A letter from a prison guard of newly built Dabancheng Camp near Urumchi

Uighur Times



The original letter (in Chinese) was posted online by Erkin Azat on May 12, 2019 (link).

Also read more details about the Dabancheng camp from Shawn Zhang’s investigation.




My name is Berik, I am a prison guard of the new Concentration Camp in Dabancheng. My former job was a wedding photographer. Since 2016, business started to get worse and in 2017, it has become “popular” to be a “Hexie” police (the type of police for brainwashing people). My mother advised me to be a police officer so that I can have some income. I’ve found a job as a “Hexie” police, which I regretted it later. There is no holidays, wages are held back regularly, and sometimes it is delayed for several months. We work 24 hours a day under high degree of mental pressure, which often led to insomnia.


In late 2018, I was sent to a new concentration camp in Dabancheng. Because of the previous photography experience, I was sent to the camera surveillance room and I was in charge of the night shift. In fact, we were also watched by cameras behind our back. Our every move, such as “ NO going away from the camera, NO sleeping during work, No walking around”; eyes must stare at the condition of the camera every minute, if there is anything wrong that we ignored by mistake, then we are also to be punished, at least punished by confiscating one month’s salary, or will be sent to be “re-educated” in the camps. So we all feel like we are also locked up in those camp cells, not a real police.


The daily schedule for prisoners (camp) is:

05:00 get up and run in the morning of the playground;

07:00 eat breakfast;

08:00 ~ 12:00 Chinese teaching class, political class, law class;

12:00 ~ 14:00 lunch, lunch break;

14:00 ~ 18:00 continue to class;

19:00 dinner;

Study on 20:00 ~ 22:00;

23:00 tidy up the dormitory and sleep.


There are some “blind spots” in our surveillance system so we told prisoners about them so that they could secretly smoke cigarettes  there, which was sneaked in. However, once found smoking, they are punished with heavy penalties. In the beginning of the camp days, people complained about the strict rules here, but slowly everyone was adapted to the environment.


We have a ” couple’s room ” for the husband and wife to be together sometimes. One Winter, after a prisoner met with his wife, he was locked into the confinement room for 24 hours, and his meeting with his wife was also cancelled. It was because someone spotted an unusual and restricted move on the camera (yes, the couple’s room also has a hidden camera) that the wife brought a warm winter pants to her husband. She did it so secretly so that no one could find out, she wore two layers of winter pants so that she could give one to her husband. But they were caught on the surveillance camera, so that’s why the husband got punished. For catching this ‘illegal camp activity’, my colleagues on that day’s shift day was praised and given bonuses.


After the expansion of the camp in Dabancheng, one day more than 3000 young high school girls, around 18 years old, were brought there. A young girl standing in the first row whispered to me, ” brother, do whatever with my body, as long as you save me from here’. Upon hearing it, I can’t even look at her eyes. Her words echo in my mind every day.  


Sometimes the officers will go into our surveillance room to ” check ” the how are we doing. In fact, they are picking pretty girls to rape. They will ask us to zoom in the camera to find the pretty ones, and tell us jokingly to let us pick a beautiful one for them. I would politely refuse, but I couldn’t stop the officer from raping. The officer would then command other lower rank police officers to bring the ‘chosen one’ to the main office for a ‘talk’.  The office is half kitchen and half office and there are wine and food on one side and an office desk on the other. The desk registered many rapes, usually done by the main officer. Sometimes when he is drunk and happy, he also let other lower rank police officers gang rape (by multiple personnel) the ‘chosen girl’. After it is done and the girl is back to her cell, I could see she is crying inside, but she won’t say anything, because it is not permitted to cry inside the camps, no emotions are allowed to express. So she would suffer in silent in an extremely bad mood.


Our canteen cutlery is made of plastic to prevent self-harm. But one time there was a prisoner who was emotional, smashed the cutlery, and tried to break his stomach without success, then he was sent to a mental hospital.


One time two little guys were fighting inside, they knew there were blind spots, but their arms were captured by the camera, and then they were punished to sit still for 48 hours continuously, eating and relieving on the bench.


Among them, young people have to take an injection every month, while the elderly are only shot once in a concentration camp, saying it is to prevent a cold.


We will also be asked to recite the law, politics, and we have periodic tests. When the exam results are not good, then the inmates are punished heavily.


We also don’t feel safe outside the camps. One time guest came to our home and maybe our voice was a little louder, one Han-Chinese neighbor downstairs called the police and threatened to send us all into the “re-education camps”. Luckily , I knew the police who came and I am also a police, I was saved from the danger of being sent to the camps. We apologized to the Han neighbor for being loud and guaranteed him not to be loud anymore.




Uyghur Times

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