China’s religious detention camps revealed

PRESIDENT Xi doesn’t want anything to contradict the authority of his Communist Party.

So he’s set about purging China of all possible dissenting voices. Be it social or traditional media, trade organisations — or religion — it must subject itself to Party control.

In the case of the 11 million ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province, that produces a multitude of problems. They’re not ethnic Chinese. They speak Turkic. They are mostly Muslim.

Put simply, they’re not Chinese enough for Beijing. So it has clamped down hard in an effort to ‘Sinicize’ their entire culture. It wants ‘enhanced’ patriotism towards the Party.

Exactly how it has set about doing so has exploded into international uproar in recent months.

The UN human rights committee warned last month that China has put up to one million Uighurs into ‘arbitrary detention’ or ‘re-education centres’.

The 4m-high concrete and barbed wire walls enclose a garden and exercise space — overlooked by a red-roofed watch tower — within the alleged detention facility.
The 4m-high concrete and barbed wire walls enclose a garden and exercise space — overlooked by a red-roofed watch tower — within the alleged detention facility.

Beijing’s response was mixed. On the one hand it denied the claim outright. On the other, it defended such drastic measures as an effort to ‘salvage’ a region on ‘the verge of massive turmoil’.

State media has previously confirmed it has imposed stringent surveillance regimen and relocated hundreds of thousands of the Uighur population.

Now, religious liberty and human rights group Bitter Winter has released photographs of what it says is the true nature of Beijing’s ‘training’ camps in Xinjiang.

And they feature guard towers, tall concrete walls, and barbed wire.

The camp at the centre of the new photographs is pronounced by Beijing to be a ‘vocational training centre’.

The ‘vocational training’ facility allegedly being used to detain and 're-educate' Muslim Uighurs. A) The guarded gate. B) The red-roofed watch tower. C) Part of the tall concrete-and-wire wall D) Dormitories.
The ‘vocational training’ facility allegedly being used to detain and ‘re-educate’ Muslim Uighurs. A) The guarded gate. B) The red-roofed watch tower. C) Part of the tall concrete-and-wire wall D) Dormitories.

It’s in Xinjiang’s Akto county. It’s a 6000 sqm slab in a light industrial park. It’s said to have been operational for just over a year.

What makes this different from your average vocational training centre, a Bitter Winter blog said, is the permanent presence of armed guards at its gates. The concrete and barbed-wire walls reach some 4m high. And a red roofed watchtower overlooks the internal courtyard.

The human rights group claimed the facility contains 5000 Chinese citizens within its walls.

“Most of these are Muslims of various ethnicities such as Uyghurs, Kyrgyzes, and Tajiks,” said the blog.

A central 're-education' facility, surrounded by multi-storey dormitories.
A central ‘re-education’ facility, surrounded by multi-storey dormitories.

“The detainees are taken in for offences such as believing in God, forwarding religious content on messaging apps, expressing discontent with the CCP and so on. While at the camps, they are forced to study Communist Party policies and Mandarin. They are also forced to praise socialism and the Communist Party.”

It said all of the dormitories and hallways have CCTV cameras. All security personnel carry electric batons and handheld radios. The military guards are always armed.

Bitter Winter said it’s not the only detention facility at the industrial park. It said another, which has not been photographed, holds 7000 Chinese citizens in a 20,000 sqm area.

A third is being built in the district, purportedly capable of holding 10,000 detainees.

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