Xinjiang internment camps
  (Redirected from Xinjiang re-education camps)
The Xinjiang internment camps,[a] officially called Xinjiang Vocational Education and Training Centers (Chinese: 新疆职业技能教育培训中心​[11]​) by the government of China,[12][13][14][15] are internment camps operated by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region government and its Chinese Communist Party (CCP) provincial committee. Human Rights Watch says that they have been used to indoctrinate Uyghurs and other Muslims since 2017 as part of a "people's war on terror," a policy announced in 2014.[2][16][17] The camps have been criticized by many countries and human rights organizations for alleged human rights abuses, mistreatment, rape, and torture, with some alleging genocide. Some countries have expressed support for the camps.[18][19]
Xinjiang internment camps
Indoctrination camps, labor camps

Detainees listening to speeches in a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, April 2017[1]
Other names
  • Vocational Education and Training Centers
  • Xinjiang re-education camps
LocationXinjiang, China
Built byChinese Communist Party
Government of China
Operated byXinjiang government and Party committee
OperationalSince 2017[2]
Number of inmates1.29 million per year from 2014 to 2019, according to a Chinese government white paper from 2020.[3]
Up to 1.5 million (2019 Zenz estimate)[4]
1 million – 3 million over several years (2019 Schriver estimate)[5][6]
Plus ~497,000 minors in special boarding schools (2017 government document estimate)[7]
Xinjiang internment camps
Uyghur name
Uyghurقايتا تەربىيەلەش لاگېرلىرى
Qayta terbiyelesh lagérliri
Siril YëziqiҚайта тәрбийәләш лагерлири
Xinjiang Re-education camps
Simplified Chinese再教育
Traditional Chinese再教育[8]
Hanyu Pinyinzàijiàoyù yíng
Vocational Education and Training Centers
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinzhíyè jìnéng jiàoyù péixùn zhōngxīn
The camps were established under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping's administration.[17] Operations are led by Chen Quanguo, a CCP Politburo member and CCP committee secretary who leads the Party committee and government in the region.[20] The camps are reportedly operated outside the legal system; many Uyghurs have reportedly been interned without trial and no charges have been levied against them (held in administrative detention).[21][22][23] Local authorities are reportedly holding hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in these camps as well as members of other ethnic minority groups, for the stated purpose of countering extremism and terrorism[24][25] and promoting social integration.[26][27][28]
As of 2019, it was estimated that Chinese authorities may have detained up to 1.5 million people, mostly Uyghurs but also including Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic Turkic Muslims, Christians as well as some foreign citizens such as Kazakhstanis, who are being held in these secretive internment camps which are located throughout the region.[29] In May 2018, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said "at least a million but likely closer to three million citizens" were imprisoned in detention centers, which he described as "concentration camps".[5][6] In August 2018, Gay McDougall, a US representative at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that the committee had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uyghurs in China have been held in "re-education camps".[30][31] There have been comparisons between the Xinjiang camps and the Chinese Cultural Revolution​.​[32]​[33]​[34]​[35]​[36]
In 2019 at the United Nations, 54 countries, including China itself,[37] rejected the allegations and supported the Chinese government's policies in Xinjiang. In another letter, 23 countries shared the concerns in the committee's reports and called on China to uphold human rights.[38][39] In September 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) reported in its Xinjiang Data Project that construction of camps continued despite government claims that their function was winding down.[40] In October 2020, it was reported that the total number of countries that denounced China increased to 39, while the total number of countries that defended China decreased to 45. Sixteen countries that defended China in 2019 did not do so in 2020.[41]
Main articles: History of Xinjiang and Uyghur genocide
Xinjiang conflict
Main article: Xinjiang conflict
Various Chinese dynasties have historically exerted various degrees of control and influence over parts of what is modern-day Xinjiang.[42] The region came under complete Chinese rule as a result of the westward expansion of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, which also conquered Tibet and Mongolia.[43] This conquest, which marked the beginning of Xinjiang under Qing rule, ended circa 1758. While nominally declared part of China's core territory, it was generally seen by the imperial court as a distant land unto its own; in 1758, it was designated a penal colony and site of exile, and it was governed as a military protectorate, not integrated as a province.[44]
After the 1928 assassination of Yang Zengxin, the governor of the semi-autonomous Kumul Khanate in east Xinjiang under the Republic of China, Jin Shuren succeeded Yang as governor of the Khanate. On the death of the Kamul Khan Maqsud Shah in 1930, Jin abolished the Khanate entirely and took control of the region as warlord.[45] In 1933, the breakaway First East Turkestan Republic was established in the Kumul Rebellion.[45][46][47] In 1934, the First Turkestan Republic was conquered by warlord Sheng Shicai with the aid of the Soviet Union before Sheng reconciled with the Republic of China in 1942.[48] In 1944, the Ili Rebellion led to the Second East Turkestan Republic with dependency on the Soviet Union for trade, arms, and "tacit consent" for its continued existence before being absorbed into the People's Republic of China in 1949.[49]
From the 1950s to the 1970s, the government sponsored a mass migration of Han Chinese to the region, policies promoting Chinese cultural unity, and policies punishing certain expressions of Uyghur identity.[50][51] During this time, militant Uyghur separatist organizations with potential support from the Soviet Union emerged, with the East Turkestan People's Party being the largest in 1968.[52][53][54] During the 1970s, the Soviets supported the United Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (URFET) to fight the Chinese.[55]
