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The Beauty and the Sorrow That I Witnessed in Xinjiang: Interview

Abu, a Taiwanese who traveled for almost two months in Xinjiang, is seen in Kashgar against a backdrop of scenes of Chinese tortures and interrogations~Screen shot from video

Abu is a young man from Taiwan. In 2019, he rode on his bicycle to Xinjiang, traveled around the province for almost two months, and shared on social media what he saw and heard. In a video taken in Kashgar’s Old Town in southern Xinjiang, he shared details of his conversations with locals about what really happens in Xinjiang’s re-education camps, and this sparked further discussions online. Below is RFA reporter Jane Tang’s interview with Abu:

RFA: The videos you took in Xinjiang have generated a lot of response online. Now that you are back in Taiwan, can you tell us prompted you to visit Xinjiang?

Abu: I had just left my job in China, and had thought about riding my bicycle from the coastal province of Guangdong all the way to Europe. I particularly wanted to visit Xinjiang. In China, public opinion about China’s Xinjiang policy is polarized. I was hoping that I could learn more about the issue with my own eyes and ears, rather than from hearsay or the news.

According to my original itinerary, after leaving Xinjiang, I would have continued my trip until I reached Europe. However, several things happened, so I called the trip off early and returned to Taiwan.

RFA: Many journalists have been put under surveillance while in Xinjiang. What was your experience there?

Abu: In Xinjiang, there are security check points in every small town. My name was taken, and I was searched, so it was not difficult [for police] to track me down. I was searched about ten times. I entered Xinjiang in late June of 2019, and left in the middle of August, so  stayed there for about one and a half months.

Each police search took more than hour. I had to put every one of my personal belongings on the ground for them to check. I felt like a street vendor. The police would check the pictures I took, too.

I had some strange encounters with the police. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the police would come and announce that I could not stay in the hotel and demanded that I check out of the hotel immediately. At other times, when I camped out, the police would call to locate me and force me to leave.

RFA: The location where you shot your video “The Beauty and Sorrow of Xinjiang” is full of stories, and you walked past many piles of rubble and numerous abandoned houses. What were these?

Abu: Those are the Gaotai Dwellings, traditional Uyghur residential homes in Kashgar in south Xinjiang. I did some research prior to the trip, and I wanted to check out the rich culture there. It was not until I had almost reached Xinjiang that I heard that the residents of the Dwellings had been relocated and the Dwellings demolished. The residents were made to relocate after the Chinese government rolled out the Poverty Alleviation Policy.

The Chinese government built a new “Ancient Town” nearby, but that is nothing compared to the Old Town. All the cultural and the ethnic historical sentiments have diminished with the demolition. Yes, everyone is entitled to a modern civilization, but I do not agree with this kind of comprehensive demolition and relocation.

RFA: So you learned that the Gaotai Dwellings were abandoned, but how did you manage to get in to the Old Town?

Abu: I still wanted to see the Old Town with my own eyes, so I scouted the area for a few days, hoping to find a manhole of some sort to sneak in, and I did. I found a secret entryway, and once I got in I made a few turns, climbed through a plank, and landed in the streets in the old town. I shared that information on Taiwan’s Backpackers Forum.

I chose to shoot the video and talk about the re-education camps in that location because of my experience in Urumqi, where I was stalked. I wanted to have the video taken in a place where there were no surveillance cameras.

RFA: You talked with many locals about the changes that have occurred in Xinjiang over the past few years. What stories did they share with you?

Abu: I met a herdsman whose livestock was taken away by the Chinese government in the name of  Poverty Alleviation. The herdsman and his family were then forced to relocate from their grazing area to government-arranged housing. The Chinese government also arranged jobs for them, so they do earn a wage. As a result, their income level met the poverty alleviation standard, and they became just another number in the data. Meanwhile, the Chinese government placed their children in a centralized education setting, claiming this was intended to provide childcare for the working parents.

