This NASA astronaut voted from space

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Shane Kimbrough is a NASA astronaut

He voted in the 2016 election


From infinity and beyond, he found a way to vote.

Shane Kimbrough, a NASA astronaut currently living on board the International Space Station, filed his ballot in Tuesday’s presidential election, according to a Tumblr post by NASA.

NASA told Yahoo News that Kimbrough filed his ballot in the 2016 election from the space station sometime over the past few days.

For astronauts who will be in space on Election Day, the voting process starts a year before launch. At that time, they are able to select the elections in which they want to participate.

Then, six months before the election, astronauts are provided with the form “Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request – Federal Post Card Application.”

Image Kjell Lindgren released on social media of the US flag floating in the Cupola module.

NASA astronaut David Wolf was the first American to vote in space while on the Russian Mir Space Station in a 1997 local election, according to NPR.

Queen Elizabeth prepares to appoint her newest prime minister

Normally, the practicalities are straightforward. In a nutshell, the outgoing PM makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street and then heads off to Buckingham Palace for a final farewell audience with the monarch. Shortly after, their successor travels over for their appointment. All in all, it’s relatively quick, taking around half an hour. However, this time … not so much.

According to a royal source, the decision to hold the two audiences at her Scottish country residence rather than at Buckingham Palace — for the first time in her 70-year reign — was made to provide certainty to the Prime Minister’s diary. The source told CNN the decision was to avoid any last-minute alternative arrangements in the event the Queen finds herself experiencing any episodic mobility issues. As a result, Tuesday will likely be a more protracted event due to the distance between London and Balmoral and the logistics involved.

The decision also makes sense, given that more recently the Queen’s presence has generally been confirmed on the day depending on how she is feeling. Case in point, a royal source told CNN Friday that the Queen would miss the annual Braemar Gathering this weekend but that Prince Charles, who usually accompanies her, would still be at the Highland Games. The decision was made for the Queen’s comfort, the source said.

File photograph of Balmoral Castle.

The protocols for prime ministerial appointments are unwritten — based instead on constitutional convention, according to experts.

“It’s all a matter of convention that we just have a prime minister — one minister who is more important than the others — and that means that there are no real legal formalities to undergo for the appointment,” explained Craig Prescott, a lecturer in law at Bangor University in Wales.

“Historically, the monarch would have had a much greater flexibility over who that primary adviser would be,” he told CNN. “That discretion has ebbed away because there are now constitutional conventions in place that regulate who the prime minister is.

“It’s very much for the political parties, and for the electorate, to ultimately decide who the prime minister is — and the Queen effectively puts that decision into action,” he added.

Prescott said the Queen is still involved because “it has to be remembered that the government is still carried on in the name of the crown. It is still ‘Her Majesty’s Government.'”

So how will Tuesday unfold? Well, at some point, Johnson will arrive and tender his resignation as prime minister and First Lord of the Treasury. (Fun fact: Most assume 10 Downing Street is the official residence of the prime minister but it’s in fact that of the First Lord of the Treasury, a role usually held by the PM.) One of the last acts of the office is to advise the monarch on their successor (even if it’s already been decided through a leadership contest). This is yet another quirk of proceedings, but one that ensures the Queen remains politically neutral, according to Prescott.

The Queen chats with Boris Johnson during a reception at Windsor Castle last October.

Little is truly known about these occasions, but some of Johnson’s predecessors have touched on them in their memoirs. Gordon Brown said the final official duty of going to see the sovereign doesn’t involve handing over seals of office or anything, but rather “simply saying goodbye to the Queen — and thanking her.”

In his autobiography, “My Life, Our Times,” the former Labour prime minister said that “as usual, she was charming and the occasion itself was relaxed.” Brown also recalled how the Queen humanized the situation by permitting his two young sons to be present when he received a parting gift — an inscribed photograph of the monarch.

“Fraser was just four, and when he looked at the photo he said, ‘That’s the Queen!’ — as if it was of someone other than the person who had just handed it to him. Queen Elizabeth, startled by his response, replied: ‘But I’m the Queen, I’m the Queen.’ We laughed, and then we left,” Brown wrote.

A short while later, the Queen will call up Johnson’s replacement for a ceremonial audience known as “kissing hands.” Whether or not actual hands are kissed is up for debate. Some past PMs, like David Cameron, have said the name isn’t literal, while others have suggested it is.

Former prime minister Tony Blair described understanding “kissing hands” as “the laying on of the Queen’s authority to govern.” However, when it came to the moment, he wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. In his autobiography, “A Journey,” the former Labour leader recalls waiting in an antechamber to be presented to the Queen, before becoming abruptly anxious.

“A tall official with a stick stood by me. ‘I should tell you one thing, Mr Blair,’ he began (note ‘Mrk Blair’ until I had been appointed), ‘you don’t actually kiss the Queen’s hands in the ceremony of kissing hands. You brush them gently with your lips,'” Blair wrote.

Tony Blair greets Labour supporters outside 10 Downing Street after a historic landslide election in May 1997.

Blair said he was “floored” by the remark but was left with little time to mull it over. “While I was still temporarily disconcerted, the door opened and I was ushered in, unfortunately tripping a little on a piece of carpet so that I practically fell upon the Queen’s hands, not so much brushing as enveloping them,” he continued, adding that the rest of the occasion went off without a hitch.

Meanwhile, the changing of location matters little constitutionally, with Prescott recalling how Herbert Henry Asquith traveled to meet King Edward VII, who was in the French city of Biarritz, to take office. It is the only appointment to have ever occurred on foreign soil and “reflects how there are so few formalities about this.”

Instead, the fact that the Queen has allowed the process to be adapted for her will likely be what’s important to Johnson and Truss.

“I think both the outgoing prime minister and the incoming prime minister will very much want that moment with the Queen. They will want to be seen to have a historical continuity with what’s gone before. I think that that will be very important for them,” Prescott said.

And amending the ceremonial formalities will also go some way to alleviating concerns from royal-watchers over her health. The fact that the monarch is making the concession to host the audiences at Balmoral rather than issue a directive authorizing Charles and his eldest son, Prince William, to step in — as they did to open Parliament in May — gives yet another indication that neither age nor mobility difficulties will stop the resolute sovereign from carrying out her royal duties.


The Queen has been served by 14 prime ministers during her reign so far. Many relationships were formed, from Winston Churchill to “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher — with some proving more difficult than others.

In celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which marked 60 years as British sovereign, then-prime minister David Cameron hosted a lunch at Downing Street for the monarch. The occasion was also an opportunity to catch up with several of her former premiers. Here she stands with Cameron (left), John Major (2nd from left), Tony Blair (2nd from right) and Gordon Brown (right) on July 24, 2012 in London.

Winston Churchill (1951-1955): The Queen was said to be in awe of her first prime minister, Winston Churchill. Once when asked which PM she enjoyed meeting with most, she replied: “Winston of course, because it’s always such fun.”

