Posts Tagged ‘re-education camps’

China Demands U.S. Withdraw Sanctions Imposed Over Military Purchases From Russia

September 23, 2018

WASHINGTON — Chinese officials have summoned the United States ambassador in Beijing to denounce the United States for imposing economic sanctions this past week on a Chinese military organization for buying equipment from Russia, according to Chinese state news reports on Saturday.

The Chinese military also recalled a Chinese naval commander, Shen Jinlong, who was in the United States attending a naval conference, and it postponed a September meeting on joint staff communications between the two nations.

The United States ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, with President Xi Jinping of China last year. Beijing is said to have summoned the ambassador to protest economic sanctions imposed by the United States.  Credit Lintao Zhang/Reuters

The moves are aimed at pressuring the United States to withdraw the sanctions. The sanctions are “a flagrant breach of basic rules of international relations” and “a stark show of hegemonism,” said Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The diplomatic dispute adds to rising tensions between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.

By Edward Wong
The New York Times

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Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian [File photo]

Foreign Ministry officials raised objections to the United States ambassador, Terry Branstad, according to People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.

The State Department confirmed on Saturday that Mr. Branstad met with Chinese officials, but declined to comment further.

On Thursday, the State Department said that it was imposing sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Central Military Commission and its top official for “engaging in significant transactions” with a group in the Russian defense sector that is on a list of blacklisted entities.

The transactions involved the purchase of Russian Su-35 combat aircraft and equipment related to the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the State Department said.

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Russian Su-35

The Chinese received the aircraft in December 2017 and an initial batch of the missile equipment in 2018, the department said. Both were the result of deals negotiated before August 2017 between the Chinese military organization and Rosoboronexport, a state organization that is the main arms exporter of Russia.

Such military cooperation between the countries was normal, and in line with international law, said Mr. Wu, the military spokesman, according to the Xinhua report.

The State Department said it was imposing the sanctions against Russian and Chinese officials for violating a law enacted by the American government last year to punish Iran, North Korea and Russia for what American officials called hostile behavior. In the case of Russia, the act is intended to punish its military actions in Ukraine and Syria and cyberinterference in the American presidential election of 2016, among other things.

Tensions between the United States and China have escalated over a trade war that President Trump and his economic advisers started over the summer. Mr. Trump announced tariffs last week on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China, prompting China to retaliate by promising to impose similar tariffs on $60 billion worth of goods from the United States. China also canceled trade talks that had been scheduled for this week in Washington.

Relations between the countries have grown strained on other fronts. Trump administration officials have scolded China for not doing enough to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program; criticized what they call Chinese military expansionism in the Pacific and Indian Oceans; and are weighing sanctions against Chinese officials for the repression of ethnic Uighurs in the region of Xinjiang, where up to one million Uighurs are being detained in re-education camps.

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Uighur children

As well, American officials are anxious about Chinese influence in Latin America. This month, the State Department recalled its three chiefs of mission in Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador as a rebuke to those nations, which recently chose to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of recognizing China. The United States has recognized China since 1979, but wants the handful of small countries that recognize Taiwan to continue doing so as a hedge against Chinese power.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Beijing Denounces U.S. Sanctions Over Russian Deals
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Canada should break silence on Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs

September 14, 2018
It will come as news to nobody that the Communist regime in Beijing lies through its teeth about the state of human rights in China, but nothing comes close to the lies Beijing tells to cover up its mounting persecution of Muslims. Those lies have been getting harder to tell, ever since Xi Jinping’s police state embarked upon measures so extreme and tyrannical that it’s become harder for the regime to keep the truth from getting to the outside world.
Commentary
By TERRY GLAVIN
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An in-depth Human Rights Watch investigation published on Monday found that in the far western expanses of Xinjiang, a region nearly as big as Canada’s prairie provinces, “the government’s religious restrictions are so stringent that it has effectively outlawed Islam.” Last month, the head of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told a UN human rights panel in Geneva that Xinjiang’s Uighur autonomous region has been turned into “a massive internment camp.”

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs , perhaps a million people in all, have been detained for weeks and sometimes months at a time in a network of indoctrination camps. At first, the Chinese government denied that the camps even existed. But as evidence has mounted – eyewitness accounts, the Chinese government’s own documents, satellite photographs, construction blueprints – the party line has changed.

Chinese officials are now describing the camps as “vocational education facilities,” training centres and residential schools where petty criminals are housed while undergoing“rehabilitation and reintegration.” Former inmates who have managed to escape China describe the camps as hellholes of torture and forced labour. Internees are required to learn Mandarin, sing patriotic songs, memorize government propaganda and recite florid loyalty oaths.

