‘My brother vanished in China without a trace – this is a genocide’

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A woman has told how her brother went missing in China for four years, as the country comes under growing scrutiny for its alleged torture and detention of Uighur Muslims.

Rayhan Asat’s brother Ekpar disappeared three weeks after returning to the northwestern province of Xinjiang after finishing his studies in New York in 2016.

He is one of more than a million Uighur Muslims to vanish without trace.

Rayhan, 36, a lawyer based in New York, only recently discovered that her businessman brother, 34, had been sentenced to 15 years in prison at a secret trial on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination”.

She said: “Mentally and emotionally, that summer when my brother went missing was the most difficult. Just not knowing if he was alive or what had happened to him. It has been so long that my memories of him are fading.

“My parents are so scared to talk about him with me. That is the terror that the Chinese government has sewn in the Uighur people. This is a genocide.”

Rayhan continued: “With Uighur men detained, women sterilised, and Uighur children separated from their families, the Chinese government is carrying out a multi-pronged programme to destroy the Uighur people as a whole.”

Reports say that, along with torture and forced labour, China is forcing sterilisation or contraception on the Uighur to limit their population.

Outrage about the imprisonment of the Uighur in China is growing, but stories like Ekpar’s are hard to investigate.

Little is known about the vast detention camps, which can be seen on satellite images, that the Chinese Communist Party calls “transformation through education” centres.

In the camps, Uighurs’ heads are shaved, they are given prison uniforms and they are forced into gruelling factory work.

Drone footage emerged last week showing groups of shackled and blindfolded prisoners being loaded into trains in Xinjiang.

The drone footage led to calls from MPs for sanctions on China, along with calls for a review of technology used in the UK that China may be using to spy on Uighurs in Britain.

Another exile, Gulbahar Jalilova, 55, has told how she spent over 15 months in an tiny, crowded underground prison cell.

Accused of “terrorist activities”, she was sentenced to death. She said women were given tablets to stop their periods and injected with unknown substances.

China denies any forced labour or detention of ethnic minorities, and says those in the camps are there voluntarily.

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