Xinjiang reeducation camps

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Xinjiang reeducation camps
قايتا تەربىيەلەش لاگېرلىرى
Opening Ceremony of a re-education camp in Lopnur County.jpg
Opening Ceremony of a political
reeducation camp in Lopnur County, Xinjiang
Operator Xinjiang local government
Type Internment, indoctrination camps
Construction
Opened Since 2014[2]
Expanded Since 2016[1]

Reeducation camp (Uyghur: قايتا تەربىيەلەش لاگېرى; Chinese: 再教育营) is a title given to the internment camps operated by the Xinjiang local government since 2014 and unprecedentedly intensified since a hardline party secretary, Chen Quanguo, took charge of the region in August 2016. These camps are operated secretly and outside of the legal system; people can be locked up without any trial.[3][4] Local authorities are reportedly holding hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and Muslims from other ethnic minorities in these camps, claiming the detentions are a bid to counter extremism and terrorism.[5][6][7][8][9]

It is estimated that Chinese authorities may have detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs,[10][11][12] Kazakhs and other ethnic Muslims,[13][14][15][16] Christians[17][18][19] and also foreign,[20] especially Kazakhstani, citizens[21][22][23] to be kept in these shrouded internment camps throughout the region.[24] United Nations[25][26] and many international media reports have said as many as 1 million people are being held in such "reeducation camps" in this region.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35] [36][37]

Background[edit]

In April 2010, after July 2009 Ürümqi riots, Zhang Chunxian replaced the former Communist Party chief Wang Lequan, who has been behind rigorous religious policies[38][39] in Xinjiang for 14 years. Zhang Chunxian continued Wang’s policy and even strengthened them. In 2011, Zhang proposed "modern culture leads the development in Xinjiang" as his policy statement and started to implement his modern culture propaganda.[40] In 2012, he first mentioned the phrase "de-extremification" (Chinese: 去极端化) campaigns and started to educate so-called wild Imams (野阿訇) and extremists (极端主义者).[41][42] [43] In 2014, Chinese authorities announced a "people's war on terror" and local government introduced new restrictions and banned "abnormal" long beards,[44][45] the wearing of veils in public places[46][47][48] and naming of children to exaggerate religious fervor[49][50][51] as a campaign against terrorism and extremism.[52][53]

Number of re-education related government procurement bids in Xinjiang[54][55]

In August 2016, Chen Quanguo, a well-known hardliner party leader in Tibet,[56] took charge of the region. Followed by his arrival, local authorities recruited over 90,000 police officers in 2016 and 2017 – twice as many as they recruited in the past seven years,[57] and laid out as many as 7300 heavily guarded check points in the region.[58] The province has come to be known as one of the most heavily policed regions of the world. Gradually the concept of "transformation through education" started to expose and came to be systematically used with the "de-extremification" campaigns.[59] Local media have reported on these facilities and generally referred them 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 are converted from existing schools or other official buildings, although some are specifically built for the reeducation purposes.[60]

The heavily policed region and thousands of check points assisted and accelerated the detainment of locals to the camps. In 2017 the region constituted 21% of all arrests in China last year despite comprising 1.5% of the national population[61][62][63] and the imprisoned people compared to the previous year is seven times more,[64][65][66] all without any resistance from the locals. 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.[67] 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.[68][69][70][71][72]

Camps[edit]

Reeducation camps in Xinjiang are operated secretly. In urban areas, most of them are converted from existing vocational schools, communist party schools, ordinary schools or other official buildings, while in suburban or rural areas the majority of camps were specially built for the purposes of reeducation.[73] 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 etc.[74][75][76][77] and most of them are clearly visible on satellite imagery.[78]

There is no valid data for the number of camps. On 15 May 2017, Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based institute for research and analysis, released a list of government bids related to re-education facilities for 73 different camps.[79] On 14 May 2018, RFA reported that there has at least 8 camps in Kargilik County, Kashgar Prefecture alone.[80] Scholars such as University of British Columbia student Shawn Zhang have used satellite images to track suspected reeducation centers in the region. The most important sources for him are government reports, official government documents, travel reports from top officials and budgetary reports that outline expenditures for facilities.[81][82][83] Zhang documented 31 suspected re-education camps throughout Xinjiang using Google Earth Pro and Chinese government documents. [84][85]

