Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has been successful in passing a motion in the Senate, condemning political internment camps as the tool of brutal totalitarian governments and urging Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to raise concerns about their existence with those governments.
The news comes as Sydney community services worker and mother of three Zulfia Erk — who has five brothers locked up in detention camps in northwest China — broke down in tears as she told her story for the first time.
“It is not really easy for me to share this story because obviously the rest of the family will be affected,” she told The Australian.
“(My brother’s) wife or kids, for example, I have no idea if they are going well or not; it’s hard to get any information from them.
“Many people here, Uighurs, think if we keep silent that helps, but actually it’s not, it’s not helping us. It’s allowing (China) to keep doing it — and my brothers have ended up in a camp.”
A UN human rights panel said this month it had received many credible reports that as many as one million ethnic Uighurs in China could be detained and that the region of Xinjiang in northwest China now resembled a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.
The Australian can reveal that the federal government has privately acknowledged that ethnically Uighur Chinese citizens are being locked up arbitrarily and has pledged to work with the Uighur community to investigate the situation in Xinjiang.
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