Xinjiang’s Uighurs, Tajiks and Kazakhs have tended to see themselves as peoples apart from the Han Chinese cultural hegemony that the Communist regime has imposed in the region in recent years. Separatist sentiment has waxed and waned, and radical Islam has occasionally found a place for itself in the region. The Communist Party line is that extraordinary measures have been necessary to eradicate “ideological diseases” in the region, particularly among the 10 million Uihgurs. Devout Muslims are classified as mentally ill.

In Xinjiang’s towns and cities, population movements are closely controlled. Surveillance is ubiquitous. The Communist administration is employing biometric data, experimental voice-recognition and facial-recognition technology, house arrest, DNA data banks and digital tracking to closely monitor and control the public. Cameras are everywhere. Travel is severely restricted. Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of special police have been deployed to newly-built stations and temporary checkpoints.

As grim as all this is, the gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang are at least beginning to emerge as subjects of closer global scrutiny. On Monday, in an unusual move, Michelle Bachelet, in her first speech as the UN’s new High Commissioner for Human Rights, singled out Beijing’s mistreatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs for special notice. The former Chilean president specifically referred to “deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang”.

Bachelet called on Beijing to reverse its closed-door policy and allow the UN Human Rights office complete access to Xinjiang and all other regions of China. That would be a good start.

In Washington, meanwhile, a bipartisan initiative in Congress has begun to push the Trump White House to “swiftly act” and trigger the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction Chinese government officials and entities directly complicit in the Xinjiang abuses. On Monday, the Australian opposition Labour Party followed suit, calling on Canberra to draw up a similar list for sanctions. A petition drawn up by a group of Australian imams asking parliament to start ramping up pressure on Beijing managed to gather 10,000 signatures.

Canada, predictably, has been quiet, even though Ottawa could have been out in front inholding Beijing to account for its cruelties in Xinjiang. It’s been 12 years since the Canadian Uighur Huseyin Celil, who fled China as a refugee in 2001, was arrested while visiting family in Uzbekistan. Celil was extradited to China and chucked into prison, and in 2012 Celil was given a life sentence without a proper trial on trumped up terror charges. Celil’s sentence was later reduced after being subjected to a “re-education” program.

Canada could make some use of itself taking the lead in backing UN human rights investigators’ efforts to gain access to Xinjiang, and and Ottawa’s own Magnitsky law would serve perfectly well in a collaboration with Australia and the United States to sanction the tormentors of Xinjiang’s Uighurs.

Canada has neither reason nor excuse not to do so.

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https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/glavin-canada-should-break-silence-on-beijings-treatment-of-uighurs

China is not mistreating Muslims in Xinjiang — Just training courses — Like your children go to vocational training schools — Only with solitary confinement

September 14, 2018

China is not mistreating Muslims in Xinjiang province but is putting some people through training courses to avoid spreading of extremism, unlike Europe which had failed to deal with the problem, a Chinese official told reporters on Thursday.

Reports of mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s far-western region have prompted a growing international outcry, prompting the Trump administration to consider sanctions against officials and companies linked to the allegations of human rights abuses.

“It is not mistreatment,” said Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Infor­mation Office. “What China is doing is to establish professional training centres, educational centres.

‘Religious extremists are common foes of mankind’

“If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the West has failed in doing so, in dealing with religious extremism. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

He said the Chinese education centres were not “detention centres or re-education camps”, which he dismissed as “the trademark product of eastern European countries”, an apparent reference to Soviet Gulag detention camps during the Cold War.

“To put it straight, it’s like vocational training… like your children go to vocational training schools to get better skills and better jobs after graduation.

“But these kinds of training and education centres only accept people for a short period of time; some people five days, some seven days, 10 days, one month, two months.”

Islam was a good thing in China’s view, but “Islamic extremists” were the common foes of mankind, he said. “They are very bad elements. You can see that in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Iraq, and many other countries.”

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018

Reuters

https://www.dawn.com/news/1432863/china-educating-not-mistreating-muslims-official

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China tries to brainwash Muslims in internment camps

Associated Press

Day after day, Omir Bekali and other detainees in far western China’s new indoctrination camps had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticise themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party.

When Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, refused, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement and deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days, he wanted to kill himself.

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP
Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

“The psychological pressure is enormous, when you have to criticise yourself, denounce your thinking your own ethnic group,” said Bekali, 42, who broke down in tears while describing the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises.”

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese and even foreign citizens in mass internment camps.

This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a United States (US) commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today”.

The internment programme tries to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. Chinese officials have largely avoided comment, but some have said in state media that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs killed hundreds in China in years past.

Three other former internees and a former instructor in different centers corroborated Bekali’s depiction. Taken together, the recollections offer the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education.

The programme is a hallmark of China’s emboldened state security apparatus under the deeply nationalistic, hard-line rule of President Xi Jinping. It is partly rooted in the ancient Chinese belief in transformation through education taken once before to terrifying extremes during the mass thought reform campaigns of Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader sometimes channelled by Xi.