Detainees[edit]

Detainees listening to speeches in a re-education camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, April, 2017.[86][87][88]

Many Uyghurs in diaspora claim that at least one of their family members are in the camp. Many media reports said that hundreds of thousands of Uighurs-as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities[89][90][91][92]- are being detained without trial in “re-education camps” in the province. In January 2018, some media reported that an estimated 120,000 members of the Uyghurs are currently being held in political re-education camps in Kashgar prefecture alone. [93][94][95] Some reports claimed the camps are estimated to hold as much as 10 percent of the Uyghur population.[96][97][98][99]

The United States-based Uyghur politician 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;[100] [101] and it is unclear when they were taken away.[102][103] In the past few years, six Radio Free Asia Uyghur Service reporters’ dozens of family members have been locked up in reeducation camps due to their job in the United States. These reporters spent years in exile for documenting human rights abuses under the Chinese government's rule in their homeland. They also shared the fate of many others who are being held without due process for ill-defined reasons.[104][105]

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 reeducation camp for 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs.[106][107] Her lawyer believed that if she is extradited to China, she would face the death penalty for exposing reeducation camps in Kazakh court.[108][109] Her testimony for the reeducation camps have become the focus of a court case in Kazakhstan,[110][111] which is also testing the country's ties with Beijing. [112][113] On 1 August 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay, who fled one of the Chinese reeducation camps, was released with a six-month suspended sentence and direction to regularly check in with police. She has applied for asylum in Kazakhstan and will not be deported to China.[114][115][116]

RFA interviews[edit]

Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia also conducted a series of telephone interview with local judicial and police officials.

  • On 20 November 2017, Radio Free Asia conducted a telephone interview with an official from the Bulaksu Township judicial station in Konasheher County, the official claimed: “In Bulaksu township, 2514 people were imprisoned and 806 people were sent to reeducation centers.[117]
  • On 21 June 2018, in a telephone interview with an official from the Tuwet Township judicial station in Karakax County, who said: “In Tuwet township 1731 people were imprisoned and 1721 people were sent to reeducation centers.[118]
  • On 2 August 2018, in a telephone interview with an official from the Hankitam Township police station in Kuqa County, the police said: “We approximately sent 5000 people to the reeducation centers and no one released until now.’’ [119]
  • On 17 August 2018, in a telephone interview with some police officials of Toksu County, a police said: “In this county approximately 22,000 people are in reeducation centers.’’ [120]
  • On 21 August 2018, in a telephone interview with police officials of Onsu County, the police told RFA that: “There has 4 reeducation centers in this county and currently 30,000 people are in education centers.’’ [121]
  • On 21 August 2018, Radio Free Asia interviewed some police officials of Keriya County[disambiguation needed], the police also said: “There has 4 reeducation centers in this county, the first one is the original detention center, second one is a newly built camp near to the detention center, the third and fourth reeducation centers are located in industrial park and currently almost 30,000 people are in education centers’’.[122] The second day RFA continued telephone interview with Yingibagh Township judicial department official of Keriya County, the official claimed that: “Among 242 of the people who were sent to the re-education camps, they have bank loans. Seven of them, aged 31 to 42, died in the education centers, three of them bank loans were exempted, and the other four bank loans exemption issue in process.“[123]

Treatment[edit]

In January 2018, Abdurahman Hasan, an Uyghur businessman from Kashgar, was interviewed by BBC News in Turkey and asked the Chinese government to shoot his 68 year-old mother and 22 year-old wife after learning of the inhuman torture conducted in one of the camps in Kashgar.[124][125] Kayrat Samarkand, a Kazakh citizen who migrated from Xinjiang, was detained in one of the "reeducation camps" in the region for three months for visiting neighbouring Kazakhstan. On February 15, 2018, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the same day Samarkand was freed from custody,[126] after his release he shared his distressing experience and claimed that he faced endless brainwashing and humiliation, 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, current General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. [127]