Harold Wilson (1964-1970, 1974-1976): Wilson, who came from a lower-middle-class background, became the Queen’s first Labour Party prime minister. Wilson, seen here on the right, next to Prince Philip, often broke away from protocol, and he enjoyed helping with the washing-up after barbecues at Balmoral — one of the Queen’s residences. The Queen, however, warmed to Wilson’s informal presence and even invited him to stay for drinks after their first meeting, which was not commonplace.

Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990): While Thatcher and the Queen were the closest in age, Thatcher kept their encounters strictly professional, formal and famously stiff. The “Iron Lady,” as she became known, reportedly had a tense relationship with the monarch during their traditional weekly meetings. Thatcher also viewed her annual visits to the royal home in Balmoral as interrupting her work. Despite this, Thatcher is said to have been incredibly respectful of the Queen and eventually became her longest-serving prime minister.


Analysis from CNN’s Luke McGee, UK and European Policy and Politics Editor

The Queen will finally see the back of Boris Johnson — for now at least. The prime minister will officially resign to the monarch on Tuesday.

While Her Majesty never makes her political opinions known and defers to her advisers and government ministers on almost all matters, you’d forgive Elizabeth II for breathing a sigh of relief.

Johnson has on more than one occasion pushed the monarch’s position of impartiality to its limits and led to Brits asking questions that once seemed unfathomable.

Early on in his premiership, Johnson prorogued — or suspended — Parliament, so that lawmakers would not be able to intervene and stop the Brexit deadline from expiring, forcing Britain to crash out of the European Union with no deal. The Queen followed her prime minister’s advice allowing the prorogation — only to later be told that the advice Johnson had given her was unlawful. Many called for Johnson to apologize for embarrassing the monarch.
And it wouldn’t be the only time in his premiership that his government would have to do so. Officials were left with little other choice in January when revelations about pandemic lockdown-busting parties emerged out of 10 Downing Street, including one on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
Boris Johnson's first audience with the Queen as prime minister on July 24, 2019.

As Johnson’s position became untenable earlier this year, there were fears that his refusal to resign, despite mass protest from his own cabinet, would once again force the Queen and her advisers to act.

Had Johnson clung to power, he could have found himself removed as Conservative leader and without a government serving him. Due to the UK’s odd un-codified constitution, he could have remained prime minister of around 66 million people, creating a host of new problems to resolve. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that and Johnson has decided to make a (relatively for him) quiet exit.

Johnson is a man who has always described himself as a monarchist who holds the Queen in the highest regard. And critics might say he could have demonstrated this respect by not bringing the country’s constitution to breaking point and dragging her into the mucky business of politics.


BBC donates to charities linked to Diana.

Britain’s public service broadcaster has given £1.42 million ($1.64 million) to seven charities connected to the late Princess Diana. The amount reflects the sales made from the 1995 Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales, which an independent inquiry last year determined was secured using “deceitful” methods. The charitable donations come from the BBC’s commercial revenue rather than the taxpayer’s license fee, the broadcaster said. “The BBC had indicated its intention to donate to charity the sales proceeds derived from the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. The BBC has now done so. Given the findings of Lord Dyson, we think this is the right and appropriate course of action,” the organization said in a statement Friday.

Harry and Meghan are back.

We’re pretty sure you won’t have forgotten, but just a reminder that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be visiting the United Kingdom and Germany this week. A spokesperson for the Sussexes told CNN that the pair “are delighted to visit with several charities close to their hearts in early September.” The couple are due to attend the One Young World 2022 Manchester Summit on Monday, then head to the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 One Year to Go event in Germany on Tuesday, before flying back to the UK for the WellChild Awards 2022 in London on Thursday. Meghan has been making headlines in recent weeks after her much-anticipated podcast “Archetypes” dropped on Spotify. The first two episodes featured G.O.A.T. Serena Williams (discussing the gendered connotations of “ambition”) and superstar singer-songwriter Mariah Carey (talking biracial identity).
The Sussexes at the 2020 Invictus Games in the Netherlands.

Prince Charles edits special edition of Black British newspaper.

The Prince of Wales has guest-edited a special issue of British African-Caribbean newspaper The Voice to mark its 40-year anniversary. Founded in 1982, the paper is the only national Black newspaper operating in the UK. Prince Charles described the publication as “crucial,” before adding that he was “so touched” to be asked to helm the special edition. Clarence House said Charles’ issue “touches on themes including community cohesion, education, climate, the Commonwealth, faith and the arts.” It was released on Thursday and features interviews with actor Idris Elba and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of 18-year-old student Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack in southeast London in 1993, among others. Read more here.
Prince Charles visits the 2nd Battalion of The Mercian Regiment before it is amalgamated with The 1st Battalion, at Weeton Barracks, on July 8, 2022 in Weeton, Lancashire, England.


Messages and photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales are seen on the gate of Kensington Palace Wednesday as fans gather outside her former London home on the 25th anniversary of her death.


Diana, Princess of Wales leaves Chelsea Harbour Club, London in November 1995.
Twenty-five years after her death, Princess Diana remains a style icon — now with a younger wave of fashion lovers finding joy in her everyday looks. CNN Style’s Megan C. Hills explores her enduring legacy, from TikTokers painstakingly recreating her workout outfits to fashion fans sourcing cult items worn by the late royal. Read the full story here.


Over the course of her reign, the Queen has tried to set the standard for her family. One aspect she has staunchly stuck to is to remain above politics. In this 2019 video from the CNN archive, Max breaks down exactly why she doesn’t share her political views and what it could mean if she did.

“My thoughts are with all those who have been affected, as well as those working in difficult circumstances to support the recovery efforts.”

The Queen to Pakistan’s President following “unprecedented” floods in the country.

At least 33 million people have been affected by deadly flooding in Pakistan, the country’s climate change minister said on Thursday. Officials have called on international partners to provide aid given Pakistan’s “limited” resources. Following this call to action, Prince Charles revealed he had donated to global aid charity Islamic Relief. The Prince of Wales said he and his wife were “deeply saddened” by the humanitarian disaster and paid tribute to the government and emergency responders for their relief efforts. “Times like these remind us of the fragility of our planet and the urgent need for humanity to live in harmony with Nature. Our prayers are with all our friends in Pakistan,” he added.

What if you could wear a chair?

Story highlights

Japan’s innovative wearable devices includes Archelis, a “standing” chair designed for surgeons.

Tokyo’s first Wearable Expo debuted in 2015 and was largest in the world.

Japan’s wearable tech market is predicted to grow from 530,000 in 2013 to 13.1 million units in 2017.


What do Discman, Tamagotchi, and Game Boy have in common?

They’re all landmark Japanese inventions from the 80s and 90s, symbols of an era when the Asian nation was a world leader in tech innovation.

But with the rise of Silicon Valley, and American tech giants such as Google and Apple, has seen Japan produce less era-defining tech over the past two decades.

That, says Professor Masahiko Tsukamoto, of Kobe University’s Graduate School of Engineering, is about to change thanks to a new generation of young entrepreneurs, an uptick in international collaborations, and new partnerships with university scientists.

Japan’s focus this time around is not on smart phones or gaming, but wearable chairs, smart glasses and dog communication devices.

In short, wacky wearable tech.

