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China has been accused of oppressing and breaching the human rights of the Uyghur people in its western Xinjiang province.

There have been widespread reports of Uyghur people being held against their will in “re-education” centres, undergoing forced contraception and being subjected to a range of other restrictions.

China says the claims are “baseless” and have repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uyghurs, saying they live in “peace and harmony”.

But who are the Uyghurs – pronounced “wee-gers” – and why might the Chinese state allegedly be targeting them?

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Uyghurs are predominantly Muslim

Who are the Uyghur people?

The Uyghurs are a group of people who live mostly in the Xinjiang area of China.

They have been living there for at least several hundred years and there is good evidence that they may have lived there in some form for several thousand years.

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They are generally regarded as a Turkic people, which means they speak a language related to Turkish and have ancestors who came from the traditional homeland of the Turks – north of central Asia.

But studies of their genetic make-up suggest that they also have ancestors who came from other parts of the world, with European DNA mixed with Chinese, south Asian, Siberian, and central Asian.

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There are reports Uyghur people are being held in ‘re-education’ centres

What have the Chinese been accused of?

China has been accused of interning one million Uyghurs in “re-education” centres in Xinjiang.

In 2019, leaked documents emerged that contradicted Chinese government claims that the detention camps were voluntary job training centres.

The classified papers appeared to confirm what former detainees had been saying, that the camps were centres for forced ideological and behavioural re-education, or brainwashing.

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Drone video of alleged Uyghur prisoners

The Chinese government has been accused of forcing Uyghur women and member of other minorities to take part in birth control as part of a campaign to curb its Muslim population.

Footage has emerged over the last few years purporting to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled prisoners – who were thought to be from the Uyghur population – being marched by guards in the Xinjiang city of Korla.

Sky News has also found evidence of children of exiled Uyghurs going missing in Xinjiang.

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Protesters hold flags in support of the Uyghurs in Hong Kong

Why might the Chinese oppress the Uyghurs?

Xinjiang, where an estimated 80% of China’s Uyghurs are said to live, is China’s most western province.

It is a politically sensitive region – surrounded by eight other countries.

As the home of a significant proportion of the Silk Road, it has long been used as a thoroughfare along which goods from China have travelled.

Some, possibly most, Uyghurs do not accept that Xinjiang is part of China, citing the evidence that Uyghur people lived in the area before Chinese Han and Tang dynasties set up protectorates.

Xinjiang, as it is now, came under Chinese Qing dynasty rule in the 18th century, but there have been many times in its history when it was not under Chinese control.

In modern times, China has been increasing the number of non-Uyghurs in Xinjiang, so the proportion of Uyghurs in the region is declining.

Some Uyghurs resent that they are becoming, in their view, increasingly marginalised in the land where they have lived for centuries.

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Uyghurs are a Turkic people, which means they speak a language related to Turkish

What unites the Uyghur people?

The Uyghurs are predominantly Muslim and have been for at least several hundred years.

But they have a rich and complex cultural history, stretching back millennia, with archaeological sites in Xinjiang showing that many in the past adhered to Buddhist beliefs, as well as those of other religions which now have relatively few followers.

A scene in the Bezeklik caves in Xinjiang from the 9th century showing people from many origins
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A scene in the Bezeklik caves in Xinjiang from the 9th century showing people from many origins

Artworks discovered in caves in Xinjiang were made by Buddhist devotees who are believed to have been among some of the ancestors of modern Uyghur people.

They show the diversity of the society at the time, with images dating from the fifth to 14th centuries of Indians, Persians, Chinese and even some resembling Europeans on the cave walls.

Uyghurs are also united by a common language, which is related to Turkish, and by a shared culture of music, dance, food and other traditions.

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The Uyghurs home in Xinjiang province is a politically sensitive region

How long have Uyghurs been in Xinjiang?

The oldest known inhabitants of the Tarim basin, a part of Xinjiang, are the Tarim mummies.

The mummified remains have European features and it has been claimed that the people spoke a language related to European Celtic. They lived about 3,800 years ago.

But there have been many influxes of people since then.

