It is no secret that the Xinjiang autonomous region in China has been running ‘re-education’ camps where millions of Uyghurs are made to denounce their ways of life, religious beliefs and practices. Now, a Chinese woman has come up with a claim that China is secretly running such detention facilities in Dubai also.
Wu Huan, the 26-year-old Chinese lady, who was reportedly on the run to avoid being extradited to China because her fiancé was a Chinese dissident, claimed that she was held for eight days at a Chinese-run ‘secret jail’ in Dubai. She added that she was placed in China’s ‘secret jail’ in Dubai with two other Uyghur Muslim detainees.
Speaking during an interview with The Associated Press from a safe house in Ukraine on June 30, 2021, Wu said she was abducted from a hotel in Dubai and detained by Chinese officials at a villa that they had converted into a jail. Here she saw or heard two other prisoners, both Uyghur Muslims.
The lady who is now seeking asylum in the Netherlands told the media house that she was kept in the detention camp for 8 days and released on June 8 after she being interrogated and threatened in Chinese and compelled to sign legal documents accusing her fiancé of harassing her.
Though persecution of Uyghur Muslims by Communist China in China is a well-established fact, Wu and her fiancé, 19-year-old Wang Jingyu, are not Uyghur but Han Chinese, the majority ethnicity in China. Wang is wanted by Chinese authorities following his social media posts criticising Chinese media coverage of the 2019 Hong Kong protests and questioning China’s conduct in a border dispute with India, as per the report.
The Associated Press report further stated that they were unable to independently corroborate or refute Wu’s statement as she was unable to pinpoint the exact location of the ‘black site’ where she was allegedly detained by the Chinese authorities. However, journalists have seen and heard confirming evidence such as stamps in her passport, a phone recording of a Chinese official questioning her, and text messages she sent from jail to the couple’s pastor, which go to attest her testimony.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its consulate in Dubai were contacted multiple times for a comment on this particular allegation. However, China did not respond. Dubai also ignored the multiple phone calls and requests for comment made with the Dubai Police, the Dubai Media Office and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
While black sites are operational inside Chinese territory, experts believe Wu’s account is the only proof that the communist government in China has set up a detention camp in another country.
‘Black sites,’ for the uninitiated, are secret prisons where prisoners are not charged with a crime and have no legal recourse. Many such ‘Black sites’, often in the form of hotel or guesthouse rooms, are used in China to deter dissenters from voicing their grievances against the Chinese leadership or for something trivial which might be in violation of orders of the Chinese dictatorship.
Recently, the Chinese authorities had detained more than 170 Uyghur Muslims for questioning after they offered prayers without permission during the occasion of Eid-al-Adha (Qurban Heyt), reported Radio Free Asia (RFA). The incident took place in Aksu city in Aykol township in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). According to a senior police officer, about 170 Uyghurs under the age of 50 years also offered prayers violating orders. As a result, they were held in custody for flouting the Eid guidelines.
Meanwhile, responding to Wu Huan’s allegations, Yu-Jie Chen, an assistant professor at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, said she had not heard of a Chinese secret jail in Dubai, and such a facility in another country would be unusual. She did, however, point out that it might be possible considering China’s habit of going the extra mile to ensure that it brings select citizens back, either through official means such as signing extradition treaties or unofficially by revoking visas or by creating pressure on the families back home.