‘Will they let us live?’ Inside Xinjiang, survivors of China’s internment camps speakDecember 17, 2020
The car approached a police tower guarding the Hongyan Clothing Park compound. A slogan appeared on the building’s walls: “Forget not the Party’s mercy, walk with the Party forever.” In an instant, police and men in dark clothing sprinted toward the car, surrounding the reporters inside.
“Delete everything,” one of the men ordered. The reporters complied and left, only to be stopped twice more by cars that swerved in front and beside them, letting out minders who demanded double-checks of the journalists’ phones and cameras.
During one confrontation in a village outside Korla, an official blurted: “You can’t speak with the people here. We’ve had too many negative reports from outside. You can only speak with the people we arrange.” Talking to locals would create a “security problem,” he said.
One morning before sunrise, a Times reporter evaded the minders and entered the home of a prominent Uighur intellectual . . . Asked by The Times reporter for permission to write about their experiences, the father paused.
“You could write our story,” he said, turning to look at the reporter. “But after that, will they let us live?”
Journalists in China understand the country’s dark side, he said. “We Uighurs are not meant to live. We Uighurs should be erased from this earth.”
“My father is speaking out of anger,” his daughter said. They were glad to know the outside world was paying attention to Xinjiang and that some Uighurs abroad had been reunited with their families. “But we are all here. We have no relatives outside, no escape,” the daughter said . . . “Tell our story, but don’t use our names,” she murmured. “Please leave. I am afraid because you are here.”