The authorities attempt to indoctrinate people in settings that resemble military prisons. Detainees endure physical and mental torture to suppress dissident religious beliefs and separatist movements. Former inmates claim that they are "forced to study communist propaganda for hours and give thanks to the General Secretary (paramount leader) by chanting 'Long live Xi Jinping'",[128] as well as 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 used on those who fail to follow.[129][130]

Detainees also forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, which are forbidden in Islam.[131][132][133] Some detainees receive unknown medicines and others attempted suicide.[134] The side effects of those treatments can be very serious, sometimes even causing scholars like Muhammad Salih Haji,[135][136] Dolkun Isa's mother Ayhan Memet[137][138] and other people's death in these facilities.[139][140][141] [142]

International reaction[edit]

On 10 September 2017, Human Rights Watch released a report that said "The Chinese government should immediately free people held in unlawful 'political education' centers in Xinjiang and shut them down."[143]

In November 2017, Kazakhstan's Ambassador to China Shahrat Nuryshev met with Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Huilai regarding Kazakh diaspora issues.[144]

On 15 February 2018, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the same day Samarkan, a Kazakhstan citizen, was released from reeducation camp. From April 17 to 19, Kazakh First Deputy Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi visited Xinjiang to meet with local officials .[145]

On 3 April 2018, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith sent a letter urging Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to launch an investigation into the reported mass detention of Uyghurs in political re-education camps in Xinjiang.[146][147][148][149]

On 21 May 2018, during the resumed session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations in UN, Kelley Currie, the U.S. representative to the U.N. for economic and social affairs, raised the mass detention of Uyghurs in reeducation camps, and she said that "reports of mass incarcerations in the Xinjiang were documented by looking at Chinese procurement requests on Chinese websites requesting Chinese companies to tender offers to build political re-education camps".[150][151]

On 3 July 2018, at UK Parliamentary roundtable, the Rights Practice helped to organise a Parliamentary Round-table on increased repression and forced assimilation in Xinjiang. Rahima Mahmut, an Uyghur singer and human rights activist, gave a personal testimony about the violations suffered by the Uyghur community. Dr. Adrian Zenz, European School of Culture and Theology, Germany, outlined the evidence of a large scale and sophisticated political re-education network designed to detain people for long periods of time and which the Chinese government officially denies.[152]

On 26 July 2018, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence raised the reeducation camps issue at Ministerial To Advance Religious Freedom. He said that "Sadly, as we speak as well, Beijing is holding hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Uyghur Muslims in so-called 're-education camps', where they're forced to endure around-the-clock political indoctrination and to denounce their religious beliefs and their cultural identity as the goal."[153][154][155]

On 26 July 2018, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), an independent agency of the U.S. government which monitors human rights and rule of law developments in the People's Republic of China, released a report that said as many as a million people are or have been detained in what are being called "political reeducation" centers, the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic minority population in the world today.[156][157]

On 27 July 2018, The U.S. Embassy & Consulate in China released Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom Statement on China, the statement mentioned the detention of hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in "political re-education camps", and called the Chinese government to release immediately all those arbitrarily detained.[158]

On August 10, 2018, United Nations human rights experts expressed alarm over many credible reports that China had detained a million or more ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.[159] Gay McDougall, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that In the name of combating religious extremism, China had turned Xinjiang into something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone".[160] [161] [162]

On 28 August 2018, U.S. senator Marco Rubio and 16 other members of Congress urged the United States to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials who responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.[163] In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, they called for the sanctions on Chen Quanguo who is the current Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang and six other Chinese officials and two businesses that make surveillance equipment in Xinjiang. [164] [165] [166] [167]

