Uyghur Children Kidnapped by the State, Put in Xinjiang’s State-Run ‘Orphanages’

Uyghur Children Kidnapped by the State, Put in Xinjiang’s State-Run ‘Orphanages’
Hotan City Kindness Kindergarten in Xinjiang. (Supplied)
Isabel van Brugen

Uyghur children of parents who are detainees in “political re-education” camps or living in exile are being placed into state-run “orphanages” in Xinjiang by local authorities, a traumatized father has told The Epoch Times.

Last year, Xinjiang-born Uyghur businessman Adel Abdukadir, 50, who is currently living in exile in Turkey, had four of his children aged 3 to 8 taken away by authorities in Xinjiang. The children were placed in an “orphanage” in the remote northwestern region of China and he has since lost contact with them. He told The Epoch Times he is worried as he doesn’t know if he will ever be able to see them again.

Abdukadir with his wife and four children. (Supplied)
Abdukadir with his wife and four children. (Supplied)

The news follows orders by Chen Quango, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Secretary in Xinjiang, to relocate all “orphans” in Xinjiang to state facilities by 2020.

The CCP’s policy in Xinjiang defines “orphans” as “children who have lost their parents or whose parents cannot be found.” Under the order, children cared for in “a scattered manner,” such as those under the care of extended family members, can also be placed in the institutions.
While China has said the orphanages help disadvantaged children and “improve their living standards,” a Uyghur worker at an orphanage in southern Xinjiang described the conditions as “seriously overcrowded” and “terrible,” with children aged between six months and 12 years “locked up like farm animals in a shed,” Radio Free Asia reported in July 2018.

Abdukadir’s former wife, mother, and brother have also been imprisoned, and his younger sister Amina died while being questioned by the authorities in one of Xinjiang’s many internment camps.

As part of its escalating campaign named “strike hard,” which the CCP says is aimed at cracking down on terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism in the country, the Chinese regime has detained “upwards of one million” Uyghurs in Xinjiang, according to figures quoted by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the United Nations.

Earlier this week, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said British diplomats who visited Xinjiang in August confirmed that reports of ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs being held in mass internment camps in Xinjiang are “broadly accurate.”

The UK statement came just seven days before the U.N. to is set to meet and review China’s status as permanent member of the security council before a human rights panel in Geneva on Nov. 6.

Turn for the Worse After Trip to Turkey

The harrowing string of events came after Abdukadir travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, with his wife, Meripet, to visit relatives in March 2017. Their four children were left in the care of his mother and sister-in-law in their home in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

“My wife has some relatives here [in Turkey], and we were planning to go back shortly,” Abdukadir told The Epoch Times in a phone interview from Istanbul.

But little did Abdukadir know that his decision to leave on an overseas trip would force him and his wife to live in exile and in the dark about the wellbeing of their children and family in Urumqi.

Abdukadir’s four children—Adile, Abdurahman, Muhemmed, and Abdulla—were forcibly taken from their home and sent to live in the Hotan City Kindness Kindergarten in southern Xinjiang.

After just 17 days in the orphanage, photos of his children taken by an individual inside the facility, who Abdukadir says he cannot name, reveal visible marks on their skin.

Abdukadir's four children after 17 days in Hotan City Kindness Kindergarten, Xinjiang. (Supplied)
Abdukadir's four children after 17 days in Hotan City Kindness Kindergarten, Xinjiang. (Supplied)

“My children had scars on their faces. I can see they are getting mistreated and tortured so badly there—I can see it from their eyes and bodies,” he said.

“It’s like my kids are in jail,” Meripet told The Associated Press. “My four children are separated from me and living like orphans.”

Totalitarian Regime Sees No Wrong, Its Citizens Live in Fear

A report published by state newspaper Xinjiang Daily in February described the children in the Hotan City Kindness Kindergarten as growing “taller” and “fatter” soon after arriving at the orphanage.
And since the beginning of 2017, the CCP has set out a budget of over 200 million Chinese yuan ($30 million) to construct or expand at least 45 orphanages with beds to fit approximately 5,000 children, AP found after reviewing procurement notices in Xinjiang.

Abdukadir and his wife are unable to travel back to Xinjiang for fear of persecution, he said. Abdukadir and his wife have also given birth to another son in Turkey. Travelling to a foreign country or contact with relatives abroad are currently seen as crimes in the eyes of the CCP. Other reasons Uyghurs have been detained include growing beards in accordance with Uyghur tradition and attending religious gatherings.

“We feared going back home because everyone who goes overseas is sent to jail or detained in camps. We thought we would definitely would be sent to prison,” he said.

Uyghur Families Torn Apart

The first blow for Abdukadir upon arriving to Turkey last year was hearing the news that his brother had been sentenced to five and a half years in prison, “probably for talking to me,” he said.

Then Abdukadir’s former wife was sentenced to 20 years in jail “for being my wife, to punish me for not returning to Xinjiang, and because she can read Arabic and the Quran,” Abdukadir continued.

Abdukadir's 72-year-old mother and daughter. (Supplied)
Abdukadir's 72-year-old mother and daughter. (Supplied)

Meanwhile, his retired 72-year-old mother has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for listening to an extract of the Quran at a friend’s party and sending photos of his children to him through the Chinese messaging app, WeChat, while Abdukadir was in Turkey. “She did nothing wrong her whole life—this is unimaginable,” Abdukadir said.

His sister, who was severely ill before being detained in Xinjiang’s camps, died “while being questioned by authorities, [because of] their destructive treatment.”

Abdukadir says he is regularly blackmailed for speaking to the media by those he believes are individuals working for the CCP. His blackmailers told him his mother will die in prison in Xinjiang.

“Another threat was that I’ll never be able to see my children, that they’ll disappear,” Abdukadir continued.

“This is all too much, too painful and too psychologically damaging for me. There is nobody left in my whole family and I don’t know what to do.”

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Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
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