In 1997, a police roundup and execution of 30 suspected separatists during Ramadan led to large demonstrations in February 1997 that resulted in the Ghulja incident, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) crackdown that led to at least nine deaths.[56] The Ürümqi bus bombings later that month killed nine people and injured 68 with responsibility acknowledged by Uyghur exile groups.[57][46] In March 1997, a bus bomb killed two people with responsibility claimed by Uyghur radicals and the Turkey-based Organisation for East Turkistan Freedom.[58][59][46]
In July 2009, riots broke out in Xinjiang in response to a violent dispute between Uyghur and Han Chinese workers in a factory and result in over 100 deaths.[60][61] Following the riots, Uyghur radicals killed dozens of Chinese citizens in coordinated attacks from 2009 to 2016.[62][63] These included the August 2009 syringe attacks,[64] the 2011 bomb-and-knife attack in Hotan,[65] the March 2014 knife attack in the Kunming railway station,[66] the April 2014 bomb-and-knife attack in the Ürümqi railway station,[67] and the May 2014 car-and-bomb attack in an Ürümqi street market.[68] Several of the attacks were orchestrated by the Turkistan Islamic Party (formerly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement) which has been designated a terrorist organization by several countries including Russia,[69] Turkey,[70][71] the United Kingdom,[72] and the United States (until 2020),[73] in addition to the United Nations.[74]
Strategic motivations
The Chinese government maintains its actions in Xinjiang are justifiable responses to a threat of extremism and terrorism.[75]
A region of ethnic/linguistic/religious minorities on the northwest periphery of China, Xinjiang has been said (by Raffi Khatchadourian) to have "never seemed fully within the [Communist] Party’s grasp".[76] Part of Xinjiang was once seized by Czarist Russia and it also had a short period of independence. Traditionally the People's Republic of China has favored an assimilationist policy towards minorities with the help of mass immigration of Han Chinese into minority lands. After the collapse of its rival and neighbor the Soviet Union -- also a huge multi-national communist state with one dominant ethnicity -- the Chinese Communist Party was "convinced that ethnic nationalism had helped tear the former superpower to pieces". In addition there have been terror attacks in Xinjiang or by Uyghurs in 2009, 2013, and 2014.[76]
Several additional potential motives for increased repression in Xinjiang have been presented in scholarly research outside of China. First, the repression may simply be the result of increased dissent within the region beginning in circa 2009; second, it may be due to changes in minority policy that promoted assimilation into Han culture; and third, the repression may be primarily spearheaded by Chen Quanguo himself, the result of his personal hardline attitudes towards perceived sedition.[77]
Additionally, some analysts have suggested that Xinjiang is viewed as a key route for China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and that the ruling Communist Party perceives its local population as a potential threat to the initiative's success, or is anxious that opening it up may lead to radicalizing influences from other BRI participant states.[78] Sean Roberts of George Washington University said the CCP sees Uyghurs' attachment to their traditional lands as a risk to the BRI.[79] Researcher Adrian Zenz has suggested the initiative as an important factor behind the control of the Chinese government over Xinjiang.[80]
In November 2020, when the US dropped the Turkistan Islamic Party from its terrorist list because it was no longer "in existence", the decision was lauded by some intelligence officials because it removed the pretext for the Chinese government to introduce "terrorism eradication" campaigns against the Uyghurs. Yue Gang, a military commentator in Beijing stated however, that "in the wake of the US decision on the ETIM China might seek to increase its counterterrorism activities." The group continues to be designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council and other countries.[81][82][83]
Policies from 2009 to 2016
Number of re-education related government procurement bids in Xinjiang according to the Jamestown Foundation[84]
Both prior to and until shortly after the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, Wang Lequan was the Party Secretary for the Xinjiang region, effectively the highest subnational role; roughly equivalent to a governor in a Western province or state. Wang worked on modernization programs in Xinjiang, including industrialization, development of commerce, roads, railways, hydrocarbon development and pipelines with neighboring Kazakhstan to eastern China. Wang also constrained local culture and religion, replaced the Uyghur language with Standard Mandarin as the medium of education in primary schools, and penalized or banned among government workers (in a region in which the government was a very large employer), the wearing of beards and headscarves, religious fasting and praying while on the job.[85][86][87] In the 1990s, many Uyghurs in parts of Xinjiang could not speak Mandarin Chinese.[88]
In April 2010, after the Ürümqi riots, Zhang Chunxian replaced Wang Lequan as the Communist Party chief. Zhang Chunxian continued and strengthened Wang's repressive policies. In 2011, Zhang proposed "modern culture leads the development in Xinjiang" as his policy statement and started to implement his modern culture propaganda.[89] In 2012, he first mentioned the phrase "de-extremification" (Chinese: 去极端化) campaigns and started to educate "wild Imams" (野阿訇) and extremists (极端主义者).[90][91][84]
In 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative was announced, a massive trade project at the heart of which is Xinjiang.[92] In 2014, Chinese authorities announced a "People's war on terror" and local government introduced new restrictions and banned "abnormal" long beards; akin to some European countries the wearing of the burka in public places was also forbidden.​[93]​[94]​[95]​[96]​[97] In 2014, the concept of "transformation through education" began to be used in contexts outside of Falun Gong through the systematic "de-extremification" campaigns.[98] Under Zhang, the Communist Party launched its "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism" in Xinjiang.[99]
In August 2016, Chen Quanguo, a well-known hardline Communist Party secretary in Tibet,[100] took charge of the Xinjiang autonomous region. Chen was branded as responsible for a major component of Tibet's "subjugation" by critics.[101]
