'Some are just psychopaths': Chinese detective in exile reveals extent of torture against UyghursOctober 05, 2021
The raids started after midnight in Xinjiang.
Hundreds of police officers armed with rifles went house to house in Uyghur communities in the far western region of China, pulling people from their homes, handcuffing and hooding them, and threatening to shoot them if they resisted, a former Chinese police detective tells CNN.
“We took (them) all forcibly overnight,” he said. “If there were hundreds of people in one county in this area, then you had to arrest these hundreds of people.”
The ex-detective turned whistleblower asked to be identified only as Jiang, to protect his family members who remain in China.
In a three-hour interview with CNN, conducted in Europe where he is now in exile, Jiang revealed rare details on what he described as a systematic campaign of torture against ethnic Uyghurs in the region’s detention camp system, claims China has denied for years.
“Kick them, beat them (until they’re) bruised and swollen,” Jiang said, recalling how he and his colleagues used to interrogate detainees in police detention centers. “Until they kneel on the floor crying.”
During his time in Xinjiang, Jiang said every new detainee was beaten during the interrogation process – including men, women and children as young as 14.
The methods included shackling people to a metal or wooden “tiger chair” – chairs designed to immobilize suspects – hanging people from the ceiling, sexual violence, electrocutions, and waterboarding. Inmates were often forced to stay awake for days, and denied food and water, he said.
“Everyone uses different methods. Some even use a wrecking bar, or iron chains with locks,” Jiang said. “Police would step on the suspect’s face and tell him to confess.”
The suspects were accused of terror offenses, said Jiang, but he believes that “none” of the hundreds of prisoners he was involved in arresting had committed a crime. “They are ordinary people,” he said.
The torture in police detention centers only stopped when the suspects confessed, Jiang said. Then they were usually transferred to another facility, like a prison or an internment camp manned by prison guards.
The first time Jiang was deployed to Xinjiang, he said he was eager to travel there to help defeat a terror threat he was told could threaten his country. After more than 10 years in the police force, he was also keen for a promotion.
He said his boss had asked him to take the post, telling him that “separatist forces want to split the motherland. We must kill them all.”
Jiang said he was deployed “three or four” times from his usual post in mainland China to work in several areas of Xinjiang during the height of China’s “Strike Hard” anti-terror campaign.
But quickly, Jiang became disillusioned with his new job – and the purpose of the crackdown.
“I was surprised when I went for the first time,” Jiang said. “There were security checks everywhere. Many restaurants and places are closed. Society was very intense.”
During the routine overnight operations, Jiang said they would be given lists of names of people to round up, as part of orders to meet official quotas on the numbers of Uyghurs to detain.
“It’s all planned, and it has a system,” Jiang said. “Everyone needs to hit a target.”
If anyone resisted arrest, the police officers would “hold the gun against his head and say do not move. If you move, you will be killed.”
He said teams of police officers would also search people’s houses and download the data from their computers and phones.
Another tactic was to use the area’s neighborhood committee to call the local population together for a meeting with the village chief, before detaining them en masse.
Describing the time as a “combat period,” Jiang said officials treated Xinjiang like a war zone, and police officers were told that Uyghurs were enemies of the state.
He said it was common knowledge among police officers that 900,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities were detained in the region in a single year.
Jiang said if he had resisted the process, he would have been arrested, too.
Inside the police detention centers, the main goal was to extract a confession from detainees, with sexual torture being one of the tactics, Jiang said.
“If you want people to confess, you use the electric baton with two sharp tips on top,” Jiang said. “We would tie two electrical wires on the tips and set the wires on their genitals while the person is tied up.”
He admitted he often had to play “bad cop” during interrogations but said he avoided the worst of the violence, unlike some of his colleagues.
“Some people see this as a job, some are just psychopaths,” he said.
One “very common measure” of torture and dehumanization was for guards to order prisoners to rape and abuse the new male inmates, Jiang said.