Thousands of Uyghurs Detained in a Gansu Prison

As a neighboring province of Xinjiang, Gansu has become one of the destinations for transferring detained Uyghurs.

A prison where Uyghurs are detained in Gansu’s Jiuquan city.

Li Wensheng

As Bitter Winter has previously reported, to hide the mass detention of Uyghurs, the Chinese authorities are transferring large numbers of detainees from the overcrowded prisons and transformation through education camps in Xinjiang to other provinces in China, such as Shaanxi, Gansu, Heilongjiang, and others.

According to the latest reports, at least 1,000 Uyghurs are being detained at a prison in Gansu Province’s Wuwei city. Sources who reside in the city inform that, in the fall of 2018, a street leading to the city’s prison was cordoned off entirely for two days, and all vehicles and pedestrians were prohibited from passing through.

The first day, an armed police unit used police vehicles to escort more than a dozen buses to the prison, but quickly turned around and left. Sources presume that it was a drill. The following day, at around two o’clock in the morning, over a dozen buses transferred a group of Xinjiang-based Uyghurs from Wuwei city’s railway station to the prison.

“That night, both sides of the street were lined with armed police. Three police cars accompanied each bus. All of the Uyghurs were handcuffed and had leg shackles, and each was escorted by two police officers,” one eyewitness said as he described the scene of the night.

An insider who preferred to remain anonymous said that this group of transferred Uyghurs consisted of approximately 1,000 people, all of whom had been sentenced, some to prison terms of up to 20 years. The source ascertained that the detained are in handcuffs and leg shackles every day.

One network technician in Xinjiang told Bitter Winter that prisons in Xinjiang are being built extremely rapidly. Merely a few days after one prison’s network system had been designed, the technician had to go to another prison to deelop its network system. According to him, these prisons have long been overcrowded, and the vast number of new prisons that the government builds is not enough to accommodate all. As a result, many new prisons are now under construction in Gansu.

Bitter Winter exposed earlier that Uyghurs were being sent to and detained at Cuijiagou Prison in Shaanxi Province’s Tongchuan city. According to the recent information, the detainees at the prison are being mistreated and abused.

A local source told Bitter Winter, “Their hands and feet are shackled together. Even when sleeping, the shackles aren’t removed, making them maintain a stooping position 24 hours a day. If a detainee is disobedient, he or she might even be put to death. Upon hearing prison guards call out their name, some Uyghurs are so scared that they tremble in fear, or even wet their pants.”

According to a March 26 Radio Free Asia report, hundreds of thousands of people in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture have been secretly transferred to other areas, but their exact destination is unknown. Prisons in various provinces of China have been undergoing renovation and development projects in the past few years. According to the report, based on the information from government websites, the size of prisons in China has been expanding: Over the past six years, 200 prisons have expanded to varying degrees, and since 2018, 34 prison expansion projects have been launched.

 Radio Free Asia’s own online research results showed that many prisons that were being renovated were not included on the official lists. This demonstrates that the actual number of prison reconstruction projects is larger than reported.

The report also quotes Di Lishati, the spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress in Germany, as saying that many illegally detained Uyghurs have been transferred out of the Xinjiang region’s transformation through education camps. The prisons are overcrowded, and the Chinese authorities have planned to transfer gradually the detained to the inland provinces of China where they will continue to be incarcerated and oppressed.