In 2013, Japan sold 530,000 units of wearable tech devices, according to Yano Research Institute.

That figure is predicted to leapfrog to 13.1 million units in 2017.

Perhaps the best indication of the boom in this industry was the introduction of Tokyo’s first Wearable Expo in 2015 – at launch, it was the largest wearable tech fair in the world with 103 exhibitors.

It has featured electronic kimonos, cat communication devices, and electronic gloves to record a pianist’s finger work.

At the next show, from January 18 to 20, 2017, the organizers expect more than 200 exhibitors and 19,000 visitors.

“With better functionality, lighter components and smaller designs, wearing devices is now no longer a fantasy,” says show director Yuhi Maezono. “Wearables are gathering attention as the next big growth market.”

Inupathy is a dog harness slated to launch at the end of this year that will allow pet owners to communicate with their dogs.

As well as a heart monitor, the harness features noise-canceling technology which can isolate the animal’s heartbeat and track its reactions to stimulus, such as food, games, people and toys.

With this data, the harness assesses a dog’s mood and changes color to inform the owners.

Equipped with six LED lights, the collar glows blue to show calm, red for excitement, and displays a rainbow theme for happiness.

Joji Yamaguchi, CEO of Inupathy, was inspired by his Corgi, Akane, who was a nervous puppy. To better understand the dog’s anxiety, the biologist developed Inupathy to monitor his heart rate.

“I always felt like I couldn’t understand Akane very well and I wanted to get be closer to him,” says Yamaguchi.

“Buddhism and old Japanese religion says every animals, plants, and even rocks have spirit inside. It’s stressful when you can’t solve problems that are upsetting them.”

Yamaguchi expects wearable wellness tracking will have applications for humans, too.

“Personalization, of artificial intelligence will be a game-changer,” says Yamaguchi.

“For instance, if you show a certain behavior before you start feeling depressed, predicting your depression from that behavior is extremely valuable for an individual. An AI that works personally for you will eventually make this possible.”

Archelis – a wearable chair launched in Japan this year – is also creating a buzz internationally.

A collaboration between Nitto mold factory, Chiba University, Japan Polymer Technology and Hiroaki Nishimura Design, in Japan, it was initially intended for surgeons, who need to rest their legs during long operations.

The chair enables its wearer to effectively sit down and stand up at the same time.

The Archelis chair.

“The Archelis concept is very simple, like the simplicity of Columbus’ egg,” says Dr Hiroshi Kawahira, the surgeon behind the concept. “Long surgeries can result in back pain, neck pain, and knee pain – especially for surgeons who are older.”

Made of 3D-printed panels, Archelis does not require any electrical components or batteries.

The innovation is in the effective design: flexible carbon panels wrap around the buttocks, legs and feet to provide support and minimize pressure on joints.

The system stabilizes the ankles and knees, so the pressure from being upright is spread evenly across the shins and thighs.

Though the wearer appears to be standing, in fact, they are resting their back and legs while working on their feet.

Other wearables are on the smaller side.

Measuring about 3 inches long, BIRD is essentially a modern thimble that turns your fingertip into a magic wand.

BIRD can control  up to 10 devices at a time.

Using algorithms to decode a user’s intent, the device also features precise sensors that track direction, speed, and gestures.

The technology enables users to turn any surface into a smart screen, as well as interact with other smart devices.

Walking around at home, users can project a laptop screen onto a wall, switch on a coffee machine, read on any surface, and make online purchases with the point or swipe of a finger.

The developers – Israel-based MUV Interactive and Japan-based Silicon Technology – expect BIRD to be embraced by the education and corporate sectors, thanks to its ability to create collaborative presentations.

Chile new constitution: Voters overwhelmingly reject proposal in referendum


Chilean voters resoundingly rejected a newly proposed constitution in a referendum on Sunday.

With 98% of the ballots counted, 62% of voters rejected the proposal with 38% voting in favor, according to the Chile Electoral Service.

The new constitution would have provided full gender parity, added designated seats for indigenous representatives, and increased environmental regulations.

The constitution currently in place was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country from 1973 to 1990.

On Saturday night ahead of the opening of polls Sunday morning, Chilean President Gabriel Boric tweeted, “In Chile, we resolve our differences with more democracy, never with less. I am deeply proud that we have come this far.”

The proposed change was initiated in 2020 when then-president Sebastien Piñera called a referendum on creating a new constitution amid social turmoil and popular discontent sparked by a metro fare increase in October 2019.

In October 2020, more than 78% of Chilean voters approved a plebiscite that proposed constitutional change, and in June 2021, they cast their ballots again to pick the members for a constituent assembly.

The Constitutional Assembly was the first in the world to have full gender parity and the first in the country´s history to include designated seats for indigenous representatives.

Supporters were hopeful its progressive stance would be reflected in a new, updated constitution.

Some waved flags as they celebrated the rejection of the proposed constitution.

And the constitutional process itself was praised internationally for giving the country an institutional way out of a social crisis, and for responding to modern Chileans’ demands for more equality and a more inclusive and participatory democracy.

After much deliberation, the final draft of the revised constitution was submitted to Piñera’s successor, leftist Gabriel Boric, in July this year.

But although most Chilean voters supported the idea of constitutional change back in October 2020, divisions appeared over the proposed draft.

Soon after the draft was made public, different polls began showing an increasing trend toward the rejection of the charter, with the government publicly recognizing that scenario.

The defeated constitution would have one of the most progressive in the world, giving the state a front-line role in the provision of social rights.

The draft put a strong emphasis on indigenous self-determination and on the protection of the environment, and would have dismantled the highly privatized water rights system. It had required gender equality in all public institutions and companies, and enshrined the respect for sexual diversity. It also envisaged a new national healthcare system.

But the project became bitterly divisive.

The right argued the draft would shift the country too far left, or that it was too ambitious and difficult to turn into efficient laws. In the lead-up to the vote, even some of its supporters on the left wanted adjustments made, with their slogan “approve to reform.”

Images from the country’s capital Santiago on Sunday show a sombre mood among supporters of the constitution, while others celebrated the news it had been voted down.

The North Korean defectors who became YouTube stars

Even the privileged few of her compatriots who were allowed smartphones could access only the nation’s tightly restricted intranet. YouTube, Instagram, and Google were entirely alien concepts.

She’s among an increasing number of North Korean defectors who, after escaping into South Korea, have made what might seem unlikely careers as YouTubers and social media influencers.

Dozens have followed a similar path in the past decade, their videos and accounts giving a rare glimpse into life in the hermit kingdom — the food North Koreans eat, the slang they use, their daily routines.

Some channels offer more political content, exploring North Korea’s relationships with other countries; others dive into the rich and — for those newly defected, entirely novel — worlds of pop culture and entertainment.

But for many of these influencers, who have fled one of the world’s most isolated and impoverished nations for one of its most technologically advanced and digitally connected, this career path isn’t as strange as it may seem.

Defectors and experts say these online platforms offer not only a path to financial independence — but a sense of agency and self-representation as they assimilate to a daunting new world.

