I escaped from a Chinese gulag. Here's what it's like inside.

The other inmates, those who weren’t burdened with teaching duties, endured more stringent conditions. “There were almost 20 people in a room of 16 square meters [172 sq. ft.],” she says. “There were cameras in their rooms, too, and also in the corridor. Each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day. If it filled up, you had to wait until the next day. The prisoners wore uniforms and their heads were shaved. Their hands and feet were shackled all day, except when they had to write. Even in sleep they were shackled, and they were required to sleep on their right side – anyone who turned over was punished.”

Sauytbay had to teach the prisoners – who were Uyghur or Kazakh speakers – Chinese and Communist Party propaganda songs. She was with them throughout the day. The daily routine began at 6 A.M. Chinese instruction took place after a paltry breakfast, followed by repetition and rote learning. There were specified hours for learning propaganda songs and reciting slogans from posters: “I love China,” “Thank you to the Communist Party,” “I am Chinese” and “I love Xi Jinping” – China’s president.

The afternoon and evening hours were devoted to confessions of crimes and moral offenses. “Between 4 and 6 P.M. the pupils had to think about their sins. Almost everything could be considered a sin, from observing religious practices and not knowing the Chinese language or culture, to immoral behavior. Inmates who did not think of sins that were severe enough or didn’t make up something were punished.”