“This is part of the attempt to completely eradicate the culture and religion of the people in Xinjiang,” Zenz told Al Jazeera.
“It is part of the strategy of secularisation, of turning the Uighurs secular and indoctrinating them to follow the communist party and become agnostic or atheist,” he added.
Beijing has defended its policies in the region, saying the approach is needed to fight the “three evils of extremism, separatism and terrorism”, following deadly riots in the regional capital Urumqi in 2009.
It has denied the existence of the re-education camps in which the United Nations has said more than one million people have been held, instead saying it operates vocational centres that allow it to “retrain” the Uighur population and teach them new skills.
Like Sautbay, Uighur businesswoman Zumret Dawut has first-hand experience of detention. She was picked up in March 2018 in Urumqi, the city where she was born.
Selama dua bulan, Dawut mengatakan pihak berwenang menuntut penjelasan tentang hubungannya dengan Pakistan, tanah air suaminya.
Mereka juga menanyainya tentang berapa banyak anak yang dimilikinya, dan apakah mereka telah belajar agama dan membaca Alquran atau tidak.
Dia mengatakan dia dipermalukan berulang kali dan pada satu kesempatan wajahnya ditampar dengan kertas yang digulung setelah tidak menyenangkan interogatornya.