Interview: ‘We tell them that they would be banned from seeing their family again.’October 29, 2018
An officer at a police station in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service about the conditions at a camp where he worked as a guard for 10 months.
RFA: If there are siblings or relatives sent to the same camp, do you arrange for them to share same dormitory or do you separate them?
Officer: We separate them into different buildings or onto different floors. Normally we try to allocate them to different buildings, but in cases where there are too many members of the same family we separate them onto different floors.
RFA: Is there any chance of brothers bumping into one another in the corridors?
RFA: If people say for example, “I dreamed of my family last night, I miss them.” Do you allow them to express such emotional feelings?
Officer: Yes, it happened when I was working there. When school started in January, no one was allowed to telephone or receive a visit from their family. Starting in June the rules were relaxed. When people approached us regarding their wish to contact their family, we advised them to obey the rules of the camp, study hard and to be on their best behavior. [We also told them] that the earlier they successfully complete the program, the earlier they would be able to return home to their family.
RFA: Are they allowed to be visited by their family?
Officer: They are allowed to speak to their families once a week by telephone, and via video-link once a month.
RFA: Are they allowed to meet face to face?
Officer: When I was working there, it wasn’t allowed. But now they are allowed to if the family has been approved by the police department.
RFA: When they [communicate with] their family, what are the terms and conditions imposed at the meeting? Do you tell them what they can and cannot say?
Officer: We warn them not to use sensitive words.
RFA: What do you mean by ‘sensitive words,’ what kind of words are deemed to be sensitive?
Officer: For example, we tell them when the [call] is over, you should say goodbye, and nothing more.
RFA: Do you mean, they are not allowed to say, ‘God be with you’.
RFA: What about, ‘if God permits’?
Officer: We tell them not to use such terms.
RFA: Can they greet each other saying ‘As-salamu alaykum?’
Officer: No, it is not allowed.
RFA: What can they say then?
Officer: ‘How are you?’
RFA: What would happen if they say ‘As-salamu alaykum?’ What is the punishment?
Officer: Since we warned them repeatedly, nobody uses such greetings. I never heard of anyone using such terms or being punished as a result.
RFA: When you warn them, what do you tell them the punishment would be?
Officer: We tell them that they would be banned from seeing their family again.
RFA: What about the family? Do you also apply the same terms and conditions to them? For example, also warning them not to use the greeting ‘As-salamu alaykum.’
Officer: Yes, the same rules apply to them as well. Prior [to contact,] the cadres explain the rules.
RFA: What do you recommend [the detainees] say to their families? Do you tell them to say positive things about the camp such as how good the food is, and how they are receiving a good education and moving in the right direction?
Officer: We first ask them what they think about the camp, they normally express their gratitude [to us]. So we tell them “when you see your family, you must not cry, otherwise they will think that you are going through hardship. You must tell them with a smile that because of your own wrongdoings, you are taking part in re-education. Say to them ‘I am studying laws and regulations, as well as the National Standard Language (Mandarin Chinese). In order to liberate my mind, I am studying. When I go out from here, I will be a better person.’” We make sure they [can convincingly tell us] that they are well treated in the camp before they can [have contact with] their families.