Path to freedom

Defectors are a relatively recent phenomena; they began entering South Korea “in significant numbers” in the past 20 years, most fleeing over North Korea’s lengthy border with China, said Sokeel Park, the South Korea country director for international nonprofit Liberty in North Korea.

Since 1998, more than 33,000 people have defected from North to South Korea, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, with the numbers peaking at 2,914 in 2009.

Kang, now 25, is among the many to have made the trip — one laden with risks, such as being trafficked in China’s sex trade, or being caught and sent back to North Korea, where defectors can face torture, imprisonment and even death.
Why some North Korean defectors return to one of the world's most repressive regimes

Kang fled to the South in 2014 as a teenager, joining her mother who had already defected.

It was tough at first; like many others, she faced loneliness, culture shock, and financial pressures. The South’s notoriously competitive job market is even tougher for defectors, who must adjust to both capitalist society and hostility from some locals.

As of 2020, 9.4% of defectors were unemployed — compared to 4% of the general population, according to the Unification Ministry.

For Kang, a turning point came when she started receiving counseling and joined a school with other defectors. But it wasn’t until she appeared in a South Korean TV show that life really “became interesting,” she said.

‘Defector TV’

In the 2010s, growing public fascination with North Koreans gave rise to a new genre of television known as “defector TV,” in which defectors were invited to share their experiences.

Some of the best-known shows include “Now On My Way To Meet You,” which first aired in 2011, and “Moranbong Club,” which aired in 2015.

Kang appeared on both — and it was around this time that she first laid eyes on YouTube, where she was especially drawn to videos about makeup, beauty and fashion.

By 2017, she had created her own channel, leveraging her growing fame and “recording my daily life for people who liked me from TV shows.”

Kang Na-ra is seen on a camera monitor in a studio in Seoul, South Korea, on September 5, 2019.

Many of her YouTube videos explore differences between the two Koreas in a cheerful, conversational style, such as contrasting beauty norms. “In North Korea, if you have big breasts, that’s considered to be not good!” she laughs in one video, recalling her surprise at discovering padded bras and breast implants in the South.

Other videos answer common questions on escaping North Korea, such as what defectors bring with them (salt for luck, a family photo for comfort, and rat poison in case they get caught — for “when you know that you are going to die.”)

Eventually the channel grew so popular that she landed representation from three management agencies, hired video producers, and began attracting clients for sponsored Instagram content.

“I have a steady flow of income now,” she said. “I can buy and eat what I want, and I can rest when I want to.”

A video on Kang Na-ra's YouTube channel.

This model of success — echoed by other defector YouTubers, such as Kang Eun-jung, with more than 177,000 subscribers; Jun Heo, with more than 270,000 before he took down his channel this year; and Park Su-Hyang, with 45,000 — has inspired many others to join YouTube.

Part of their success, according to Sokeel Park, of Liberty in North Korea, is that defectors “are quite entrepreneurial.”

“I think a factor in that is that you’re in control, you’re not being ordered around by a South Korean boss, and having to stress about a South Korean work culture,” he said.

“It may be a struggle, but people have agency … You’re your own boss, on your own schedule.”

Stories on their own terms

Defector TV may have helped supercharge the popularity of some of these influencers — but it has also drawn controversy among the defector community.

Some view it as “imperfect” but helpful in giving the South Korean public greater exposure to their Northern peers, Park said. But many others criticize the talk shows as being sensationalist, exaggerated, outdated and inaccurate.

For instance, the shows often use cartoon graphics, elaborate background sets and sound effects — such as mournful music that plays while defectors recall their past.

At the end of the day, these are entertainment shows, not documentaries, Park said, adding: “(The shows are) made by South Korean TV producers and writers … obviously (the defectors) don’t have editorial control.”

Park Su-hyang, a North Korean defector, records a YouTube video at home in Seoul, South Korea on May 19, 2018.

This frustration with how North Koreans are represented in mainstream media, and their desire to tell their stories on their own terms, is one major reason why so many defectors have turned to social media.

Many defectors feel “that South Koreans have only a very shallow understanding of North Korea, or that they have certain stereotypes about North Korean people that should be challenged,” Park said.

YouTube allows “a very different level of control and agency, to be able to just set up a camera in your apartment or wherever you might film, and just speak directly to an audience.”

Building bridges between the Koreas

But for many defector YouTubers there is another, loftier goal besides earning an independent income by telling their own stories: bridging the gap between the two Koreas.

It’s a tall task, especially in recent years as relations have deteriorated due to disagreements over the North’s weapons testing and the South’s joint military drills with the United States.

But some say these tensions are exactly why it’s important to humanize and connect Koreans from each side.

“I believe letting people know about the hardship of North Koreans through YouTube can be helpful for my people in North Korea,” said Kang Eun-jung, 35, who fled North Korea in 2008 and started her YouTube channel in 2019.

For her, YouTube is a way to “keep reminding myself about my identity, who I am and where I came from” — as well as to teach people about defectors’ experiences.

“If the two Koreas get united, I want to interview many people in North Korea,” she added.

Still, there’s a problem for those hoping to bridge the divide: their audiences are getting older, possibly because their content appeals most to the generation that lived through the Korean War of the 1950s and its aftermath.

“The generation that remembers North and South Korea as one country is passing away,” Park said.

That makes building bridges among the younger generation more urgent.

Most of Kang Eun-jung’s viewers are in their 50s or older, while Kang Na-ra’s are mostly in their 30s — relatively high age brackets in the world of social media.

Part of the problem may be that young South Koreans know next to nothing about their peers on the other side of the demilitarized zone, instead being bombarded with ominous news headlines about the security situation, political rhetoric and military saber-rattling.

North Korean defectors say unification requires closing a cultural chasm

As a result, Park said, “young South Koreans know American people better than North Korean people. They know Japanese people better than North Korean people, they know Chinese people (better than North Korean people).”

“So being able to resume some form of people-to-people contact, understanding, and empathy — if that’s North Koreans making their own YouTube channels — then that’s great.”

For Kang Na-ra, who left behind many friends in North Korea and once even considered returning to the repressive regime, that distance feels personal.

“I want to have more (subscribers in their) teens and people in their 20s because I want more young people to care about unification and be interested in North Korea,” she said.

“Wouldn’t it raise the possibility of me going back to my hometown before I die? If more young people want unification of the Koreas, couldn’t it come true?”

Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake

Story highlights

Devices in the bedroom are associated with children losing sleep time and quality, new research says

Even children and teens who don’t stay up late online are losing sleep


These days, teachers often face classrooms filled with yawning students who stayed up late snapping selfies or playing online games.

For children and teens, using cell phones, tablets and computers at night is associated with losing sleep time and sleep quality, new research finds. Even children who don’t use their phones or the other technologies littering their bedrooms at night are losing shut-eye and becoming prone to daylight sleepiness, the analysis published today in JAMA Pediatrics finds.

The analysis found “a consistent pattern of effect across a wide range of countries and settings,” said Dr. Ben Carter, lead author and a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London.

