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Catalina Lobo-Guerrero is a freelance journalist and anthropologist currently living in Barcelona, Spain. For the past decade she has been working as an investigative journalist and correspondent in Bogotá, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela where has written about politics, corruption, the armed conflict and violence. Her work has been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, El País and other smaller and independent media outlets in Latin America.
Foreign Policy's First Person Podcast interviews Gulchehra Hoja, an Uighur Chinese journalist who works for Radio Free Asia. Her family has been taken to one of the many "reeducation camps" in the Xinjiang province. According to the United Nations, one million people are being held in these camps, and most governments around the world are failing to take a stance against the human rights abuses people are suffering. The few Uighur who have escaped the camps talk of torture and brainwashing. Others have disappeared and their family has never heard from them again.
Hoja recounts how her family—23 people, including her elderly parents, brothers, aunts and cousins—were detained a few months ago. Only her 72-year-old mother was released after nine days of being chained and held inside the camp, hooded and without proper food and medicines. She was then taken to a local hospital.
There are between 11 and 15 million Uighur muslims. For thousands of years they've had autonomous self rule, they speak a different language and have a distinct culture. But the Chinese government considers them an undesirable minority and have taken increasingly worse actions to erase the Uighur people's identity and culture.
Besides the camps, in the province's main cities the government has bulldozed mosques, banned beards and ankle-length skirts. They have banned Uighur language and books in schools. They have gone to the extreme of forcing Han Chinese officials to live in Uighur people's homes with them. This journalist calls the government's strategy "occupation". Most recently, the government has been using spy ware and facial-recognition technology—provided by US companies—to spy and keep track of Uighur people through their own phones. "They even want to occupy your mind," says Hoja.