China has forcibly separated Uighur Muslim families by holding children in state orphanages, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
The human rights group said children as young as five are forbidden from reuniting with their exiled parents.
Many Uighurs left their children with relatives when they fled the country for fear of persecution by the state.
Amnesty’s china researcher Alkan Akad said these parents are in an ‘impossible situation’. ‘Children are not allowed to leave, but their parents face persecution and arbitrary detention if they attempt to return home to care for them,’ he said.
The organisation claims that one million Uighur’s have been held in mass detention facilities in Xinjiang province since 2017.
Beijing insists these are ‘re-education’ centres, but Western observers say they amount to political indoctrination, forced labour and torture.
The organisation claims that one million Uighur’s have been held in mass detention facilities in Xinjiang province since 2017, officially known as ‘re-education centres’
A Uighur women and a child walk to board a passenger plane at the Airport in Kuqa, in western China’s Xinjiang region, in 2018
For the report, Amnesty interviewed families who fled persecution and are now seeking refuge in Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
One couple, Mihriban Kader and Ablikim Memtinin, fled Xinjiant for Italy in 2016 after being harassed by police and pressured to give up their passports.
They left their four children, aged 12-16, with their grandparents, but soon the grandmother was taken to a camp and the grandfather taken for interrogation.
After obtaining a permit from the Italian authorities for their children to join them, the kids travelled alone across China to the Italian consulate in Shanghai – but were intercepted by government officials and taken to the orphanage.
Mihriban said: ‘Now my children are in the hands of the Chinese government and I am not sure I will be able to meet them again in my lifetime.
‘The thing that hurts most is that, to my children, it’s as if their parents don’t exist anymore; as if we passed away and they are orphaned.’
Amnesty also spoke to Omer and Meryem Faruh, who also left their daughters, five and six, with their grandparents when they fled for Turkey in 2016.
The girls have since been taken to an orphanage, and the grandparents to camps.
Omer said: ‘We haven’t heard the voices of our daughters for the last 1,594 days.
‘My wife and I cry only at night, trying to hide our sorrow from our other kids here with us.’
Uighur protesters holding photographs of relatives they say they have not heard from in years, near the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey
Earlier this month, another report said China’s ‘re-education’ camps, mass imprisonment, forced sterilization, rape, and transfer of Uighur children to state institutions violated all five definitions of genocide laid out by the UN.
The Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy said China ‘bears state responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uighurs’.
Beijing has vehemently denied all claims of genocide in its western Xinjiang province, calling reports ‘preposterous’ and ‘a total lie’.
Ministers in Britain have stopped short of calling China’s treatment of Uighur’s a genocide, but are coming under pressure to act.
Tory MP Nus Ghani, a member of the Commons business committee, has called on the Government to step up requirements for companies to stamp out forced labour from their supply chains.
She told MailOnline: ‘We can no longer ignore the mounting inhumane abuse the Uighur are suffering.
‘With millions forced into slave labour or re-education camps we have the barbaric removal of children from their parents to break that family bond and institutionalise for the Chinese state.
‘Our allies the Americans have declared this a genocide – which means a destruction of a group of people – the vilest of all crimes against humanity. We must now step in and play our part in upholding international law and our hard fought values.’
A Chinese Government official recently replied to one of her tweets to accuse her of ‘ridiculous lies’.