Carter and his colleagues weeded through the medical literature to identify hundreds of applicable studies conducted between January 1, 2011, and June 15, 2015. They chose 20 research reports involving a total of 125,198 children, evenly divided by gender, with an average age of 14½ years. After extracting pertinent data, Carter and his co-authors performed their own meta-analysis.

Few parents will be surprised by the results: The team found a “strong and consistent association” between bedtime media device use and inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Surprisingly, though, Carter and his team discovered that children who did not use their devices in their bedrooms still had their sleep interrupted and were likely to suffer the same problems. The lights and sounds emitted by the technology, as well as the content itself, may be too stimulating.

Though Carter admits that a weakness of the analysis was “how the data was collected in the primary studies: self-reported by parents and children,” many of us will probably recognize our own families’ habits reflected in the statistics.

A large-scale poll conducted in the United States by the National Sleep Foundation (PDF) reported in 2013 that 72% of all children and 89% of teens have at least one device in their sleep environment. Most of this technology is used near bedtime, that same report found.

According to Carter and his co-authors, this omnipresent technology negatively influences children’s sleep by delaying their sleep time, as they finish watching a movie or play one more game.

Light emitted from these devices may also affect the circadian rhythm, the internal clock timing biological processes, including body temperature and hormone release, the researchers explain. One specific hormone, melatonin, induces tiredness and contributes to the timing of our sleep-wake cycles. Electronic lights can delay the release of melatonin, disrupting this cycle and making it harder to fall asleep.

Carter and his co-authors also suggest that online content may be psychologically stimulating and keep children and teens awake far past the hour when they turn off their devices and try to sleep.

“Sleep is vital for children,” said Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of the pediatric neurology sleep medicine program at Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the new analysis. “We know that sleep plays a crucial role in brain development, memory, self-regulation, attention, immune function, cardiovascular health and much more.”

Kansagra, author of “My Child Won’t Sleep,” noted that the period of greatest brain development is in our first three years of life, which corresponds to when we need and get the most sleep. “It’s hard to believe that this would be a coincidence.”

Kansagra said it’s possible that parents underreported kids using devices at night, but more likely, the technology is simply interfering with sleep hygiene. “For example, children who are allowed to keep devices in their room may be more likely to avoid a good sleep routine, which we know is helpful for sleep,” he said.

Dr. Neil Kline, a representative of the American Sleep Association, agrees that sleep plays an integral role in a child’s healthy development, even though “we don’t know all of the science behind it. There is even some research which demonstrates an association between ADHD and some sleep disorders.”

In many respects, the findings of the new study are no surprise. “Sleep hygiene is being significantly impacted by technology, especially in the teen years,” said Kline, who bases his opinion not only on research but on his own “personal experience and also the anecdotes of many other sleep experts.”

Join the conversation

  • See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Sleep hygiene – tips that help facilitate good, continuous and adequate sleep – include having a room that is quiet. “And that would mean removing items that interfere with sleep, including electronics, TV and even pets if they interfere with sleep,” Kline said.

    One more important tip comes from the National Sleep Foundation, which recommends at least 30 minutes of “gadget-free transition time” before bedtime. Power down for better sleep.

    Other recommendations for good sleep hygiene include not exercising (physically or mentally) too close to bedtime; establishing a regular sleep schedule; limiting exposure to light prior to sleep; avoiding stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the hours before bedtime; and creating a dark, comfortable and peaceful sleep environment.

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    Covid: Chinese metropolis of Chengdu locks down 21 million residents

    The move offered a stark reminder of the lengths the country is prepared to go to in sticking to the zero-tolerance approach favored by leader Xi Jinping, with the shutting down of the megacity following the reporting of more than 700 cases the previous week.

    And it came despite earlier efforts by authorities to quash rumours that such a lockdown was coming, with police arresting one resident who was accused of making “provocative comments” on social media.

    The lockdown requires all residents to stay at home from 6 p.m. Thursday, except for mandatory Covid testing. Mass testing will take place from Thursday to Sunday, the city government said.

    The city’s digital system used to register Covid tests has crashed repeatedly due to the sudden surge in entries, resulting in long lines at some testing sites, according to residents on social media.

    Households can send one person out for grocery shopping once per day with a negative test, and residents with emergency requests such as seeking medical care must gain approval from a neighborhood committee.

    All businesses are to be shut except for supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals. Restaurant dining is also being suspended, with only takeaways allowed.

    This is China’s largest city-wide lockdown since Shanghai, the financial hub of 25 million people, emerged from a painful two-month lockdown in June.

    Shanghai was reporting thousands of infections per day in late March as it headed into the lockdown. On Wednesday, Chengdu reported just 156 cases.

    Chengdu’s lockdown, announced hours before it went into force, sparked panic buying across the city. Photos circulating on social media show markets packed with crowds, car trunks and backseats filled with groceries — and a dozen chicken strapped onto the roof of a car.

    The panic buying followed similar scenes earlier in the week following speculation on social media that authorities were considering a lockdown.

    On Monday, a Chengdu resident with the handle “Tropical Forest” on WeChat, China’s popular messaging app, said in a group chat that authorities would discuss whether to impose a lockdown in an evening meeting. Screenshots of his messages were leaked and went viral on social media, sending residents to snap up groceries and daily necessities at supermarkets.

    On Tuesday, Chengdu police said the WeChat user, surnamed She, had caused panic among citizens and disrupted epidemic prevention work by posting “provocative comments”. She was detained for 15 days and fined 1,000 yuan for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

    Chengdu residents rush to buy groceries before the lockdown comes into force.

    Doubling down on zero-Covid

    China is one of the last places in the world still enforcing stringent zero-Covid measures, which rely on sweeping digital surveillance, mass testing, extensive quarantines and snap lockdowns.

    The strategy has faced growing challenges from the highly infectious Omicron variant, with authorities across China struggling to tamp down on outbreaks. In the past 10 days, new local cases have been recorded in all of mainland China’s 31 provinces and regions.

    In the southern technology hub of Shenzhen, authorities shut down Huaqiangbei, the world’s largest electronics market, this week as they locked down dozens of neighborhoods and suspended service at 24 subway stations and hundreds of bus stations across the city.
    China shuts world's largest electronics market as Shenzhen imposes more lockdowns

    In the northern port city of Dalian, a lockdown was imposed on Thursday and set to run until Sunday in its main urban areas, affecting about 3 million residents.

    In Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province in northern China, authorities suspended public transport across the city over the weekend, after 30 infections were found during mass testing. Four districts ordered more than 3 million residents to work from home until Wednesday afternoon.

    In western China, Xining, the capital of Qinghai province and home to 2.5 million people, ordered a lockdown from Monday until Thursday in its urban areas and suspended public transport.

    The rolling lockdowns have crippled economic growth. In July, youth unemployment in China hit a record high, with one in five young people out of work.

    While initially supportive of the zero-tolerance approach, the Chinese public has become increasingly frustrated with the unending restrictions on their daily life. The often ruthless and chaotic enforcement of the policy by local governments has further fueled public anger and resentment.

    Despite the economic and social toll, Chinese leaders have repeatedly vowed to stick to the zero-Covid policy, insisting that it is saving lives. Health officials say the relatively low vaccination rate among China’s elderly population and inadequate rural healthcare capacity are hurdles to abandoning zero Covid.

