Two days after Abdujelil Emet sat in the public gallery of Germany’s parliament during a hearing on human rights, he received a phone call from his sister for the first time in three years. But the call from Xinjiang, in western China, was anything but a joyous family chat. It was made at the direction of Chinese security officers, part of a campaign by Beijing to silence criticism of policies that have seen more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities detained in internment camps.
Emet’s sister began by praising the Communist party and making claims of a much improved life under its guidance before delivering a shock: his brother had died a year earlier. But Emet, 54, was suspicious from the start; he had never given his family his phone number. Amid the heartbreaking news and sloganeering, he could hear a flurry of whispers in the background, and he demanded to speak to the unknown voice. Moments later the phone was handed to a Chinese official who refused to identify himself.