Following Chen's arrival, local authorities recruited over 90,000 police officers in 2016 and 2017 – twice as many as they recruited in the past seven years,[102] and laid out as many as 7,300 heavily guarded check points in the region.[103] The province has come to be known as one of the most heavily policed regions of the world. English-language news reports have labelled the current regime in Xinjiang as the most extensive police state in the world.[104][105][106][107]
Antireligious campaigns in China
Main articles: Antireligious campaigns in China and Freedom of religion in China
As a communist country, China does not have an official state religion, yet, it recognizes five different denominations, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.[108] In 2014, Western media reported that it has conducted antireligious campaigns to promote atheism.[109] According to the Washington Post, the Chinese Communist Party has shifted its policies in favor of outright sinicization of ethnic and religious minorities.[27] The trend accelerated in 2018 when the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the State Administration for Religious Affairs were placed under the control of the United Front Work Department.[110]
Groups targeted by surveillance
Around 2015, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a senior Chinese party official argued that "a third" of Xinjiang's Uyghurs were “polluted by religious extremist forces,” and needed to be “educated and reformed through concentrated force.”[111]
At about the same time, the Chinese state-security apparatus was developing a "Integrated Joint Operations Platform" (IJOP) to analyze information from its surveillance data. According to an analysis of this software by Human Rights Watch, a member of a minority might be assessed by the IJOP as falling under one of 36 “person types” that could lead to arrest and internment in a re-education camp. Some of these included:
Beginning in 2017, local media generally referred to facilities as "counter-extremism training centers" (去极端化培训班) and "education and transformation training centers" (教育转化培训中心). Most of those facilities were converted from existing schools or other official buildings, although some were purpose-built.[2]
The heavily policed region and thousands of check points assisted and accelerated the detention of locals in the camps. In 2017 the region constituted 21% of all arrests in China despite comprising less than 2% of the national population, eight times more than previous year.[104][112] The judicial and other government bureaus of many cities and counties started to release a series of procurement and construction bids for those planned camps and facilities.[84] Increasingly, massive detention centers were built up throughout the region and are being used to hold hundreds of thousands of people targeted for their religious practices and ethnicity.​[113]​[16]​[114]​[101]​[115]
Victor Shih, a political economist at the University of California, San Diego, claimed in July 2019 the mass internments were unnecessary because "no active insurgencies" existed, only "isolated terrorist incidents". He suggested that because a great deal of money was spent setting up the camps, the money likely went to associates of the politicians who created them.[116]
According to the Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye in December 2019, all of the "trainees" in the centers have graduated and have gradually returned to their jobs or found new jobs with government assistance.[117] Cheng also called reports that one million Uyghurs had been detained in Xinjiang "fake news" and that "what has been done in Xinjiang has no ... difference with what the other countries, including western countries, [do] to fight against terrorists."[117][118]
During the COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China, there were no reports of cases of the coronavirus in Xinjiang prisons or of conditions in the re-education facilities.[119] After program suspensions due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, Uyghur workers were reported to have been returned to other parts of Xinjiang and the rest of China to resume work beginning in March 2020.[119][120][121] In September 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) launched its Xinjiang Data Project, which reported that construction of camps continued despite claims that their function was winding down, with 380 camps and detention centers identified.[40][122]
New York Times and ICIJ leaks
Main articles: Xinjiang papers and China Cables
Pages from the China Cables
On 16 November 2019, The New York Times released an extensive leak of 400 pages of documents, sourced from a member of the Chinese government, in the hope that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping would be held accountable for his actions. The New York Times stated that the leak suggests discontent inside the Communist Party relating to the crackdown in Xinjiang. The anonymous government official who leaked the documents did so with the intent that the disclosure "would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions."[17]
We must be as harsh as them and show absolutely no mercy. — Xi Jinping on the terror attacks in 2014, (translated from Mandarin Chinese)[17]
One document was a manual aimed at communicating messages to Uyghur students who were returning home and would ask about their missing friends or relatives who had been interned in the camps. It said that government staff should acknowledge that the internees had not committed a crime and that "it is just that their thinking has been infected by unhealthy thoughts." Officials were directed to say that even grandparents and family members who seemed too old to carry out violence could not be spared.[17][123]
The New York Times stated that speeches obtained show how Xi views risks to the party similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which The New York Times stated Xi "blamed on ideological laxity and spineless leadership."[17] Concerned that violence in the Xinjiang region could damage social stability in the rest of China, Xi stated "social stability will suffer shocks, the general unity of people of every ethnicity will be damaged, and the broad outlook for reform, development and stability will be affected."[17] Xi encouraged officials to study how the US responded following the September 11 attacks.[17] Xi likened Islamic extremism alternately to a virus-like contagion and a dangerously addictive drug, and declared that addressing it would require “a period of painful, interventionary treatment.”[17]
