Image: VOC Youtube channel
Victims of Communism hosted a press conference at the Willard Hotel Washington, DC, to hear the testimony of Ovalbek Turdakun, a Kyrgyz Christian from East Turkistan (Uyghuristan) who had experienced detainment in a Chinese concentration camp.
Turdaqun, who his local community calls ‘Yosef’, was incarcerated for ten months and subjected to torture and forced medical procedures.
Ethan Gutmann met ‘Yosef’ in an unfurnished Bishkek apartment in February 2020. ‘Yosef’ had successfully memorized many details from the camp, such as surveillance cameras and their makeup. He told, how the mandatory drug therapy had physically incapacitated him for several weeks. ‘Yosef’ also regularly cross-examined his cellmates on the exact conditions of the camps factory.
Here is his testimony.
Ovalbek Turdakun: “I was born in Xinjiang and and I am a Kirgiz.”
On February 10, 2018, at 7 am, the Chinese government officials came to my home and arrested me. First, they took me to the hospital, where they did a health check. From there I was transported to a ‘training center’.
The facility had a tall gate so that one could not see the courtyard. When a guard opened it, and I got in, they took off all my clothes: shoes, belts, everything. It was winter and very cold. I was handcuffed and taken to another room accompanied by guards. They gave me camp clothing.
We went through many iron doors, and the surroundings smelled horrible. At one point, we reached a door, where they told me to go against the wall. The door had five locks, and they started opening them. The last lock was an electronic one, and somebody from the other side of the building had to push the button to unlock it.
The door opened so narrowly that only my head would fit through. I entered the tiny room that had twenty-six men in it. The bathroom was inside the room.
All twenty-six men had to sleep on this long bed. The government calls it a training center, but it’s a concentration camp.
In some camps, each man has his bed. In our cell, there was a long shelf-like bed. All twenty-six men were supposed to fit on that bed. Of course, that wasn’t possible. We slept in two-hour shifts.
There were cameras inside the room and a Hikvision camera on the wall. Everything was visible, even the bathroom. The cell was high, and there was a window on the ceiling, through which you could see the guards walking by.
The room that we stayed in was about four meters high. High up on the wall, there was a huge TV screen, that was streaming teaching sessions. There would be different kinds of programs on how China is developing, how it’s a happy and nice country, and China is becoming wealthier and happier.
They also showed clips of how escapees are brought back to China with black bags placed on their heads. They were saying that they can bring back anyone from any part of the world. They tried to intimidate us this way. Some videos praised the country as well as the communist party.
The food was given to the inmates through a hole in the window, and whatever they gave us, we had to eat. The camp wanted to give the impression, that the inmates ate a variety of healthy food, and that there were many choices to select from. That was not true.
The inmates had a lot of health issues. I also got ill. Some people had pre-existing health issues before their detainment, but most of us got serious health issues once we entered the camp.
They made us swallow different types of pills and medicines, and some yellow herbal tea, that smelled like medicine. They claimed it would help our health. The guards would not tell us what the drink contained. Neither did they tell us what the pills were.
We had to consume both the tea and the medication in the guards’ presence. Each inmate had his cup, where the potion was poured. The hot drink and the medication gave a red rash and pain in our legs and our eyes, and they affected our vision. Sometimes, after we had drunk the tea, they tested our blood again.
They also gave different us injections and told us they would calm us down. At least, this was what they expected to hear from us. During Ramadan, they forced Muslim inmates to drink and eat.
Most of the time, we were kept in a tiny room.
When we would go to the classrooms to receive some educational training, there would be multiple guards to keep an eye on us during the classes. They did not appear in the video. There was a screen between the teacher and the inmates, so the inmates could not see the teacher.
The classrooms also had many cameras. The guards had different types of guns. The classes were strict and heavily guarded. One could not walk around freely.
Also, there was a tiger chair. There were two types of tiger chairs in the building. One room with a window had a tiger chair and extra seats where others would sit. Also, there was a wall between those that would sleep on the other side.
The room, where the staff interrogated the inmates, was a regular room. There were also smaller rooms, and each had a tiger chair. Only one person could fit in the room. The walls were covered with a soft material that absorbed the noise. In case the person screamed or cried, no one outside would hear.
There were no windows and no light. The room was dark. The iron door was very thick. After the door was closed, you could not hear anything.
Perhaps because of Western influence, the local government established some ‘courts’. In these ‘courts’, they would assign a violent crime to each inmate. They would say that you had committed this kind of crime, and they would write it down and force you to sign it and add your fingerprint.
Each court session only lasted about two to three minutes. They quickly processed each person, and each inmate went through the same process. In case the inmate objected to the assigned crimes, he would receive an extra six months of ‘training’. You had to quietly accept whatever crimes they assigned to you.
I went through that court process, too. It lasted about three minutes. They pointed out I was married to a ‘foreign woman’ as my wife was from Kyrgyzstan. They claimed that I did not love my own country.
The Chinese government has a list of 26 blacklisted countries: Kyrgistan, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, Turkey, Syria, and so on. If you had ever visited these countries, you would be imprisoned for ten years. Once you are detained, they won’t tell you for how long. They just emphasize the Chinese government as being a peaceful entity.
When I needed to go outside, the guards would accompany me. I would need to walk through twelve iron doors. Each door had two guards and cameras were everywhere. One guard would walk behind me.
After the twelve doors, there is a heavily guarded open field.
Eventually, I was allowed to go home on December 17, 2018. They brought me home in the middle of the night. They would remove the inmates one at a time, during night hours. They gave me a change of clothes and took me to my house.
I had to sign a blank paper with my fingerprint, where I agreed not to discuss anything that happened in the camp, not even with my wife.
When I arrived home, my apartment was full of government officials. I was so happy to see my wife and my son.
For the next eight months, I was placed on house arrested and was made to wear a GPS watch on my wrist. The officials lock it tightly with a special key, and I could not remove it. They kept the key. The item looks like a watch with a time display and it runs on a battery. One should never turn it off. If you did so more than twice, you would have to go back to the camp. They even alerted me if the battery is running low, that I should recharge it. The officers visited me three times a day and take my photo.
House arrest for eight months.
After my release from the house arrest, we fled to Kyrgyzstan. We received multiple phone calls from the Chinese authorities and our credit cards were annulled.
Before 2017 there were 4,700 Uyghurs, today there are less than 600. Both Russian surveillance and Chinese agents operate within Kyrgyzstan’s borders. China constructs military bases there. The Chinese act as ‘slave catchers’. as if the neighboring countries were an extension of the Xinjiang camp system, Ethan Guttman said.