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Scribe acquires groundbreaking account from within China’s ‘modern-day gulag’

Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe has acquired WEL rights in The Chief Witness: escape from China’s modern-day concentration camps, by Sayragul Sauytbay and Alexandra Cavelius, from Kathrin Scheel at the This Book Travels literary agency.

Born in China’s north-western province, Sauytbay trained as a doctor before being appointed a senior civil servant, but her life was upended when the Chinese authorities incarcerated her for being Kazakh, one of China’s ethnic minorities. Imprisoned in one of the region’s 1,200 penal camps — modern-day gulags that are estimated to house three million members of the Kazakh and Uighur groups — she saw inmates subjected to relentless punishment and torture. She was put to work teaching Chinese language, culture, and politics, in the course of which she gained access to secret information that revealed Beijing’s long-term plans to undermine not only its minorities, but democracies around the world.

Upon her escape to Europe, Sauytbay was reunited with her family, but still lives under the constant threat of reprisals from Beijing. In 2020 she was awarded the International Women of Courage Award by the US State Department for her reports on the oppression of minorities in China. She is the only former camp supervisor to have come forward and given a full account of the inner workings of these institutions. As a key witness, Sauytbay has spoken to the European Parliament and media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Rosenbloom says, ‘The Chief Witness is of the utmost international and humanitarian importance, and the courage of the author is breathtaking. We are proud to be its English-language publisher.’

Scribe will publish The Chief Witness in the UK, the US, and Australia in May.