The China Daily reported in 2018 that CCP official Wang Yongzhi was removed for "serious disciplinary violations."[17][124] The New York Times obtained a copy of Wang's confession (which the report noted was likely signed under duress) and stated that The New York Times believed he was sacked for being too lenient on Uyghurs, for example his release of 7,000 detainees. Wang had told his superiors that he was concerned that the actions against the Uyghurs would breed discontent and thus result in greater violence in the future. The leaked documents stated, "he ignored the party central leadership's strategy for Xinjiang, and he went as far as brazen defiance. ... He refused, to round up everyone who should be rounded up".[17] The article was discreetly shared on the Chinese platform Sina Weibo, where some netizens expressed sympathy for him.[125][123] In 2017, there were more than 12,000 investigations into party members in Xinjiang for infractions or resistance in the "fight against separatism," which was more than 20 times the figure in the previous year.[17]
On 24 November 2019, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the China Cables, consisting of six documents, an "operations manual" for running the camps and detailed use of predictive policing and artificial intelligence to target people and regulate life inside the camps.[126][127]
Shortly after the publication of the China Cables, leaker Asiye Abdulaheb went on to provide Adrian Zenz with the "Karakax list", allegedly a Chinese government spreadsheet that tracks the rationale behind 311 of the internments at a "Vocational Training Internment Camp" in the seat of Karakax County in Xinjiang.[128] The purpose of the list may have been to coordinate judgments on whether an individual should remain in internment; in some entries, the word "agree" was written beside a judgment.[129] Records detail how subjects dress and pray, and how their relatives and acquaintances behave.[130] One subject was interned because she wore a veil years ago; another was interned for clicking on a link to a foreign website; a third was interned for applying for a passport, despite posing "no practical risk" according to the spreadsheet. In general, the subjects on the Karakax list all have relatives living abroad, a category that reportedly leads to "almost certain internment." 149 subjects are documented as violating birth control policies. 116 of the subjects are listed without explanation as "untrustworthy"; for 88 of these, this "untrustworthy" label is the only reason listed for internment. Younger men, in particular, are often listed as "untrustworthy person born in a certain decade". 24 subjects are accused of formal crimes, including six terrorism-related allegations. Most of the subjects have been released, or scheduled for release, following the end of their one-year internment term; however, some of these are recommended for release into "industrial park employment", raising concerns about possible forced labor.[131]
Camp facilities
In urban areas, most of the camps are converted from existing vocational schools, CCP schools, ordinary schools or other official buildings, while in suburban or rural areas the majority of camps were specially built for the purposes of re-education.[132] These camps are guarded by armed forces or special police and equipped with prison-like gates, surrounding walls, security fences, surveillance systems, watchtowers, guard rooms, and facilities for armed police.[133][134][135][136]
While there is no public, verifiable data for the number of camps, there have been various attempts to document suspected camps based on satellite imagery and government documents. On 15 May 2017, Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think tank, released a list of 73 government bids related to re-education facilities.[84] On 1 November 2018, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) reported on suspected camps in 28 locations.[137] On 29 November 2018, Reuters and Earthrise Media reported 39 suspected camps.[138] The East Turkistan National Awakening Movement reported an even larger numbers of camps.[139][140]
In a 2018 report from US government-funded Radio Free Asia, Awat County (Awati) was said to have three re-education camps. An RFA listener provided a copy of a "confidentiality agreement" requiring re-education camp detainees to not discuss the workings of the camps, and said local residents were instructed to tell members of re-education camp inspection teams visiting No. 2 Re-education Camp that there was only one camp in the county.[141] The RFA listener also said the No. 2 Re-education Camp had transferred thousands detainees and removed barbed wire from the perimeter of the camp walls.[141]
Boarding schools for children of detainees
The detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities has allegedly left many children without their parents. The Chinese government has allegedly held these children at a variety of institutions and schools colloquially known as "boarding schools," although not all are residential institutions, that serve as de facto orphanages.​[142]​[143]​[144] In September 2018, the Associated Press reported that thousands of boarding schools were being built.[143] According to the Chinese Department of Education children as young as eight are enrolled in these schools.[145]
According to Adrian Zenz and BBC in 2019, children of detained parents in boarding schools had been forced to learn Mandarin Chinese and prevented from exercising their religion.​[146]​[147]​[148]​[149] In a paper published in the Journal of Political Risk, Zenz calls the effort a "systematic campaign of social re-engineering and cultural genocide".[150] Human Rights Watch claimed that the children detained at child welfare facilities and boarding schools were held without parental consent or access.[151][152] In December 2019, The New York Times reported that approximately 497,000 elementary and junior high school students were enrolled in these boarding schools. They also reported that students are only allowed to see family members once every two weeks and that they were forbidden from speaking the Uyghur language.[145]
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Camp locations identified by the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Numerous locations have been identified as re-education camps. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, whose funding is primarily from the Australian Government with overseas funding primarily from the US State Department and Department of Defense, had identified more than 380 “suspected detention facilities”.[153][154]
Information reasonably indicates that this “re-education” internment camp, which is often called a Vocational Skills Education and Training Center, is providing prison labor to nearby manufacturing entities in Xinjiang. CBP identified forced labor indicators including highly coercive/unfree recruitment, work and life under duress, and restriction of movement.