“Cultural cleansing is Beijing’s attempt to find a final solution to the Xinjiang problem,” said James Millward, a China historian at Georgetown University.

The internment system is shrouded in secrecy, with no publicly available data. The US State Department estimates those being held are “at the very least in the tens of thousands”.

A Turkey-based TV station run by Xinjiang exiles said almost 900,000 were detained, citing leaked government documents. Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, puts the number between several hundreds of thousands and just over one million, and government bids suggest construction is ongoing.

Asked to comment on the camps, China’s foreign ministry said it “had not heard” of the situation. Chinese officials in Xinjiang did not respond to requests for comment.

However, China’s top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang’s authorities this month to extensively expand what the government calls “transformation through education” in an “all-out effort” to fight extremism.

China-born Bekali moved to Kazakhstan in 2006 and received citizenship three years later.

Omir Bekali holds up a mobile phone showing a photo of his parents whom he believes have been detained in China. — AP
Omir Bekali holds up a mobile phone showing a photo of his parents whom he believes have been detained in China. — AP

On March 25 last year, Bekali visited his parents in Xinjiang. The next day, police took him away. They strapped him into a “tiger chair” that clamped down his wrists and ankles. They hung him by his wrists against a barred wall. They interrogated him about his work inviting Chinese to apply for Kazakh tourist visas.

“I haven’t committed any crimes!” Bekali yelled.

Seven months later, Bekali was taken out of his cell and handed a release paper. But he was not free.

Bekali was driven to a fenced compound in Karamay, where three buildings held more than 1,000 internees.

They would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7.30am. They sang songs praising the party and studied Chinese language and history. They were told that the indigenous sheep-herding Central Asian people of Xinjiang were backward before they were “liberated” by the Communist Party in the 1950s.

When they ate meals of vegetable soup and buns, they first had to chant: “Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!”

Bekali was kept in a locked room almost around the clock with eight other internees, who shared beds and a wretched toilet. Cameras were installed in toilets and outhouses. Baths were rare, as was washing of hands and feet, equated with Islamic ablution.

In four-hour sessions, instructors lectured about the dangers of Islam and drilled internees with quizzes that they had to answer correctly or be sent to stand near a wall for hours on end.

“Do you obey Chinese law or Sharia?” instructors asked. “Do you understand why religion is dangerous?”

The detainees had to criticise and be criticised by their peers. One by one, they would also stand up before 60 classmates to present self-criticisms of their religious history.

“I was taught the Holy Quran by my father and I learned it because I didn’t know better,” Bekali heard one say.

“I travelled outside China without knowing that I could be exposed to extremist thoughts abroad,” another said. “Now I know.”

After a week, Bekali went to his first stint in solitary confinement. He yelled out to a visiting official.

“Take me in the back and kill me, or send me back to prison,” he shouted. “I can’t be here anymore.”

He was again hauled off to solitary confinement. It lasted 24 hours, ending late afternoon on Nov 24, when Bekali was suddenly released.

At first, Bekali did not want the AP to publish his account for fear his sister and mother in China would be detained.

But on March 10, the police took his sister, Adila Bekali. A week later, they took his mother, Amina Sadik. And on April 24, his father, Ebrayem.

Bekali changed his mind and said he wanted to tell his story.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1408257/thank-the-party-china-tries-to-brainwash-muslims-in-internment-camps

China Has Detained Up to a Million Muslims

September 6, 2018

China’s efforts to quash what it says is separatism and religious extremism among its ethnic Muslim population have turned the far western region of Xinjiang into one of the world’s most heavily policed areas. Multiple accounts have emerged of secretive “re-education camps” that, according to a United Nations committee’s assessment, have detained tens of thousands to “upwards of 1 million” Uighurs. As its mosques are shuttered and travel across its borders restricted, Xinjiang — once at the intersection of ancient Silk Road trade routes — threatens to become a black hole in President Xi Jinping’s effort to build new ones. The international community is taking note, with U.S. lawmakers calling for sanctions.

Ethnic Muslim Uighurs in Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province.  Photographer: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

1. Who are the Uighurs?

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) are a Turkic-speaking Chinese ethnic minority of mostly Sunni Muslims. They comprise some 10 million of the 22 million people who populate Alaska-sized Xinjiang. Uighurs have close ethnic and cultural ties to Central Asia and some refer to Xinjiang as East Turkestan.