A 3,800-year-old mummified body found on the edge of the Tarim basin in Xinjiang, which is said to have European and other features
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A 3,800-year-old mummified body found on the edge of the Tarim basin in Xinjiang, which is said to have European and other features

One of the key factors that has influenced who lives in the area is the presence of the Silk Road – the main worldwide trade route from Roman to Medieval times – through Xinjiang along which travelled goods and people.

Some Chinese experts argue that Uyghur people arrived in Xinjiang around the eighth and ninth centuries after the fall of a society further north called the Uyghur Khaganate.

Other experts, however, say that those arrivals were just one of the many waves of immigration into the area, and the modern Uyghur population reflects those past movements of people.

This article was originally published in 2020.

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Israeli tank shells hit tent camp in Rafah killing at least 25, say Gaza health officials

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Israeli tank shells hit tent camp in Rafah killing at least 25, say Gaza health officials

At least 25 Palestinians have been killed, and 50 injured, after Israeli tanks are said to have fired on tents sheltering displaced families in Rafah, according to health officials and emergency workers in Gaza.

Witnesses said the latest attack in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, took place in Mawasi, western Rafah, a rural area on the Mediterranean coast that has become filled with makeshift tents.

One resident told Reuters: “Two tanks climbed a hilltop overseeing Mawasi and they sent balls of fire that hit the tents of the poor people displaced in the area.”

Palestinians in the aftermath of the attack that left at least 25 dead. Pic: AP
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Palestinians in the aftermath of the attack that left at least 25 dead. Pic: AP

Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

Witnesses whose relatives died in the attack near a Red Cross field hospital told The Associated Press that Israeli forces fired a second volley that killed people when they came out of their tents.

The locations of the attacks, provided by Civil Defence first responders, appear to be just outside an Israeli-designated safe zone on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the nearby hospital was flooded with casualties after the attack.

Hasan al Najjar, whose two sons were killed in the shelling, said: “We had a strike. My two sons left after they heard the women and children screaming.

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“They went to save the women and that’s when they struck the second missile, and my sons were martyred.

“They struck the place twice.”

A local hospital saw an influx of patients after the attack. Pic: AP
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A local hospital saw an influx of patients after the attack. Pic: AP

Mourners surround one of the dead. Pic: AP
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Mourners surround one of the dead. Pic: AP

Mona Ashour, who lost her husband, said: “We were inside our tent when a sound bomb exploded near the Red Cross tents.

“My husband went outside at the first explosion.

“Then, a second bomb went off, even closer to the Red Cross door, and people began to gather.

“I tried to communicate with my husband but was unable to.

“We fled as we were in our clothes, barefoot. I tried to communicate with him but could not.”

The Israeli military said it was looking into the strikes at the reported coordinates.

It has previously bombed locations in the vicinity of the “humanitarian zone” in Muwasi.

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The attack comes less than a month after an Israeli bombing caused a deadly fire that tore through a refugee camp in southern Gaza – drawing widespread international outrage.

Israel continues to push ahead with its military operation into Rafah where over a million Palestinians initially sought refuge from fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

However, most have now fled after Israel attacked the city in an effort, they said, to drive out Hamas.

Residents have said that Israel appears to be trying to complete its capture of the city and tanks have been forcing their way into western and northern parts.

Eastern, southern and central areas of Rafah have already been captured.

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‘Exodus’ from Gaza as Israeli assault continues

The United Nations has said no place in Gaza is safe and humanitarian conditions are dire as huge numbers of families shelter in tents and cramped apartments without adequate food, water or medical supplies.

Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’s October 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people and abducted about 250.

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Jay Slater: ‘Living nightmare’ hunt for missing British teenager on Tenerife continues

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Jay Slater: 'Living nightmare' hunt for missing British teenager on Tenerife continues

Helicopters, rescue dogs and drones have continued to scour the holiday island of Tenerife for a missing British teenager as concerned family and friends endure a “living nightmare”.

The hunt for 19-year-old Jay Slater from Oswaldtwistle, near Blackburn in Lancashire, is now in its fifth day.

