Scribe will publish The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s Modern-day Concentration Camps by Sayragul Sauytbay and Alexandra Cavelius.
Publisher Henry Rosenbloom acquired world English-language rights to the title from Kathrin Scheel at literary agency This Book Travels. Scribe will publish simultaneously in the UK, the US and Australia in May 2021.
The Chief Witness is Sauytbay's personal account of her experience in China's "modern-day gulags" which detain two of China's ethnic minorities; the Kazakh and Uighur groups.
Born in China's north-western province, Sauytbay trained as a doctor before being appointed a senior civil servant, but her life changed drastically when the Chinese authorities incarcerated her for being Kazakh. Sauytbay was imprisoned in one of the region's 1,200 penal camps, where she says 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 is said to live under threat of reprisals from Beijing. She is the only former camp supervisor to have come forward and given a full account of the inner workings of these institutions.
Rosenbloom said: "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."