This is the first-hand account of Abdusalam Muhemet, a former business owner in his 40s, who was sent to a political “re-education camp” for 70 days in China. He now lives in exile in Turkey.
Since I’m innocent, I thought I would turn myself in. I had nothing to hide and I didn’t have anywhere to go. They took me to the National Security Bureau for interrogation. As soon as we got there, they took me somewhere to draw blood. Afterwards, they shaved my hair and ripped my clothes off, because we couldn’t wear any garments with buttons, and I was left with only my long underpants and a shirt. We entered the gate of the detention center, which was surrounded with cameras. The guards were all armed.
We were in a small, three-by-three meter room with a thin mat on the floor. Fifteen of us slept on it. Fifteen people. If we lay on our backs, we wouldn’t fit. Fifteen people with manacles on our feet. Two people using one blanket and lying back-to-back.
There was no toilet there, just a plastic bucket that we brought. Every 24-48 hours, it would be dumped out. Two people would use a blanket to cover us when we used the bucket in the cell. After we finished, the smell would take over the entire room. Two people were manacled to one another by their ankles. The other person whose leg was shackled to mine had to stand next to me while I did my business.
There was an old, hard chair which we had to sit in all day while a camera monitored us. Our buttocks hurt and we felt a stinging pain from sitting still, but if we ever moved—even slightly—they would yell and shout at us over the loudspeaker using very nasty words, and even sometimes come in and immediately begin beating us.
We had to suffer through all of this while we were only at the investigation stage - this was the situation before any of us were formally charged.