On 9 September 2018, Human Rights Watch released a 117-page report, “‘Eradicating Ideological Viruses’: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims" ,[168] which accused China of the systematic mass detention of tens of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in political re-education camps without being charged or tried and presented new evidence of the Chinese government’s mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life.[169][170] The report also urged foreign governments to pursue a range of multilateral and unilateral actions against China for its actions, including "targeted sanctions" against those responsible.[171]

On 10 September 2018, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on China to ease restrictions on her and her office’s team, she urged China to allow observers into Xinjiang and expressed concern about the situation there. She said that:’’ The UN rights group had shown that Uighurs and other Muslims are being detained in camps across Xinjiang and I expect discussions with Chinese officials to begin soon’’.[172] [173]

On 11 September 2018, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, raised the re-education camps issue in European Parliament. She said that: ‘’ The most outstanding disagreement we have with China concerns the human rights situation in China, as underlined in your Report. We also focused on the situation in Xinjiang, especially the expansion of political re-education camps. And we discussed the detention of human rights defenders, including particular cases.[174]

Chinese reaction[edit]

The government has repeatedly denied the existence of reeducation camps in Xinjiang.[175]

When international media asked about the reeducation camps, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it "had not heard" of this situation.[176]

On 12 August 2018, a Chinese state-run tabloid, Global Times, defended the crackdown in Xinjiang[177] after a U.N. anti-discrimination committee raised concerns over China’s treatment of Uyghurs, the tabloid noted that China prevented Xinjiang from becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya’, saved countless lives and avoided a 'great tragedy'. [178][179] Despite the editorial did not mention the existence of the re-education camps.[180] The media published another editorial the day after, titled "Xinjiang policies justified".[181]

On 13 August 2018, at a UN meeting in Geneva, in response China told the human rights committee that ‘’There is no such thing as re-education centers in Xinjiang and it is completely untrue that China put 1 million Uyghurs into reeducation camps” [182] [183] ,[184] a Chinese delegation said that "Xinjiang citizens, including the Uyghurs, enjoy equal freedom and rights.", he also mentioned that ‘’Some minor offenders of religious extremism or separatism have been taken to “vocational educational and employment training centers with a view to assisting in their rehabilitation”. [185]

On 14 August 2018, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said ‘’anti-China forces had made false accusations against China for political purposes and a few foreign media outlets misrepresented the committee’s discussions and were smearing China’s anti-terror and crime-fighting measures in Xinjiang’’ after a U.N. human rights committee raised concern over reported mass detentions of ethnic Uyghurs.[186][187]

On 21 August 2018, Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of China to the UK, wrote an article in response to Financial Times report: Crackdown in Xinjiang: Where have all the people gone?[188] The article said: ‘’The education and training measures taken by the local government of Xinjiang has not only effectively prevented the infiltration of religious extremism and helped those lost in extremist ideas to find their way back but also provided them with employment training in order to build a better life.’’[189]

Many Chinese disagree with the harsh policies towards Xinjiang of the Chinese government. For example, on August 10, 2018, about 47 Chinese intellectuals and others, in exile, issued an appeal against what they describe as "shocking human rights atrocities perpetrated in Xinjiang.".[190]

On 10 September 2018, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang condemned a report for re-education camps issue by Human Rights Watch. He said:”This organisation has always been full of prejudice and distorting facts about China.” Geng also added that:“Xinjiang is enjoying overall social stability, sound economic development and harmonious co-existence of different ethnic groups, the series of measures implemented in Xinjiang are meant to improve stability, development, solidarity and people’s livelihood, crack down on ethnic separatist activities and violent and terrorist crimes, safeguard national security, and protect people’s life and property.”[191][192]

On 11 September 2018, China called for U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to respect its sovereignty, after she urged China to allow monitors into Xinjiang and expressed concern about the situation there.[193] Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said:“China urges the U.N. human rights high commissioner and office to scrupulously abide by the mission and principles of the U.N. charter, respect China’s sovereignty, fairly and objectively carry out its duties, and not listen to one-sided information”.[194][195] [196]

See also[edit]

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