    Local authorities across China are under tremendous pressure to prevent outbreaks from spiraling just weeks away from a key Communist Party meeting. Maintaining social stability has always been a top priority in the lead-up to important political events.

    The 20th Party Congress, scheduled to start on October 16, is widely expected to see Chinese leader Xi Jinping extend his hold on power for another five years.

    Some Chinese who have grown disillusioned with zero-Covid hope restrictions could be relaxed after the congress, but the government has not offered any timeline on a possible shift of the policy.

    Brightest supermoon since 1948 | CNN

    Leaked records expose how Uyghurs are judged and detained

    Leaked Chinese government records reveal detailed surveillance reports on Uyghur families and Beijing’s justification for mass detentions

    By Ivan Watson and Ben Westcott

    Hong Kong (CNN) — Rozinsa Mamattohti couldn’t sleep or eat for days after she read the detailed records the Chinese government had been keeping on her entire family.

    She and her relatives, most of whom live in China’s western Xinjiang region, aren’t dissidents or extremists or well-known. But in a spreadsheet kept by local officials, her entire family’s lives are recorded at length along with their jobs, their religious activity, their trustworthiness and their level of cooperation with the authorities. And this spreadsheet could determine if Mamattohti’s sister remains behind razor wire in a government detention center.

    Her family’s records, and hundreds of government reports like them, have been leaked to journalists by a patchwork of exiled Uyghur activists.

    The document reveals for the first time the system used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to justify the indefinite detention on trivial grounds of not only Mamattohti’s family but hundreds — and possibly millions — of other citizens in heavily fortified internment centers across Xinjiang.

    It is the third major leak of sensitive Chinese government documents in as many months, and together the information paints an increasingly alarming picture of what appears to be a strategic campaign by Beijing to strip Muslim-majority Uyghurs of their cultural and religious identity and suppress behavior considered to be unpatriotic.

    The Chinese government has claimed it is running a mass deradicalization program targeting potential extremists, but these official records, verified by a team of experts, show people can be sent to a detention facility for simply “wearing a veil” or growing “a long beard.”

    For Mamattohti’s sister, 34-year-old Patem, the crime for which she was detained, according to the document, was a “violation of family planning policy,” or put simply, having too many children. Under the countrywide policy, which rarely if ever is cause for imprisonment, rural families in Xinjiang are limited to three children. Patem had four.

    It was the first time since 2016 that Mamattohti had received any concrete news of what had happened to her family.

    “I never imagined that my younger sister would be in prison,” Mamattohti told CNN, through tears, in her house in Istanbul. She said she first saw the leaked records when they were informally circulated on social media among Uyghurs overseas. “As I was reading their names I couldn’t hold myself together, I was devastated.”

    The leak exposes what appears to be a detailed and far-reaching system of state surveillance in the region, run by the local government in Xinjiang, designed to target Chinese citizens for peacefully practicing their culture or religion.

    CNN has only been able to independently verify some of the records contained in the document. But a team of experts, led by Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, say they are confident that it is an authentic Chinese government document.

    The leaked document is a 137-page PDF file, likely generated from an Excel spreadsheet or Word table. Zenz pointed to the use of similar terminology and language in this document, which he refers to as the Karakax List, and other records leaked from Xinjiang.

    He said the records showed that Beijing was detaining Uyghur citizens for actions that in many cases did not “remotely resemble a crime.”

    “The contents of this document are really significant to all of us because it shows us the paranoid mindset of a regime that’s controlling the up-and-coming super power of this globe,” Zenz told CNN.

    A redacted version of part of a Chinese government PDF document which was leaked to CNN, showing records of detainees in Xinjiang.

    CNN sent a copy of the document to both the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local government in Xinjiang, to see if they could verify its authenticity. There was no response.

    Speaking in Germany on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that he would gladly welcome any international diplomats or media to visit Xinjiang to see the truth for themselves.

    “(Those who have come) have not seen any concentration camps or persecution in Xinjiang. However, what they have seen is that all ethnic groups are able to live peacefully and harmoniously … Their religious freedom is totally protected and they can practice their religion without any restrictions,” he said.

    “The so-called concentration camps with so-called 1 million people are 100% rumors. It is completely fake news. I do not understand why these people are still lying while having the facts. I can only say that these people are deeply prejudiced against China.”

    A previous attempt by CNN to visit the detention centers in Xinjiang was blocked by local government authorities.

    The document: Family, neighbors, religion

    China’s vast western region of Xinjiang has for centuries been home to a large population of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Uyghur. Until recently, there were many more Uyghur citizens in Xinjiang than Han Chinese, the ethnic majority in the rest of the country.

    Since 2016, evidence has emerged that the Chinese government has been operating huge, fortified centers to detain its Uyghur citizens. As many as two million people may have been taken to the camps, according to the US State Department.

    Former detainees and activists say the facilities are actually designed for the purposes of re-education — places where inmates are forcibly taught Mandarin and instructed in Communist Party propaganda. Some testimonies from former detainees describe over-crowded cells, torture and even the deaths of fellow detainees.

    Camp 4 Camp 3 Camp 2 Camp 1 Karakax

    The leaked document appears to be a compilation of 667 records of detained Uyghur citizens, all of whom lived within a small neighborhood of Karakax county, also known as Moyu, in southwestern Xinjiang. A number of the 667 records appear to be duplicates, but in total they represent 311 individuals who were sent to detention centers.

    Population figures from 2015 show Karakax was home to just over 560,000 people, 97.6% of whom were ethnically Uyghur.

    In December 2016, five people were killed — including three assailants — when a group of men allegedly attacked the local Karakax Communist Party office with knives and detonated an explosive device. Chinese state media described it as a terrorist attack.

    It was a series of deadly attacks like this across Xinjiang and other parts of China which Beijing has used to justify its mass detention of Uyghurs, purportedly as a means of nullifying the alleged threat of Islamic extremism. The Chinese Foreign Ministry says that since the system was put in place three years ago, no one has been killed in terror attacks in Xinjiang.

    Few dates are included on the leaked document, but the earliest date of detention listed is in January 2017, suggesting that these Uyghurs began to be put into camps after the December attack.

    The leaked evaluations contain detailed reports on each of the detained residents and their families, including not only their national ID numbers and occupations, but descriptions of their neighbors and rigorous assessments of their daily religious activity.

    These elements are referred to in the document as the Three Circles — family, social and religious associations. Based on these evaluations, each record also contains an official judgment on whether the detainee should be allowed to leave their camp.

