Ethan Gutmann, a fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said he learned of the Ovalbek’s plight from the Uyghur Christian Network in Central Asia. He recognized some specific personal qualities in meeting with Ovalbek beginning in early 2020, Gutmann said:
- His “understanding of the long claw of Chinese security;”
- His “precision.” Ovalbek memorized details about the camp and cross-examined his fellow inmates, Gutmann said.
Chinese officials took Ovalbek from his home in Xinjiang in February 2018 because they said he had stayed longer on a previous trip to Kyrgyzstan than was allowed, Axios reported. Ovalbek and other inmates were tortured in “tiger chairs,” devices in which prisoners are frequently held in painful positions for hours or days. They were shocked with electric prods when they sought to change their positions, he said, according to Axios.
Other prisoners and he were forced to take pills and herbal teas, as well as “different kinds of injections,” Ovalbek said. The prisoners experienced hearing loss and fluids leaking from their ears after injections, he told Axios. He was unable to walk for months and had to be carried by other prisoners, Ovalbek said, according to Axios.
Sen. Marco Rubio R-Fla., and Smith urged the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to speed up the family’s journey to the United States, Axios reported. Gutmann, China Aid President Bob Fu and Conor Healy, government director of IPVM, a leading authority on video surveillance, played important roles in helping Ovalbek and his family reach the United States.
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The CCP’s oppressive practices in Xinjiang include tracking Uyghurs by means of a high-tech surveillance system that has obtained genetic data on many residents, according to reports. It is estimated more than 1 million of the 12 million Uyghurs, and maybe as many as 3 million, have been detained in “re-education” camps. Forced labor by prisoners is common. Life in the camps reportedly can result in indoctrination, as well as rape, torture and coercive organ harvesting. Uyghur women are also at the mercy of forced abortions and sterilizations.
In December, President Biden signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill supported by the ERLC and other religious freedom and human rights organizations. The law prohibits products made with forced labor in Xinjiang from being introduced into the American market.
This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.