Families of Muslims allegedly detained by Chinese government speak out: Part 1

Families tell stories of their loved one's disappearances as China is accused of sending Muslim citizens, many of the Uighur ethnic minority, to prison-like camps that it calls "vocational centers."
8:58 | 08/29/19

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Transcript for Families of Muslims allegedly detained by Chinese government speak out: Part 1
All I heard from him is, "Son, they're taking me." Reporter: With those final words, kuzzat's father is vanished without a trace. He's one of the missing. The lost. The taken. Kuzzat's father one of a million Chinese citizens who have disappeared. So, I went halfway around the world to figure out what's happening, and found two worlds, full of truth and lies. Any sign of them behind us yet? They're back now. The Chinese government accused of sending people to modern day internment camps. Condemned for the crime of being Muslim. Chinese officials deny it, insisting this is about preventing terrorism. It is genocide. Do you consider this torture? Torture. We were granted a rare tour, Is it possible you could give us -- is it possible you could -- Next time, next time. We quickly discovered. Cops are right behind us a lot of people don't want us to find the answers. There's guys running at us right now. We began our search here, in America's capital, where kuzzat spends his life in a kind of limbo. The 35-year-old lives in Virginia working as a computer science teacher. Coming home to play with his four children every night. At the same time, wondering where his own father may be. He send me message from wechat, voice he said, "Son, they are taking me." He was pretty nervous from his voice. Did he say who was taking him? Police are taking me. Son, they're taking me. That message left more than a year ago -- he has not heard from his father since. This -- he was a pretty tough guy. I'm not sure that he's -- he can survive the concentration camp. But I don't know where he is. Kuzzat and his family come from xinjiang, a province in far western China. They are uighur, a large ethnic minority group. More than 11 million uighurs live in China alone, and they are mostly Muslim. They have more in common with the people of central Asia, and Turkey than they do with their fellow Chinese citizens in the east. Now, xinjiang is also where experts say the Chinese government has built those internment camps. They want to erase us from the land. Reporter: There are very few images of the camps. And a few alleged cell phone videos and photos leaked to Sophie is with human rights watch. How can we find out what's happening? We have managed to talk to people who have gotten out. Reporter: In an effort to get answers, we travel to Kazakhstan, a former part of the soviet union which borders the area. We meet a man whose office is flooded with requests for help. Most have lost families, siblings or children across the board. That's your mother, what happened to her? Reporter: This is shocking to most people in the world that this is going on. It is just ethnic cleansing. It's genocide. Reporter: The Chinese call these camps vocational centers, but when I asked secretary of state Mike Pompeo he said this. These are trull truly internment camps. And when the world finds out, we will all regret. Reporter: The uighur's area is crucial. Experts say government policies encouraging them to move west created tension. They were dispossessed of their land. In many ways they were excluded from participating in new economies. Reporter: China blamed groups for an increase in violence and it gave the government a target. They were seen as potential terrorists. Reporter: I first started covering the conflict this is this region several years ago. Driving here you can see there are police officers everywhere, in fact, put your camera down. Put your camera down. By 2014, China began building the camps. Is there torture? Yes. Reporter: What kind? Physical torture. All of the people who are being detained in these facilities are being subjected to degradation and humiliation of a kind that would break just about anyone. Reporter: In Kazakhstan, several men demonstrate the severe postures they say they were forced to hold for hours. Some telling us that guards used iron armor to keep them in place. The day after we met, we came back to his office to interview a woman who was confined in three different camps, then given a job in a factory making gloves for pennies on the dollar. She could not leave. So for all that time, she was separated from her 5-year-old daughter. Reporter: For two years you didn't see your mom? Unbeknownst to us, at the same time we are doing this interview, drama is unfolding out in the hallway. Are those police? Police have made their way into the building. Down the corridor, they are collecting bilash's files. The man himself nowhere to be seen. Now we're kind of walking down the stairs quickly to get out. We really had no idea what they are looking for. Hopefully they are not doing this for the Chinese. A call from bilash's wife confirms what we fear. Bilash has been arrested. This cell phone video shot in the hotel room where he was apparently taken into custody, showing blood on the bathroom floor. He said that his life is in danger. In the weeks that followed, his wife confirms he's being held in another city on house arrest and charged with inciting ethnic hatred. I really think that China is standing behind his arrest because China really don't want to know about these concentration camps. She and their children are left to fend for themselves It feels like I am sitting in a small boat with my two children and in the middle of the huge ocean. I have to help him. I have to protect my children's father. Now that our connection with bilash is severed, we head toward China. We drive to the border town of khorgos, where we're told many people leaving xinjiang cross over. To get there, we have to pass through Gates and security checkpoints. All right, we are going through security right now to head to the direction of China. A lot of cameras everywhere. Behind these two towers is Chinese side. They're so sensitive about pointing the camera at China from this side of Kazakhstan, just paranoia. So we can see the Chinese guards right there, the Chinese police. China in red, Kazakhstan in blue. But it didn't take long before Chinese police run out to stop us. These Chinese police just came running. Now they demanded our passports and so we're just walking away and see if we can get away with this. They were this close. Up next, we make it inside China. Two very different journeys, as we try to visit those detention centers. We find out what the Chinese do and don't want you to see. Do we have any sign of them behind us yet?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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