‘Completely like a prison’

By Nathan Vanderklippe | The Globe and Mail

Before she was shocked with a stun gun to the head for spending more than the allotted two minutes in the toilet, and before she was handcuffed for 24 hours because guards accused her of letting another woman participate in religious washing, and before she was forced to make winter gloves for two pennies a piece – before all of that, Gulzira Auelhan remembers a Chinese police officer telling her she needed to be educated.

The classes would only last 15 days, the officer told her in mid-October, 2017. “You will be released very soon,” Ms. Auelhan, 38, remembers hearing. An ethnic Kazakh who was born in China but had been living in Kazakhstan, she had returned to China’s far western Xinjiang region to visit her father, who was ill.

Instead, over the course of 437 days, she was detained in five different facilities, including a factory and a middle school converted into a centre for political indoctrination and technical instruction, with several interludes of a form of house arrest with relatives.