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Chinese Government Razes over 100 Uighur Cemeteries, Images Show

Hong Kong protesters rally in support of Xinjiang Uighurs’ human rights in Hong Kong, China, December 22, 2019. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The Chinese government has systematically razed over 100 Uighur cemeteries belonging to the Muslim minority group in Xinjiang province, according to satellite images reviewed by CNN.

Working for months to review images and collaborate with sources on the ground, CNN found that dozens of official Chinese government notices announcing the “relocation” of cemeteries corresponded to the destruction of traditional cemeteries. Another 60 gravesites have vanished entirely, a fact the Chinese government did not deny.

“Governments . . . in Xinjiang fully respect and guarantee the freedom of all ethnic groups . . . to choose cemeteries, and funeral and burial methods,” a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs read in part.

One official explained a prior “relocation” as necessary “to meet the demand of city planning and promote construction.”

The destruction of Uighur cemeteries was first reported in October by AFP and satellite imagery analysts Earthrise Alliance. They found at least 45 cemeteries had been destroyed since 2014, and reporters on the ground found shattered tombs and discarded human bones.

In southern Xinjiang, Uighurs were given two days to claim their dead or face “consequences” and the relocation of their deceased loved ones as “unclaimed corpse.”

China’s totalitarian crackdown against the Uighurs has received attention after a trove of government documents leaked to The New York Times revealed how the Chinese were systematically incarcerating Uighurs and separating families in the name of “training.”

A report in November detailed how the Chinese government created a “Pair up and Become Family” program to assign Chinese men to live with and monitor the families of detained Uighur men in order to “promote ethnic unity.”

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