Additionally, the ethnic minorities in the area—not just the Uyghurs, but everyone whose religion is Islam—are never allowed to leave Xinjiang. If anyone applies for a passport, the Chinese government will not issue it. There are checkpoints everywhere at the stops leaving Xinjiang. And if an ID identifies the holder as an ethnic minority person, that person is not allowed to leave their town, to say nothing of leaving the country. It is almost as if these people in the region are in a lockdown.

RFA: In the videos of Xijiang shot by China’s official media outlets, Xinjiang residents praise China and thank the CCP. However, the outside world has also seen many reports and classified documents about the re-education camps in Xinjiang. What was the Xinjiang that you saw like?

Abu: I would categorize the Xinjiang people in two groups. One group consists of those who may benefit from this policy. In some of the tourist spots, for example, the Xinjiang people there would shout “Thank you, Party! Thank you, our Country!” as soon as they saw me. Maybe they really felt grateful for the Chinese government, or maybe they did this to protect themselves. Nevertheless, other civilians that I came in touch with slowly revealed some more details. They felt too helpless, sad, or scared to say much about the re-education camps or the tight controls imposed on the ethnic minorities.

One Xinjiang man told me that his brother was taken away and was never again seen again after the police found a copy of Koran in the house. In many situations, Xinjiang people are monitored, warned, taken away, or even jailed. And those prisoners turned silent when they got out. They would say “the Party is really good to me,” but you could see that the way he spoke and his facial expressions were completely contradictory.

RFA: What was the atmosphere like in Xinjiang?

Abu: I felt very oppressed. I could walk in the main roads, but if I turned into any alleyway, there would be a check stop. Foreign tourists like us are not allowed in many areas.

To see more around the Old Town, I used the cabs a lot. I would ask the cabbie to drive me to some place, and then I could chat with the driver. On one of these rides, my driver became infuriated during our conversation. He said, ‘It is not free here at all. Even a dog would be happier here than humans.The humans want to leave town, but they are not allowed to.’

It was as if the entire town had become a huge jail house. Everyone is trapped inside.

RFA: Xijiang was not like this at all before. When did all these changes begin?

Abu: The locals said it was after the July 2009 Urumqi Riots.

RFA: What are the things that the Xinjiang civilians want the outside world to know?

Abu: They want the world to know what the Chinese government is doing to them: the re-education camps, the random checks and surveillance, and the manipulating of ethnic minority groups to spy on one another.

I could feel the sense of their helplessness from their body language and from their eyes. It was as if you were trying to hold still against a flood, but still got washed away. When I was in Xinjiang, the Muslims were celebrating Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice. Eid al-Adha is an important Muslim holiday celebrated around the world. In China, Muslims in Qinghai or Gansu may be able to gather and celebrate, but not in Xinjiang.  Here, the Muslims were told to return home once the celebration was over. They could not congregate on the streets, because no gatherings were allowed.

On the morning of the holiday, people went onto the streets to celebrate, but the police then announced through a PA system that everyone should return home. That was it. The largest Mosque in Kashgar was also banned from holding any gatherings. I feel that the entire culture is being annihilated.

One day, I saw a poster in an abandoned house. The content was even more disgusting. The poster was about the Chinese version of Dos and Don’ts with regards to the Islamic culture. For example, the Muslims eat Halal food, but the poster said that parents are forbidden to tell children to eat only Halal food. There are many prohibition orders like that in Xinjiang. These orders are forcibly destroying the Muslims’ religious culture.

RFA: Why did you end your trip early and return to Taiwan?

Abu: My experience in the Kashgar Airport really spooked me. The airline agent tore up my flight ticket and would not let me board my flight. He asked me to return to the hotel that I had checked out from earlier. Luckily, I was able to book another flight right away, using my new “Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents” (MPT) number. My second attempt to leave the region was successful, and I managed to fly to Sichuan.