    How a detainee is judged

    “He participated in the four events”(Went to mosque Friday, attendedfestivals, wedding and funeral) “It is found sometimes he prayed” “His religious knowledgecame from his grandfather” RELIGIOUSCIRCLE

    SOCIALCIRCLE NEIGHBOR Sentenced to 6 years (Inciting terrorism) NEIGHBOR (Endangering public security) Sentenced to 5.5 years NEIGHBOR Sentenced to 14 years (Advocating terrorism)

    ELDEST SON Middle school FATHER Unemployedat home ELDEST DAUGHTER Kindergarten WIFE Detained (For being apotential risk) FAMILYCIRCLE

    MALE Detained (Illegally went abroad,violated family planning policy)

    VERDICT “The transforming of his thought was not ideal. It is recommended to continue his training”

    “He participated inthe four events”(Went to mosque Friday, attendedfestivals, wedding and funeral) “It is found sometimes he prayed” “His religious knowledgecame from his grandfather” RELIGIOUSCIRCLE

    NEIGHBOR Sentenced to 14 years (Advocating Terrorism)

    NEIGHBOR Sentenced to 5.5 years (Endangering public security) (Inciting terorism) Sentenced to 6 years NEIGHBOR SOCIALCIRCLE (For being apotential risk) Detained WIFE

    FATHER Unemployed at home

    ELDEST DAUGHTER Kindergarten

    ELDEST SON Middle school

    FAMILYCIRCLE (Illegally went abroad,violated family planning policy) MALE Detained

    VERDICT “The transforming of his thought was not ideal. It is recommended to continue his training.”

    One report concludes: “(The detainee’s) stay has been less than one year and it is recommended she continue her training to improve her Mandarin.”

    The document never refers to detention centers or detainees specifically, referring to them euphemistically as training centers and trainees, in keeping with the Communist Party’s practices of referring to the camps as places for “vocational training.”

    The fact that the document’s assessments all question whether or not the people sent to the detention centers should be allowed to leave would appear to indicate their real function.

    It isn’t clear who has compiled the list or from which government department it comes, but the level of detail on each detainee’s daily religious behavior before they were sent away is carefully recorded and specific.

    Editor’s note: this is a recreation of one record, not a copy.

    One case study reads: “It is found that before (the detainee) was sent to the training center, she did namaz (daily prayers) every day in 2014, prayed after meals and prayed at the family graves during festivals. Her religious knowledge came from her grandmother.”

    Another detainee is recorded as having refused to take off her face veil for years. “She went to Saudi Arabia with her husband twice, she insisted on wearing a face veil … with the excuse of rhinitis (allergies), despite committee cadres asking her (not) to do so several times,” the report says. The woman took off her veil in 2016, but was still sent to a detention center for being a “potential threat.”

    The alleged offenses for which Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities have been detained appear to be at odds with Beijing’s claims of a program of deradicalization.

    For example, about 114 of the detainees in the leaked records were sent to the camps for having too many children, 25 for having a passport without having traveled internationally and 13 for having “strong religious traditions” in their family.

    Some were detained simply for reading or owning “illegal books” or having a family member who used to be in jail.

    Main reasons for detention in the document

    Violation of family planning policy
    (having more children than is allowed)

    Potential threat (various reasons)

    Having a criminal record, ex-prisoner

    Holding a passport without
    visiting a foreign country

    Visiting one of 26 “sensitive countries”

    Illegal preaching, attending or
    allowing room for illegal preaching

    Prone to being radicalized due to
    religious traditions in family

    Family member of a criminal
    or ex-prisoner

    Wearing a face veil

    Having a long beard

    Your wife wearing a face veil

    Making an unauthorized pilgrimage

    “The document clearly shows … that the re-education camps are not for people who have been convicted of anything at all. They are simply for people who fall into some kind of general category of general suspicion or who have simply practiced their own religion,” Zenz said.

    Uyghur activists who shared the document have declined to reveal their source, due to fears of retaliation.

    Since receiving the information, academic Adrian Zenz and his team have authenticated the identities of 337 out of the more than 2,800 individual people named in the records.

    Through interviews with Uyghurs outside China, CNN was able to verify the cases of eight relatives, friends or acquaintances identified in the document.

    The document also rings true with the continued efforts of the Chinese government to bring the culturally disparate Xinjiang in line with state-approved mainstream cultural norms. The steady growth of Han Chinese in the province is a direct result of a policy push by Beijing to encourage migration to the Muslim-majority region.

    Since the government launched its “Strike Hard Campaign Against Extremism” campaign in 2014, the local administration’s stance towards Uyghurs has hardened. The detention centers were constructed, Uyghur mosques and graveyards have vanished beneath bulldozers and even loyal Communist Party cadres have been imprisoned apparently due to their Uyghur sympathies.

    According to Zenz, this newly leaked document appears to be partially based on information gathered by Chinese government workers who have been sent to live with and monitor Uyghur families in recent years. “This data is being collected by government workers who visit minorities, who live with families, who sleep (in their houses), who spend time with them, who find out every intimate and private detail … And then they enter all of this information into a digital database through a smart phone app,” he said.

    Other likely sources of information are the neighborhood committees and cooperative family members who are regularly mentioned in the document.

    No release dates are recorded for any of the detainees, even those who have had their return to the community approved. In some cases, the detainee is recommended to be released from the camp but to continue working in the “industrial park,” potentially corroborating allegations that Uyghurs are made to perform forced labor.

    If the document is extrapolated for the rest of Xinjiang, home to 11 million Uyghurs, there could be hundreds of thousands more surveillance records like these.

    The family member: ‘She is no real threat’

    For some Uyghur expatriates, living overseas with no word from their families for months or years, this document provides the first official confirmation of the fate of their loved ones. For Rozinsa Mamattohti, it was a devastating coda to years of uncertainty and fear.

    She moved to Turkey to study as a teenager in 2002, after dropping out of school at an early age to be a seamstress. Despite the distance between Xinjiang and Turkey, there are many connections between the two. Uyghurs are considered ethnically Turkic, and speak a language closely related to Turkish. Activists pushing for Xinjiang to become a separate country call it “East Turkestan.”

    Within three years Mamattohti had married a local man and they soon started their own family.

    At first, she regularly kept in touch with her family back in Xinjiang over the phone and later through email and video calls.

    She thought she’d have many years to introduce her family back in Xinjiang to her children. But then things began to change at home.

    Rozinsa’s family tree

    Rozinsa Mamattohti

    SISTER Patem Mamattohti

    Detained (Violation of family policy)

    FATHER Mamattohti Sayit Farmer

    MOTHER Baimmehan Heyt Farmer

    BROTHER Muhammad Abdulla Mamattohti Farmer, lives at home lives athome BROTHER Muhammet Omer Mamattohti Farmer, lives at home lives athome SISTER Rozniyaz Mamattohti Formerly detained SISTER Rizwangul Mamattohti Sells kebabs, lives at home lives athome

    DAUGHTER 14 years old middle school student middleschoolstudent DAUGHTER 12 years old middle school student middleschoolstudent SON 9 years old primary school student primaryschoolstudent SON 7 years old primary school student primaryschoolstudent

    Rozinsa Mamattohti

    SISTER Patem Mamattohti Detained (Violation of family policy)

    FATHER Mamattohti Sayit Farmer

    MOTHER Baimmehan Heyt Farmer

    BROTHER Muhammad Abdulla Mamattohti Farmer, lives at home lives athome BROTHER Muhammet Omer Mamattohti Farmer, lives at home lives athome SISTER Rozniyaz Mamattohti Formerly detained SISTER Rizwangul Mamattohti Sells kebabs, lives at home lives athome

    DAUGHTER 14 years old middle school student middleschoolstudent DAUGHTER 12 years old middle school student middleschoolstudent SON 9 years old primary school student primaryschoolstudent SON 7 years old primary school student primaryschoolstudent

    In April 2016, while Mamattohti’s parents were visiting her in Turkey, the news came that her older sister Rozniyaz Mamattohti had been arrested by the Chinese government.