(statement of the US Department of Homeland Security[160][161])
Camp detainees
Many media outlets have reported that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities, are held in the camps.[167][168][169] Radio Free Asia, a news service funded by the US government, estimated in January 2018 that 120,000 members of the Uyghurs were being held in political re-education camps in Kashgar prefecture alone at the time.[170] In 2018, local government authorities in Qira County expected to have almost 12,000 detainees in vocational camps and detention centres and some projects related to the centres outstripped budgetary limits.[171] Reports of Uyghurs living or studying abroad being detained upon return to Xinjiang are common, which is thought to be connected to the re-education camps. Many living abroad have gone for years without being able to contact their family members still in Xinjiang, who may be detainees.[172][173]:1:23
Uyghur political figure Rebiya Kadeer, who has been in exile since 2005, has had as many as 30 relatives detained or disappeared, including her sisters, brothers, children, grandchildren, and siblings, according to Amnesty International.[174][175] It is unclear when they were taken away.[176][177]
On 13 July 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national and former employee of the Chinese state, appeared in a court in the city of Zharkent, Kazakhstan for being accused of illegally crossing the border between the two countries. During the trial she talked about her forced work at a re-education camp for 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs.[178][179] Her lawyer argued that if she is extradited to China, she would face the death penalty for exposing re-education camps in Kazakh court.[180][179] Her testimony for the re-education camps have become the focus of a court case in Kazakhstan,[181] which is also testing the country's ties with Beijing.[182][183] On 1 August 2018, Sauytbay was released with a six-month suspended sentence and directed to regularly check-in with police. She applied for asylum in Kazakhstan to avoid deportation to China.[184][185][186] Kazakhstan refused her application. On 2 June 2019 she flew to Sweden where she was subsequently granted political asylum.[187][188]
According to a Radio Free Asia interview with an officer at the Onsu County police station, as of August 2018, 30,000 persons, or about one in six Uyghurs in the county (approximately 16% of the overall population of the county), were detained in re-education camps.[189]
Gene Bunin created the Xinjiang Victims Database[190] to collect public testimonies on people detained in the camps. Each page lists basic demographic information including dates and suspected cause of detention, location, in addition to supplementary videos, photos and documents.
Writing in the Journal of Political Risk in July 2019, independent researcher Adrian Zenz estimated an upper speculative limit to the number of people detained in Xinjiang re-education camps at 1.5 million.[4] In November 2019, Adrian Zenz estimated that the number of internment camps in Xinjiang had surpassed 1,000.[191] In November 2019, George Friedman estimated that 1 in 10 Uyghurs are being detained in re-education camps.[192]
When the BBC was invited to the camps in June 2019, officials there told them the detainees were "almost criminals" who could choose "between a judicial hearing or education in the de-extremification facilities".[193] The Globe and Mail reported in September 2019 that some Han Chinese and Christian Uyghurs in Xinjiang who had disputes with local authorities or expressed politically unwelcome thoughts had also been sent to the camps.[194]
Anonymous drone footage posted on YouTube in September 2019 showed kneeling blindfolded inmates that an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said may have been an inmate transfer at a train station near Korla and may have been from a re-education camp.[195][196]
Anar Sabit, an ethnic Kazakh from Kuytun living in Canada who was imprisoned in 2017 after returning home following the death of her father, was detained for having gone abroad. She found other minorities were interned for offenses such as using forbidden technology (WhatsApp, a V.P.N.), travelling abroad, but that even a Uyghur working for the Communist party as a propagandist could be interned for the offense of having been booked in a hotel by an airline with others who were under suspicion.[76]
According to an anonymous Uyghur local government employee quoted in an article by US government-sponsored Radio Free Asia, during Ramadan 2020 (23 April to 23 May), residents of Makit County (Maigaiti), Kashgar Prefecture were told they could face punishment for religious fasting including being sent to a re-education camp.[197]
According to a Human Rights Watch report published in January 2021, the official figure of people put through this system is 1.3 million.[198][199]
Waterboarding, mass rape, and sexual abuse are reported to be among the forms of torture used as part of the indoctrination process at the camps.[200][201]
Testimonies of treatment
Officially the camps are known as Vocational Education and Training Centers, informally as "schools", and described by some officials as "hospitals" where inmates are treated for the "disease" of "extremist ideology". According to interment officials quoted in Xinjiang Daily, (a Communist Party-run newspaper) while "requirements for our students" are "strict ... we have a gentle attitude, and put our hearts into treating them". Being in one "is actually like staying at a boarding school.”[76] The newspaper quoted a former inmates as claiming during his internment he had realized he had been “increasingly drifting away from ‘home,’” under the influence of extremism. “With the government’s help and education, I’ve returned. ... "our lives are improving every day. No matter who you are, first and foremost you are a Chinese citizen.'” [76] Testimonies in non-Communist Party literature from freed inmates have been considerably different.
