An international Uyghur organization has expressed concern over the health and safety of Uyghurs detained in internment camps in China’s Xinjiang region who they say are at particular risk of the coronavirus outbreak.
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) exile group said efforts to contain the coronavirus, which has spread to 16 countries, killing 106 and infecting 4,500, had been “largely unsuccessful.”
The WUC cited the Chinese New Year, when hundreds of millions of people travel domestically and internationally for the holiday season, as one reason efforts to stem the spread of the virus have failed.
The congress also blamed Beijing for the rapid increase in corona virus cases.
“Chinese authorities were slow to react and take concrete actions to limit the spread of the virus. As a result, several cases of the virus have already been confirmed in East Turkistan (the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang),” the WUC said.
“The WUC is very concerned that if measures are not taken to further limit the spread of this virus, it could rapidly infect large numbers of people living in East Turkistan. The estimated 1-3 million Uyghurs still being detained in internment camps by the Chinese government are at a particular risk if the virus is not contained.”
On Jan. 24, Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur service reported that the sprawling network of camps where an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are being detained in Xinjiang could serve as a virtual incubator for the virus.
WUC president Dolkun Isa told RFA that overcrowding and “filthy conditions,” in addition to poor diet, a lack of medical care, and torture, had already led to a weakening of detainee’s immune systems and the contraction of serious illnesses.
Isa reiterated that point in the latest statement, noting that a “large number of Uyghurs who were detained in the camps have already died, either under mysterious circumstances or due to medical neglect and mistreatment.”
He noted the elderly were particularly at risk, as they have constituted a large portion of the corona virus fatalities due to their compromised immune systems. Isa said the elderly at the internment camps were therefore of “particular concern.”
“This virus constitutes a significant risk to all people in East Turkistan, especially those detained in the internment camps,” Isa said
“These people are in a vulnerable and weakened state due to the Chinese government’s abuses and mistreatment. This has just further compounded the suffering of the Uyghur people, as our friends and family are now in even greater danger.”