Mihray Erkin, a graduate of Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University with a degree in plant biotechnology who had gone on to complete a related master’s degree in Tokyo University before becoming a researcher at Japan’s Nara Institute of Science and Technology, returned to the XUAR in August 2019 after authorities in Kashgar put her parents under pressure to call her home.
In late 2020, RFA’s Uyghur Service reported that Erkin was believed to have died while in detention in one of the XUAR’s vast network of internment camps, where authorities in the region are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since early 2017. The report could not be independently confirmed at the time. After denying the camps' existence initially, China in 2019 changed tack and began describing the facilities as residential training centers that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism.
But reporting by RFA and other media outlets indicate that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often-overcrowded facilities.