    Her parents returned to Xinjiang to find out what had happened, but soon phone calls from Rozinsa began to ring out. Regularly used family phone numbers were disconnected, without explanation.

    “I haven’t been able to contact my family since June 2016,” she said.

    In January 2020, she saw Uyghur translations of the leaked document distributed on social media by exiled activists and her worst fears seemed to be confirmed.

    “First, I saw the document
    with my older sister’s name on it.
    It was heartbreaking.”Rozinsa Mamattohti

    A second undated case study reveals Mamattohti’s older sister Rozniyaz was sent to a different detention center from their younger sibling, Patem. She was detained for two purported violations: Having too many children and holding an unused passport, which is not an official crime under Chinese law.

    According to the evaluation of both sisters, their family had been “cooperative” with the village committee. Despite having been sent to the camp in March 2018, the undated evaluation of the anonymous assessor is that younger sister Patem didn’t pose any danger. “She is no real threat. It is recommended to end her training.”

    But the document doesn’t say if Patem was freed from the camps or how long she spent inside.

    Rozniyaz had already been released, according to her assessment, although there is no record of the length of her detention. She is recorded as coming to the group chief to “sign attendance every morning” and the neighborhood committee “every night after work.”

    “It is recommended she
    continue her supervised life
    in the neighborhood.” Rozniyaz’s assessment document

    Like Mamattohti, many other Uyghurs have moved to Turkey over the years for work or to escape the political tensions back home.

    Ipargul Karakas has lost contact with her family in Xinjiang. In an interview at her home in Turkey, she told CNN her brother and sister were in prison, and during her last phone call with her mother, the older woman claimed not to know who she was.

    Karakas said it was a shock when she received a translation of the leaked document over social media and quickly recognized the name of her cousin, Mahire Mahmut.

    According to the document, Mahmut was put in a detention center because her parents and two elder siblings took a trip to Turkey in 2016, which the Chinese government claimed was “illegal.”

    On their way to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj, they had stopped off in Turkey to visit Ipargul and her husband Hafiz.

    “They came here legally. When they arrived here, we saw their passports, they wanted to go to Hajj. We saw their passports,” Ipragul’s husband Hafiz told CNN in Istanbul.

    There is no word on whether Mahmut was released or how long she spent in the facility, although the report does recommend her release. When it was written, she had three children below the age of 14. It’s not clear what became of them.

    “When we think about the difficult and harsh conditions (our family) might be in back in Xinjiang … we just sit and cry helplessly,” Hafiz said.

    The leakers: ‘Nothing is free’

    Uyghur hip-hop artist Tahirjan Anwar was celebrating his 32nd birthday in the Netherlands when, without warning, he received more than a hundred pages of classified Chinese records.

    At the time, he had no idea what to do with the information. But he knew that it was a “priceless gift.”

    “Because this is crucial evidence. Information about ethnic cleansing towards Uyghurs by the Chinese government,” he told CNN, speaking publicly for the first time about his role in the leak of the document.

    Anwar has been living in the Netherlands since his father sent him away from Xinjiang in 2005. He was just 17 when he left, but according to Anwar his father could “feel something was going to happen.”

    He hasn’t seen his parents in person since, and the last time they spoke was by telephone in 2016. He said they asked how he was, told him they loved him and then said: “Now, you are not my son.”

    “The Chinese government made my father say that to me,” he said.

    Anwar won’t reveal the source of this new document, only saying that they were taken out of China and passed to exiled Uyghur activists. He said if his source’s identity is made public “that person will die.”

    Anwar passed on the leaked material to another Uyghur exile in the Netherlands, writer Asiye Abdulahad, in the hope she’d know how to spread the word. Between them, Anwar and Abdulahad have been responsible for disseminating two of the Chinese government’s most embarrassing internal leaks in decades. They say neither of them was involved in an earlier leak of internal Chinese government documents to the New York Times.

    Quietly-spoken writer Abdulahad isn’t a member of any formal Uyghur organization, but when the document appeared in her inbox, she knew she had to act.

    This document is important evidence that can prove the unjustifiable and illegal measures the Chinese government has taken to arrest these people and send them to re-education centers and prisons.” Asiye Abdulahad

    The first set of documents the pair distributed to the media was the leak published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which appears to be the operating manual for the Chinese government’s Xinjiang detention centers.

    The documents, mostly from 2017 and published in November 2019, reveal plans to construct a large number of heavily secured facilities in which detainees are forcibly taught in the Chinese language, proper “manners,” and “ideological education.”

    “(Beijing) never really denied that those weren’t Chinese government documents, never said anything about the classified documents’ authenticity,” she said.

    Abdulahad said that she believes the Chinese government is aiming to carry out a “political cleansing” of Xinjiang through its detention center program, to change the character of the Uyghur people in the region. She said the strategy was unlikely to succeed, adding it has been tried before by “many empires in the world.”

    “(Empires) all end eventually. It’s impossible for them to last,” she said.

    Anwar bluntly describes the actions of the Chinese government as “ethnic cleansing.”

    “We aren’t terrorists … We are
    just humans. We are just Uyghurs.
    We are just like you.”Tahirjan Anwar

    He said that it wasn’t a difficult decision to reveal his role in leaking the document, as he is sure his family are already in prison. Privately, part of him even hopes that his family members will be paraded out by Chinese state media to denounce him publicly.

    “I will be happy (if that happens) because first of all, I can see that they are alive,” he said.

    Abdulahad said people need to look beyond their own family’s safety and speak out for change. “Nothing is free. You have to pay some price in order to pursue the things you want,” she said.

    ‘What is their crime?’

    None of the men and women behind the newly leaked document believes it is likely to lead to an immediate change of policy by the Chinese government.

    Previous releases of sensitive documents have been stone-walled by Beijing officials, who claimed that they were maliciously misinterpreted.

    But in the past six months, the Chinese government has been working hard to try to defuse rising global concern about its detention system in Xinjiang.

    Delegations of foreign diplomats and selected media have been given tours of the fortified facilities. Government officials have claimed, without providing proof, that the camps are increasingly empty.

    “People arrive and leave constantly,” said Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in July. “Most have already gone back to society.”

    In any case, the leaked document shows that the Chinese government knows in detail what its Xinjiang residents are doing, house by house, street by street. If the 11 million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang should fall foul of Beijing again, the Chinese government knows where to find them.

    Uyghur exile Rozinsa Mamattohti said she wants the whole world to know what the Chinese government is doing to her people.

    “To the Chinese I want to say — why? What is the reason you have arrested my aging, sick parents? What are you doing to them? What is your purpose? And my innocent sisters, what is their crime?” she said.

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