Lancashire Constabulary said that while the case “falls outside the jurisdiction of UK policing”, it has offered to support Spanish police “if they need any additional resources”.

The force added: “They have confirmed that at this time they are satisfied that they have the resources they need, but that offer remains open and they will contact us should that position change.”

Jay Slater. Pic: Lucy Law
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Jay Slater. Pic: Lucy Law

The apprentice bricklayer was holidaying with friends on Tenerife before he disappeared on Monday.

He was last heard from when he called a friend to say he was setting off on an 11-hour walk to get home, after he missed his bus.

Emergency workers near the village of Masca, Tenerife.
Pic: PA
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Pic: PA

Ofelia Medina Hernandez, who was the last person to see Mr Slater, told Sky News: “I saw the boy in the morning, at around 8am.

“He asked twice what time the bus came.

“I told him ‘at 10 o’clock’.

“He came back and asked me again, and I told him again – at 10 o’clock.

“After that, he walked off and I didn’t see him anymore.

“Later, I went in my car, and I saw him – he was walking fast.

“But I didn’t see him again after that.”

Her account came as new photographs showed the property where he was last seen in the northwestern mountain village of Masca after attending the NRG music festival.

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Pic: PA

Pic: PA
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Pic: PA

‘We are drained beyond words’

In a post on the Facebook page Jay Slater Missing, the administrator of the group Rachel Louise Harg said family and friends were “drained beyond words”.

She said: “There isn’t an update for anyone unfortunately.

“Struggling to find words at this time but all I can say is we are looking still and everyone is doing all they can.

“We are drained beyond words – I just can’t say no more, I wish I could.

“I wish this would end now, this living nightmare.

“Searches are ongoing and we remain positive.

“Thanks to you all supporting and helping we can’t thank you any more, much love.”

Read more on Sky News:
British tourist stabbed to death outside nightclub
Italian football legend robbed at gunpoint

Focus on unusual details will only grow


Shingi Mararike

Shingi Mararike

North of England correspondent

@ShingiMararike

In the mountains on the outskirts of northern Tenerife, a narrow road winds upwards, with a dramatic view of the sea below.

Beneath the beauty of the scenery, parts of the area where British teenager Jay Slater was last located are barren and remote.

One of the properties on the route through the national park is Casa Abuela Tina, the villa Jay travelled to with two men in the early hours of Monday, before he disappeared.

Just yards away from the villa’s front door you can see the bus stop that would have taken Jay back to Los Cristianos – the part of the island he was staying in near a bustling strip full of British tourists.

The teenager was agonisingly close to being able to make his way home – and as search teams comb the mountains, that fact will surely be on their minds.

Why did Jay decide to try the 11-hour walk, and why did he go to the villa with two strangers in the first place?

As the search continues, a focus on highly unusual details of this story will only grow.

Searchers check river at bottom of ravine

On Friday, search and rescue personnel joined officers from the island’s Guardia Civil near Masca to comb an area of overgrown terrain.

Teams also paid close attention to a river called Barranco Madre del Agua at the bottom of a ravine, where emergency workers carefully picked their way through fallen dead palm trees.

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Mr Slater’s friend Lucy Law, who attended the music festival with him, said he called her at about 8.30am on Monday and told her he was “lost in the mountains, he wasn’t aware of his surroundings, he desperately needed a drink and his phone was on 1%”.

Meanwhile, members of the local community rallied together at a church service in his home town to express their hope of his safe return.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has been reported missing in Spain and are in contact with the local authorities.”

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British tourist stabbed to death outside Spanish nightclub

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British tourist stabbed to death outside Spanish nightclub

A British tourist has been stabbed to death outside a nightclub near Barcelona.

The incident happened at about 4am this morning in Calella, about 30 miles away from the city.

Police have confirmed that there was a fatality, and another person was injured and taken to hospital.

According to El Caso, there was a fight outside the Oxygen nightclub and the tourist died at the scene.

In a statement, Catalan police said it is “investigating the violent death of a 31-year-old man”.

Another man has been arrested in connection with the incident, and footage from security cameras in the area is being checked.

Sky News has contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office for comment.

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