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Uighur activists say Chinese men committing ‘mass rape’ in Xinjiang



A Uighur activist has spoken out against China’s controversial “Pair Up and Become Family” program, in which Han Chinese men are sent to live with Uighur women in China’s western region of Xinjiang, many of whose husbands have been sent to prison camps.

The program, first introduced in 2017, was recently discussed in a report by Radio Free Asia, citing two unnamed Chinese officials. The report detailed the horrors of the program, including that many of the Chinese men would often sleep in the same beds as the women.

“Normally one or two people sleep in one bed, and if the weather is cold, three people sleep together,” one official told RFA.

“It is now considered normal for females to sleep on the same platform with their paired male ‘relatives,'” he said in reference to the men who are referred to as “relatives” even though they are not family. 

Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang region.

Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region.

According to the report, these Chinese officials typically stay in Uighur households for up to six days at a time, and work and eat with Uighur families, as well as discuss Communist Party political ideology.

“They help [the families] with their ideology, bringing new ideas,” the official told RFA. “They talk to them about life, during which time they develop feelings for one another.”

Chinese officials have claimed that the program is used to promote “promote ethnic unity,” officials say, but it also lets the government keep close tabs on ethnic minorities living in Xinjiang. 

Rushan Abbas, a US-based Uighur activist whose family members have been detained in one of what is believed to be hundreds of detention centers in the region, told Australian news outlet that the program is part of systemic rape against Uighur women.

“This is mass rape,” she told “The government is offering money, housing and jobs to Han people to come and marry Uighur people.” 

Uighur Muslims

Muslim Uighurs rest at the entrance of a mosque in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang province, near the border with Afghanistan Sunday Sept. 23, 2001.

She added that it is often difficult for Uighur women to refuse the advances of these men because of the ongoing crackdown in the region against the minority group under the guise of counter-terrorism. 

“Neither the girls nor their families can reject such a marriage because they will be viewed [by Chinese authorities] as Islamic extremists for not wanting to marry atheist Han Chinese,” she told the outlet. “They have no choice but to marry them.”

“[The Han Chinese] have been raping Uighur women in the name of marriage for years,” she added. 

China has been accused of running mass detention centers in Xinjiang. Interviews with people who were held in the camps reveal allegations of beatings and food deprivation, as well as medical experimentation on prisoners.

China has acknowledged the existence of some “reeducation camps” but repeatedly denied any reports of abuse at its facilities.

The region has a population of about 10 million citizens, many of whom are Uighur or other ethnic minorities, and in May, Assistant Secretary of US Defense Randall Schriver said “at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens” were detained in these facilities.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last year called on China to “halt the practice of detaining individuals who have not been lawfully charged, tried, and convicted for a criminal offense in any extra-legal detention center.” The committee also called out China’s practice of racial and ethnic profiling and heavy-handed restrictions that disproportionately target the Uighur community. 

Satellite images reviewed by the Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement earlier this month identified at least 465 detention centers, labor camps, and suspected prisons in Xinjiang.

A recent leak of classified Chinese government documents known as the “China Cables” laid out a manual for exactly how the detention centers were to operate, from preventing escape by double locking all the doors to using a “points system” based on behavior that is linked “directly to rewards, punishments, and family visits.”

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