Inside China's camps where a million Muslim Uighurs are thought to be detained

Posted by freemexy on October 5th, 2019

In a classroom in far western China, a dozen adults wearing white lab coats sit at a long table, textbooks on animal husbandry open in front of them.The din of chickens and geese and a bucolic mural of cows belie the fact that the students are in one of a vast network of camps in Xinjiang, a region that is home to more than 10 million Muslim Uighurs.To get more chinese world news daily, you can visit shine news official website.

Around 10 percent of the Uighur population of Xinjiang is locked up, according to the U.S. government and human rights organizations. The Chinese Communist Party maintains these centers are a crucial part of its effort to counter terror, extremism and separatism.

Bu’ayixiemu Abulizi, director of the Moyu County Vocational Education and Training Center in Hotan Prefecture in the southwestern corner of Xinjiang, made it clear the role of the centers is to change the minds and thoughts of those who are forced to live there.

“If we leave the terrorism thoughts to be developed, it is very easy to have riots or other issues. We prevent this from happening,” he told NBC News in early September. “Our center is to prevent terrorism thoughts from happening.”

International rights groups charge that Chinese authorities are actually engaging in mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit group based in New York, has alleged “rampant abuses,” including torture and unfair trials of the population.

Gay McDougall, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, accused China last year of turning Xinjiang into “something resembling a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone.”The Chinese government gave NBC News rare access to three of what it calls “vocational education and training centers” where they say Uighurs receive lessons in law and culture, Mandarin, and skills like shop-keeping, hospitality, animal husbandry and e-commerce.

Government minders brought NBC News to two camps in Hotan Prefecture and one in Kashgar, in the northwest of the province. NBC spoke to the director of each camp, and Uighur detainees were made available for interviews, always with government and camp officials present.

At the camps NBC News visited, dormitories were sparsely furnished with few personal possessions. Some classrooms were equipped with computers and others with musical instruments. It is impossible to know whether conditions in the camps were changed or improved for the purpose of NBC’s visit, or whether conditions in other camps are similar.

The government did not answer NBC News’ questions on how many centers there are in the region, how many people have passed through them or how many are currently being held there. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that there are 143 camps currently detaining Uighurs.

“As a Chinese citizen, I have broken Chinese laws and regulations, I committed a crime, I betrayed my country, I broke the law and wasn’t grateful for the good policies,” the 41-year-old farmer, who was imprisoned for six years for preaching separatism, said.

Hijgiabula, who spoke with NBC News during a class in animal husbandry, said he had been released from prison and sent to the camp, where he had spent a year.According to Chinese officials, there are three types of students at these reeducation centers: those who have committed a minor offense like wearing a burqa or watching an illegal religious video; those who have committed more serious offenses and were given the choice to attend instead of going to jail; and others who are sent for rehabilitation after a prison term.

Abulizi, the camp director, said that when people arrive, they are first given lessons in Chinese law and Mandarin, China’s national language. Then they are taught vocational skills, he said.

To leave the centers, the detainees must pass exams, officials said. Despite repeated requests, officials would not provide the exact criteria they use to determine a person’s release. Instead, they said that “graduation” tests combine assessments of language skills, understanding of Chinese law and regulations, “de-radicalization” and vocational skills.

While officials may teach Mandarin and vocational skills at the camps, that is not their real purpose, according to Dennis Wilder, a former National Security Council director for China and former CIA deputy assistant director for East Asia and the Pacific.

“They're really about crushing, to some degree, the Muslim culture, the Uighur culture – getting people to feel much more bonded to the Communist Party than to their own religious beliefs,” said Wilder, who is also the managing director of the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University in Washington. “This is trying to fundamentally change the hearts and minds of these people. It's about enforcing allegiance.”

“This is a war against separatism,” he added. “And they’re going to use whatever techniques they need to make sure they suppress this.”Omar Kanat, director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a rights advocacy organization based in Washington, called the centers “concentration camps” which aim is to wipe out Uighur culture.

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