Kayrat Samarkand, a Kazakh citizen who migrated from Xinjiang, was detained in one of the re-education camps in the region for three months for visiting neighboring Kazakhstan. On 15 February 2018, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the same day as Kayrat Samarkand was freed from custody.[202] After his release, Samarkand said that he faced endless brainwashing and humiliation, and that he was forced to study communist propaganda for hours every day and chant slogans giving thanks and wishing for a long life to Xi Jinping.[203][better source needed]
Mihrigul Tursun, an Uyghur woman detained in China, after escaping one of these camps, talked of beatings and torture. After moving to Egypt, she traveled to China in 2015 to spend time with her family and was immediately detained and separated from her infant children. When Tursun was released three months later, one of the triplets had died and the other two had developed health problems. Tursun said the children had been operated on. She was arrested for the second time about two years later. Several months later, she was detained the third time and spent three months in a cramped prison cell with 60 other women, having to sleep in turns, use the toilet in front of security cameras and sing songs praising the Chinese Communist Party.[204]
Tursun said she and other inmates were forced to take unknown medication, including pills that made them faint and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women and loss of menstruation in others. Tursun said nine women from her cell died during her three months there. One day, Tursun recalled, she was led into a room and placed in a high chair, and her legs and arms were locked in place. "The authorities put a helmet-like thing on my head, and each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I would feel the pain in my veins," Tursun said in a statement read by a translator. "I don't remember the rest. White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness," Tursun said. "The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uyghur is a crime." She was eventually released so that she could take her children to Egypt, but she was ordered to return to China. Once in Cairo, Tursun contacted U.S. authorities and, in September, came to the United States and settled in Virginia.[205] China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying has stated that Tursun was taken into custody by police on "suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination" for a period lasting 20 days, but denies that Tursun was detained in a re-education camp.[206][207][208]
Former inmates claim that they are required to learn to sing the national anthem of China and communist songs. Punishments, like being placed in handcuffs for hours, waterboarding, or being strapped to "tiger chair" (a metal contraption) for long periods of time, are allegedly used on those who fail to follow.[209][210]
Anar Sabit, a cooperative inmate who had a relatively minor offense of foreign travel, described her confinement in the women's section as prison-like and marked by bureaucratic rigidity but said that she was not beaten or tortured .[76] Before and after her internment, Sabit said that she experienced what Chinese sometimes call gui da qiang, or 'ghost walls' "that confuse and entrap travelers".[76] After her release from internment, she said that she remains a "focus person" in her hometown of Kuytun where she lives with her uncle’s family. She described the town as resembling an "open air prison" due to the careful monitoring by cameras, sensors, police, and the neighborhood residential committee, and that she feels shunned by almost all friends and family and worries that she will endanger anyone who helps her.[76] After Sabit moved out of her uncle's house, Sabit lived in the dormitory of the neighborhood residential committee who she said threatened to return her to the internment camp for speaking out of turn.[76]
According to detainees, they were also forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, which are forbidden in Islam.[211][209] Some reportedly received unknown medicines while others attempted suicide.[212] There have also been deaths reported due to unspecified causes.​[213]​[214]​[215]​[156]​[216]​[217]​[218]​[219] Detainees have alleged widespread sexual abuse, including forced abortions, forced use of contraceptive devices and compulsory sterilization​.​[220]​[221]​[222] It has been reported that Han officials have been assigned to reside in the homes of Uyghurs who are in the camps.[223][224] Rushan Abbas of the Campaign for Uyghurs claims that the actions of the Chinese government amount to genocide according to United Nations definitions which are laid out in the Genocide Convention.[225]
According to Time, Sarsenbek Akaruli, 45, a veterinarian and trader from Ili, Xinjiang, was arrested in Xinjiang on 2 November 2017. As of November 2019, he is still in a detention camp. According to his wife Gulnur Kosdaulet, Akaruli was put in the camp after police found the banned messaging app WhatsApp on his cell phone. Kosdaulet, a citizen of neighboring Kazakhstan, has traveled to Xinjiang on four occasions to search for her husband but could not get help from friends in the Chinese Communist Party. Kosdaulet said of her friends, "Nobody wanted to risk being recorded on security cameras talking to me in case they ended up in the camps themselves."[226]
In May to June 2017, a woman native to Maralbexi County (Bachu) named Mailikemu Maimati (also spelled Mamiti) was detained in the county's re-education camp according to her husband Mirza Imran Baig. He said that after her release, she and their young son were not given their passports by Chinese authorities.[162][163]
According to Time, former prisoner Bakitali Nur, 47, native of Khorgos, Xinjiang on the Sino-Kazakh border, was arrested because authorities were suspicious of his frequent trips abroad. He reported spending a year in a cell with seven other prisoners. The prisoners sat on stools seventeen hours a day, were not allowed to talk or move and were under constant surveillance. Movement carried the punishment of being put into stress positions for hours. After release, he was forced to make daily self-criticisms, report on his plans and work for negligible payment in government factories. In May 2019, he escaped to Kazakhstan. Nur summarized his experience in jail and under constant monitoring after his release saying, "The entire system is designed to suppress us."[226]
According to Radio Free Asia, Ghalipjan, a 35 year old Uyghur man from Shanshan/Pichan County who was married and had a five-year-old son, died in a re-education camp on 21 August 2018. Authorities reported his death was due to heart attack, but the head of the Ayagh neighborhood committee said that he was beaten to death by a police officer. His family was not allowed to carry out Islamic funeral rites.[227]
In June 2018, President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) Dolkun Isa was told that his mother Ayhan Memet, 78, had died two months earlier while in detention at a "political re-education camp".[173]:1:45[156] The WUC president was unsure if she had been incarcerated in one of the many "political re-education camps".[228]