However, as soon as I passed the border control, I was immediately taken to a small room. There were many video cameras pointing at me. The interrogator asked me what I was doing in China? What did I do on a specific date? All my belongings were tossed around and searched, all my memory cards confiscated. I probably would not have been able to make it back to Taiwan at all had I not synced all my videos to cloud storage in real time and burned all my video-containing memory cards before I left.

I arrived at the airport in Sichuan in the early morning at 4 a.m. The search and interrogation there lasted for almost four hours, and I eventually caught a 9:00 flight to Macau. When I landed in Macau, I almost burst into tears. I no longer needed the MPT. From here on I could use my passport, issued by the Republic of China, Taiwan.

RFA: What was the biggest impact this trip had on you?

Abu: I did not expect that so many locals would share their information with me. They trusted me to tell their stories. I am now a firm believer in the idea that freedom is a birthright. I have seen so much beautiful scenery in Xinjiang, but the stories of its people are the sorrows that need to be told.

Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org

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Top

India News Brief

 1 June, 2020

India Records Highest Single Day Increase of 8,392 Cases

India's COVID-19 Figure Reaches 1,91,041 Death Toll: 5,413

India's Most Affected States:

Maharashtra: Total Positive Cases:67,655 Total Deaths: 2,286

Gujarat: Total Positive Cases: 16,794 Total Deaths: 1,038

Madhya Pradesh: Total Positive Cases: 8,089 Total Deaths: 350

West Bengal: Total Positive Cases: 5,501 Total Deaths: 317

Delhi: Total Positive Cases: 19,844  Total Deaths: 473

Rajasthan: Total Positive Cases: 8,980 Total Deaths: 194

Uttar Pradesh: Total Positive  Cases: 7,823 Total Deaths: 213

Tamil Nadu : Total Positive Cases: 22,333 Total Deaths: 173

Andhra Pradesh: Total Positive Cases: 3,679 Total Deaths: 62

Telengana: Total Positive Cases: 2,698 Total Deaths: 82 

Karnataka: Total Positive Cases: 3,221 Total Deaths: 51

Punjab: Total Positive Cases: 2,263 Total Deaths: 45

Jammu and Kashmir: 2,446 Total Deaths: 28

Lockdown extends till June 30

  • International air travel, Metro rail services not allowed 

Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places; and, social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions/ and other large congregations will not allowed.

  • Places of worship, hotels will open from June 8 with specific guidelines.

According to MHA guidelines, in Phase II, schools, colleges, educational/ training/ coaching institutions etc., will be opened after consultations with States and Union Territories.

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission or approval or e-permit will be required for such movement

But  states have the freedom to decide on public movement.

COVID-19: Delhi Death Toll Rises to 82 in Last 24 Hours

Probable Guidelines for Lockdown 5.0.

More travel routes are likely to open in Lockdown 5.0.

From June 1, the Railways will operate 100 pairs of mail or express trains, bookings have already begun. Then AC class services will resume.

Some states have already begun intra-state buses. Other states may  begin intra-tate bus services after June 1.Metro  services may begin in a limited manner, with lesser passenger capacity, social distancing norms and longer stops at each station.

Shops selling non-essential items were allowed to open during Lockdown 4.0.. More shops may open in Lockdown 5.0 even in markets.But no confirmed news regarding opening of shopping malls.Now many shops that have re-opened in market areas are operating on an odd-even basis.

Some cities have already allowed salons and beauty parlours to open with strict social distancing guidelines and wearing protective gear is a must.In containment areas the same rule may prevail in Lockdown 5.0.

The Human Resource Development Ministry of India will soon announce the guidelines of   schools reopening.

How to identify Fake News or Messeges on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on viral social media messages such as Coronavirus Infected Indian Currencies of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 Notes Found, Muslim Man Spit in Food At Indian Restaurant.....Always Check Authentic Sources.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they are developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

 

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+919073399779

COVID-19 Related Conspiracy Theories:
https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/china-covid19

 

 

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