Coronavirus to hit Uyghur camps

The deadly Coronavirus infection is a virus caused by an outbreak of respiratory illness that was first found in Wuhan, China, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The spreading was found to originate from an animal passing the virus to a person, as seen from the first patients who were infected. 

This virus is predominantly found in camels, cats, cattle and bats, and close contact with people with the virus can result in infection. The virus has now spread to a number of countries, with a death toll of 361 nationwide according to China’s Health Commission. 

As the coronavirus spreads, one of the most vulnerable areas currently is the Xinjiang region. The Xinjiang region, also known as East Turkestan, holds the Chinese concentration camps which detain Uyghur and Turkic ethnic groups. In these camps, detainees are compacted into small cells that hold a range from 30–40 people. 

The conditions of these camps are a human rights violation, as detainees are tortured and used as test subjects. The cells are unclean and the detainees access to healthcare is prohibited and treatment is not up to a humane level. On the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists website, it has documents by Chinese officials stating how the camps are structured. 

A testimony by Sayragul Sauytbay, a Kazakh woman who witnessed the camps structure, said this:

“There were almost 20 people in a room of 16 square meters. Each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day. … The food was bad, there weren’t enough hours for sleep, and the hygiene was atrocious. The result of it all was that the inmates turned into bodies without a soul.”

This is a serious situation that can become increasingly deadly if the conditions of the camps are not tended to. International Health Organizations must be notified as soon as possible before the spread of this worsens. The concentration camps are already an ongoing problem that needs international attention, and now with the virus, Uyghur and Turkic detainees’ lives are at risk. 

“There are at least 465 such camps spread across the region, according to research by the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement activist group last year,” said Bill Bostock from the Business Insider. 

Treatment for the Coronavirus in China has filled hospitals, with multiple doctors and nurses working, covering themselves head to toe to treat patients. 

“They’re barely getting enough [aid] for Han Chinese citizens, let alone getting it out to Xinjiang,” said Arslan Hidayat, an Australian Uyghur activist, to news.com.au. “If it does end up spreading, the Uighurs won’t get the same kind of support that they’re getting in Wuhan and cities on the eastern seaboard.”

This is a major public health and human right issue and must gain the attention of multiple organizations that may be able to travel to China. The camps cannot be silenced.