According to a 2018 report in the New York Times, Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, who ran a restaurant in Hotan before fleeing China in 2018, said he spent seven months in prison and more than two months in a camp in Hotan in 2015 without ever being criminally charged. Muhemet said that on most days, the inmates at the camp would assemble to hear long lectures by officials who warned them not to embrace Islamic radicalism, support Uyghur independence or defy the Communist Party.[229]
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, an officer at the Kuqa (Kuchar, Kuche) County Police Department reported that from June to December 2018, 150 people at the No. 1 Internment Camp in the Yengisher district of Kuqa county had died, corroborating earlier reports attributed to Himit Qari, former area police chief.[230][231]
In August 2020, the BBC released texts and a video smuggled out of a re-education camp by Merdan Ghappar, a former model of Uyghur heritage. Mergan had been allowed access to personal effects, and used a phone to take videos of the camp he is interned in.[232]
In February 2021, the BBC issued further eyewitness accounts of mass rape and torture in the camps.[233]
Forced labor
Adrian Zenz reported that the re-education camps also function as forced labor camps in which Uyghurs and Kazakhs produce various products for export, especially those made from cotton grown in Xinjiang.​[234]​[235]​[236]​[237] The growing of cotton is central to the industry of the region as "43 percent of Xinjiang's exports are apparel, footwear, or textiles". In 2018, 84% of China's cotton was produced in the Xinjiang province.[238] Since cotton is grown and processed into textiles in Xinjiang, a November 2019 article from The Diplomat said that "the risk of forced labor exists at multiple steps in the creation of a product".[239]
In 2018, the Financial Times reported that the Yutian / Keriya county vocational training centre, among the largest of the Xinjiang re-education camps, had opened a forced labour facility including eight factories spanning shoemaking, mobile phone assembly and tea packaging, giving a base monthly salary of CN¥1,500. Between 2016 and 2018, the centre expanded 269 percent in total area.[166]
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported that from 2017 to 2019 more than 80,000 Uyghurs were shipped elsewhere in China for factory jobs that "strongly suggest forced labour".[240] Conditions of these factories were consistent with the stipulations of forced labor as defined by the International Labor Organization.[241][242]
Notable persons
This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by adding missing items with reliable sources.
International reactions
Further information: Uyghur genocide § International responses
Reactions at the UN
On 8 July 2019, 22 countries issued a statement calling for an end to mass detentions in China and expressed concerns over widespread surveillance and repression.[244][245] 50 countries issued a counter-statement, reportedly coordinated by Algeria, criticizing the practice of "politicizing human rights issues," stating "China has invited a number of diplomats, international organizations officials and journalist to Xinjiang" and that "what they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in the media." The counter-statement also commended China's "remarkable achievements in the field of human rights", claiming that "safety and security has returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded."​[246]​[247]​[248] Qatar formally withdrew its name from the counter-statement on 18 July, six days after it was published, expressing a desire "to maintain a neutral stance and we offer our mediation and facilitation services."[248]
In October 2019, 23 countries issued a joint statement urging China to "uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief," urging China to refrain from "arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim communities.[38][249]
In response, on the same day, 54 countries (including China itself) issued a joint statement reiterating that the work of human rights in the United Nations should be conducted in a "non-politicized manner", and supporting China's Xinjiang policies. The statement spoke positively of the results of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang and held that these measures have effectively safeguarded the basic human rights of people of all ethnic groups."[250][251][252] Civil society groups in Muslim-majority countries with governments that have supported China's policies in Xinjiang have been noted to be uncomfortable with their governments' stance and have organized boycotts, protests, and media campaigns concerning Uyghurs.[253]
In October 2020, Axios reported that more countries at the UN joined the condemnation of China over Xinjiang abuses. The total number of countries that denounced China increased to 39, while the total number of countries that defended China decreased to 45. Notably, 16 countries that defended China in 2019 did not do so in 2020.[254]
Public statements of support and condemnation of Chinese policies in Xinjiang, based on joint letters at the UN [246][255][250][38][256][257]
CountryPosition in July 2019Position in October 2019Position in October 2020
American Samoa
Antigua and BarbudaSupport
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brunei Darussalam
Burkina FasoSupportSupport
Cabo Verde
Cayman Islands
Central African RepublicSupport
Democratic Republic of the CongoSupportSupport
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Côte d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast]
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Equatorial GuineaSupportSupport
Eswatini [Swaziland]
French Polynesia
The Vatican
North KoreaSupportSupport
South Korea
Marshall Islands
New Caledonia
New ZealandCondemnCondemn
North Macedonia
Papua New Guinea
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe
Saudi ArabiaSupport
Sierra LeoneSupport
Solomon IslandsSupport
South Africa
South SudanSupportSupport
Sri LankaSupportSupport
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab EmiratesSupportSupport
United KingdomCondemnCondemn
United States of AmericaCondemn
Western Sahara
July 201950 (including China)22
October 201954 (including China)23
October 202045 (including China)39
Reactions from international organizations
Governmental organizations
 United Nations
 European Union
World Bank
On November 11, 2019, the World Bank issued a statement:[278]
In line with standard practice, immediately after receiving a series of serious allegations in August 2019 in connection with the Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project, the Bank launched a fact-finding review, and World Bank senior managers traveled to Xinjiang to gather information directly. After receiving the allegations, no disbursements were made on the project. The team conducted a thorough review of project documents... The review did not substantiate the allegations. In light of the risks associated with the partner schools, which are widely dispersed and difficult to monitor, the scope and footprint of the project is being reduced. Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed.
