This post is also available in: العربية Français

There is much international interest in the first memoir by a Uyghur survivor of China’s “re-education” camps.  How I Survived a Chinese ‘Re-education’ Camp is by Gulbahar Haitiwaji, who vanished for three years in China’s western desert after being tricked into leaving her adopted France.

She relates how she constantly feared death as she was subjected to a prison regime of daily brainwashing, given memory-eroding pills and forcibly sterilized.  The book gives both a powerful personal narrative and the bigger picture about what is happening to the mostly Muslim Uyghur people in China’s border province of Xinjiang.”

Originally published in France by Editions des Equaters under the title Rescapée du Goulag Chinois (Survivor of the Chinese Gulag), the book is co-written by Rozenn Morgat, a journalist with Le Figaro.  It has been sold to Seven Stories in New York and Canbury Press in the UK.  Martin Hickman, MD of Canbury Press, acquired non-US world English rights from Elisa Rodriguez at Humensis in Paris, which owns Editions des Equateurs.

Translation rights have now been sold in 12 languages so far: English, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish, Polish, Hungarian, Estonian, Danish and Czech.  Curiously, despite the book’s subject matter, an Arabic deal has not yet been secured.

Canbury plans to publish the book during the Beijing Winter Olympics in early February.  Hickman says: “We are urging the book trade to enjoy its right to freedom of expression and back How I Survived a Chinese ‘Re-education’ Camp.  Since 2017, one million Uyghurs have been interned, in what Beijing says is a crackdown on Islamic extremism. As part of a campaign of ethnic persecution, it has bulldozed mosques, banned prayer, forcibly sterilized women, and used facial recognition software to surveil the entire population, including installing CCTV in private homes.

“The US officially categorises China’s treatment of the Uyghurs as a “genocide”. The US, the UK, Canada and Australia are staging a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in protest at China’s human rights violations.”

He adds: “Whatever you think of the way we are governed in Britain, and the West, we are hugely fortunate to live in a free society. The Uyghurs in China aren’t so lucky. One of the world’s superpowers is using a variety of tactics, including the latest DNA technology and a covert network of remote jails, to wipe an entire culture off the face of the Earth.

“Gulbahar’s gripping and intimate memoir reveals a compelling human angle to this global issue. It is the story of what happens when an authoritarian state decides to crush an ordinary woman – and how she fights back. With its secret police and jails and pervasive surveillance, it reads like a 21st Century version of 1984.”