Beyshekan Kamza, a 38-year-old resident of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, cannot stop thinking about China. A relative there told her that her father and sister have been incarcerated in a reeducation facility in the country’s northern region of Xinjiang -- for 15 years and two years, respectively.
But she has no way of knowing for sure.
Beijing denies that these facilities are meant for the forcible reeducation of Muslim minorities such as ethnic Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Uyghurs. It terms the buildings “vocational educational centers,” which offer job-skills training and Chinese history and language classes, among other lessons, to counteract supposed extremist influences. Individuals who spent time in the facilities, however, speak of prison-like conditions, violence, and claim they were exposed to day-long communist propaganda.
Three years ago, before the reported “reeducation” of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang began, Kamza, an ethnic Kyrgyz, left China for Kyrgyzstan with her husband and four children. She uses word-of-mouth reports from other migrants to keep track of the family she left behind.
Kamza told Current Time that other ethnic Kyrgyz migrants from China claim that her sister was released from a reeducation camp after Current Time broadcast Kamza’s story in November 2018. Neither Current Time nor Kamza can confirm that information.
After receiving word of her father and sister’s alleged detention, Kamza feared calling China and placing them in potentially greater difficulty, she says.
Nor has the Kyrgyz government apparently been able to clarify matters further. Although Kamza is now a Kyrgyz citizen, officials have not answered her appeal for assistance, she claims.
Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a Current Time request for comment.
Despite recurring protests in Kyrgyzstan against the alleged detention of ethnic Kyrgyz in these “centers,” Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jerenbekov underlined at a December 19, 2018 press conference that Bishkek “should respond very gingerly, delicately” to the issue. “How can we interfere in the internal affairs of China?” he asked. He stated that his government is “working through diplomatic channels” to learn more about the status of ethnic Kyrgyz in the camps.