Organization for Islamic Cooperation
Human rights organisations
People of Xinjiang protesting against the human rights violations (in Bern, Switzerland)
Reactions by countries
In September 2019, Australian Foreign MinisterMarise Payne stated, "I have previously raised Australia's concerns about reports of mass detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples in Xinjiang. We have consistently called for China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim groups. We have raised these concerns—and we will continue to raise them—both bilaterally and in relevant international meetings."[289]
In January 2020, the Bahrain Council of Representatives called on the international community to protect Uyghur Muslims in China and "expressed deep concern over the inhumane and painful conditions to which Uyghur Muslims in China are subjected, including the detention of more than one million Muslims in mass detention camps, denial of their most basic rights, the removal of their children, wives and families, their prevention of prayer, worship and religious practices, confronting murder, ill-treatment and torture."[290]
On March 15, 2021, the Walloon Parliament voted to approve a motion condemning the "unacceptable" practices introduced by the Chinese government, including the exploitation of Uyghurs and all other ethnic minorities, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. All parties voted in favor, with the exception of the Workers' Party, which abstained.[291]
On February 22, 2021, the Canadian House of Commons voted 266–0 to approve a motion that formally recognizes China is committing genocide against its Muslim minorities. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet did not vote.[292]
Egypt signed both statements at the UN (in July and October 2019) that supported China's Xinjiang policies.[244][293] Egypt has been accused of deporting Uyghurs to China.[294][295]
In November 2019, French Foreign MinisterJean-Yves Le Drian has called on China to close down the camps. He also called on China to permit the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang at the earliest possible date to make a report on the situation.[296] The French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs issued a statement on 27 November:
The French authorities are examining very carefully all of the testimonies and documents disseminated by the press over the past several days, indicating the existence of a system of internment camps in Xinjiang and a widespread policy of repression in this region. As we have publicly indicated on several occasions, as have our European partners, notably at the UN, within the framework of the most recent UN Human Rights Council sessions, we call on the Chinese authorities to put an end to mass arbitrary detentions in camps and to invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang as soon possible to assess the situation in this region.[297]
In December 2020, France said it will oppose the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between the European Union and China over the use of forced labour of Uyghurs.[298]
In December 2018, leaders of the Muslim organization Muhammadiyah issued an open letter citing reports of violence against the "weak and innocent" community of Uighurs and asking Beijing to explain. Soon after, Beijing responded by inviting more than a dozen top Indonesian religious leaders to the Xinjiang province and camps, and criticism greatly diminished.[299] Since then, Indonesia's largest Muslim organizations have purportedly treated reports of widespread human rights violations in Xinjiang with skepticism, dismissing them as U.S. propaganda.[300]
On 26 November 2019, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan was "monitoring the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with concern" and that he brought up Japan's position with State Councilor Wang Yi in their meeting on 25 November.[303][304]
NPR reported that "Kazakhstan and its neighbors in the mostly Muslim region of Central Asia that have benefited from Chinese investment aren't speaking up for the Muslims inside internment camps in China".[305]
In September 2020, Malaysia’s new government decided not to extradite ethnic Uyghurs to China if Beijing requests it. Despite the government of Malaysia's stance not to get involved in the internal affair of China, it believes that Uyghurs are being oppressed there. Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department also stated that his government would provide free passage to those refugees who would want to settle in a third country.[307]
On 25 February, the States General of the Netherlands declared China's treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority a genocide, the third country to do so. The Chinese embassy in The Hague said that any suggestion of genocide was an "outright lie" and accused the Dutch Parliament of having "deliberately smeared China and grossly interfered in China's internal affairs."[308]
 New Zealand
In July 2020, Xi Jinping met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express Beijing's "full support" for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that "China and Palestine are good brothers, good friends and good partners". Abbas then voiced support for China's "legitimate position on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and other matters concerning China's core interests."[315]
 Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman defended China's re-education camps.[320]
In February 2019, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman defended camps, saying "China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremisation work for its national security."[321][322][323]
In December 2019, the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates defended China's actions in Xinjiang days after the US condemnation, stating that it is a "blatant interference by the US in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of China." The statement concluded that "Syria emphasizes the right of China to preserve its sovereignty, people, territorial integrity, and security and protect the security and property of the state and individuals."[326]
 United Kingdom
 United States
Further information: United States sanctions against China
Responses from China
Response from dissidents
On 10 August 2018, about 47 Chinese intellectuals and others issued an appeal against what they describe as "shocking human rights atrocities perpetrated in Xinjiang".[398]
In December 2019 in Hong Kong, a mixed crowd of young and elderly people, dressed in black and wearing masks to shield their identities, held up signs reading “Free Uyghur, Free Hong Kong” and “Fake ‘autonomy’ in China results in genocide”. They numbered around 1,000. They rallied calmly, waving Uyghur flags and posters as part of the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests. The local riot police pepper sprayed protesters to disperse the crowd.[399]
International Criminal Court complaint
In July 2020, the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement and the East Turkistan Government in Exile filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court calling for it to investigate PRC officials for crimes committed against Uyghurs, including allegations of genocide.[400][401] In December 2020, the International Criminal Court declined to take investigative action against China on the basis of not having jurisdiction over China for most of the alleged crimes.[402][403]
See also
^ also called Xinjiang re-education camps[9][10]
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