China accused of running black site prison in Dubai

Li Xueren/Xinhua via AP

We’ve all heard the stories about how China is making people disappear in their reeducation camps in the western reaches of their nation, particularly the Uyghurs. But are they engaged in similar tactics in other countries? That’s the claim being made by one Chinese woman who says that she was detained in a secret black site in Dubai for more than a week. The woman claims to have been held without access to legal counsel or the ability to contact her family. She also was reportedly forced to sign legal documents incriminating her own fiance’ who is still back in China. While there, she claims to have encountered two other prisoners, both Uyghurs. (Associated Press)

A young Chinese woman says she was held for eight days at a Chinese-run secret detention facility in Dubai along with at least two Uyghurs, in what may be the first evidence that China is operating a so-called “black site” beyond its borders.

The woman, 26-year-old Wu Huan, was on the run to avoid extradition back to China because her fiancé was considered a Chinese dissident. Wu told The Associated Press she was abducted from a hotel in Dubai and detained by Chinese officials at a villa converted into a jail, where she saw or heard two other prisoners, both Uyghurs.

She was questioned and threatened in Chinese and forced to sign legal documents incriminating her fiancé for harassing her, she said. She was finally released on June 8 and is now seeking asylum in the Netherlands.

While the AP was unable to independently verify the woman’s story, it’s not an implausible tale at all. Such black sites show up in quite a few countries and Dubai prides itself on being “neutral ground” where anyone can go to hold discrete meetings. (The Taliban keeps a political office there where they meet with journalists and officials from other nations.) The country maintains a “no questions asked” policy in most cases, so if you were going to set up a secret prison to detain and deport people, that would be a likely choice.

We also shouldn’t pretend that it’s just the Chinese doing this. During the early days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the CIA maintained multiple black sites in Egypt, where detained Al Qaeda terrorists were allegedly tortured so we could extract information out of them. Poland and Romania have also provided black sites for both the Americans and the Russians in the past.

Of course, as soon as you drag the Chinese Communist Party into the conversation, the level of concern is increased. The reason so many people found the revelation of American black sites in Egypt to be shocking is our nation’s general reputation of transparency. (How well deserved that reputation may be is left to the eye of the beholder.) China, on the other hand, is infamous for its secrecy and clandestine operations against its own people. The ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs is well known, but even ethnic Han Chinese frequently find themselves with a low “social credit score” and an unrequested trip to a detention center if they speak out against the CCP or any of its policies.

Even if it turns out to be confirmed that China is running a black site in Dubai, there probably isn’t much that will be done about it. The government of Dubai is unlikely to try to tell them to shut it down. And the rest of the major powers on the planet who have similarly made use of such black sites really aren’t in much of a position to complain about China doing it. Hopefully, the woman who escaped from that prison will find some sort of refuge in the Netherlands or elsewhere. But she’s only one of tens, if not hundreds of millions of people who have drawn the wrong sort of attention from the CCP and remain at risk.