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The shocking allegations of systematic sexual abuse of ethnic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region, detailed in a recent BBC report, did not come as a surprise to Arfat Erkin, a Uighur student living in the United States. “It is something all Uighurs know subconsciously,” the 23-year-old told me. “We all knew that, but we never brought it up or faced it, because it’s devastating.”
The BBC’s reporting reveals the gravity and scale of the atrocities allegedly committed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang, where more than a million Uighurs—and perhaps several million—are being held in a vast and growing network of concentration camps. Past investigations and interviews with former detainees have found evidence of intensive indoctrination, forced sterilization and torture, but the horror documented by the BBC is on another level.