2. What triggered China’s crackdown?

Maintaining its grip on far-off Xinjiang has long challenged China and its leaders say the campaign is subduing “separatist forces” that reject their rule and foment unrest. Violence in the region has spiked as Xi has vowed to resist attempts to split territory from China. Ethnic riots erupted in the capital Urumqi in 2009, killing almost 200 people. Police then connected Uighurs to an attack near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 2013, in which a sports-utility vehicle rammed a crowd, killing two tourists. In 2014, police sentenced four people they said had “Uighur names” — three received the death penalty — after a terror attack in the city of Kunming. The spread of violence, rights groups say, intensified the crackdown on Uighurs’ speech, movement and culture.

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3. How is the government clamping down?

Through a widespread network of security cameras, police stations and checkpoints. Residents have been ordered to install satellite-tracking systems in their vehicles, submit to facial scans when entering markets or fuel stations and are generally forbidden from traveling abroad. Xinjiang, with just 1.5 percent of China’s population, last year accounted for one-fifth of all criminal arrests. The region is, as Bloomberg News reported, a test site for China’s powerful state surveillance apparatus, including new facial-recognition technology. The Associated Press says a culture of fear has been instilled: One major town had police depots every 500 meters (1,600 feet), with armed motorcades patrolling streets and checking phones for religious material.

4. How does China justify its campaign?

By calling it “counterterrorism.” Xi has ordered authorities to “strike first” against Islamist extremism, amid reports that as many as 5,000 Uighurs were fighting alongside terror groups in Syria. Beijing authorities have described the re-education camps as providing “vocational training,” according to the AP. A government spokesman said the UN estimates for detainees at the camps were based on “unverified and irresponsible information that has no factual basis at all.” The Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party, asserted in an August editorial that authorities had helped salvage Xinjiang from turmoil and prevented it from becoming another Syria. “It has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or China’s Libya,”’ the paper said.

5. How is the world reacting?

The UN and European Union have expressed concern, but the most serious reaction to date has come from a group of U.S. lawmakers led by Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith. In an Aug. 28 letter to Trump administration officials, they proposed using the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 — previously deployed to sanction Russian oligarchs and Turkish officials — to freeze the travel and assets of officials including Xinjiang party chief Chen Quanguo. The governments of Muslim-majority nations, meanwhile, have largely remained silent, refraining from public statements. Their reasons are threefold: Most enjoy a friendly relationship with China, a major trade partner and aid donor. The police state in Xinjiang has made it nearly impossible for outsiders to gather first-hand information about alleged abuses that might be taking place there. And the Beijing government’s policy of not inserting itself into other nations’ foreign policy might now be paying dividends.

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6. What about China’s neighbors?

The crackdown is taking place in the heart of the Belt and Road, Xi’s global flagship trade and infrastructure initiative. Xinjiang is positioned at the imagined crossroads of possible new economic routes to and from Central Asia. And China’s treatment of Muslims has gained attention in at least one neighbor central to those ambitions. An undocumented ethnic-Kazakh Chinese citizen recently testified that she had been forced to teach in a camp before escaping. Kazakhstan authorities didn’t deport her.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-05/why-china-has-detained-as-many-as-1-million-muslims-quicktake

Related:

An executive at Human Rights Watch told Peace and Freedom, “Like the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the Rohingya are in the way of China’s Belt and Road. And nobody seems to care.”

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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

  (Academic Freedom Chinese Style)

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China Defends Re-Education Camps for Muslims: Lots of countries take steps to prevent terrorism

August 31, 2018

Around 1 million Uighurs have disappeared without trial. Worse may come. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is behaving much like Hitler’s Nazis before them….

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Many countries take steps to prevent terrorism, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday, after United Nations’ human rights experts voiced alarm over the country’s alleged political re-education camps for Muslim Uighurs.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the comment at a regular news briefing.

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Hua Chunying

Reuters

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Related:

An executive at Human Rights Watch told Peace and Freedom, “Like the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the Rohingya are in the way of China’s Belt and Road. And nobody seems to care.”

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Related:

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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

  (Academic Freedom Chinese Style)

Image result for China’s ethnic Kazakhs, photos

 

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U.N. calls on China to free Uighurs from ‘re-education camps’

August 30, 2018

United Nations human rights experts voiced concern on Thursday over alleged Chinese political “re-education camps” for Muslim Uighurs, and called for the immediate release of those detained on the “pretext of countering terrorism”.

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A Chinese pagoda towers over the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination cited estimates that “from tens of thousands to upwards of a million Uighurs” may be detained in the far western Xinjiang province.

Its findings were issued after a two-day review of China’s record, the first since 2009, earlier this month.

China’s foreign ministry rejected the allegations at the time, and said that anti-China forces were behind criticism of policies in Xinjiang.

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

The independent experts said during the review that the panel had received many credible reports that a million ethnic Uighurs are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”. Panel expert Gay McDougall described it at the time as a “no-rights zone”.

In its conclusions, the panel said it was alarmed by: “Numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.”

It regretted that there was no official data on those detained “for even non-threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings”.

The panel decried “reports of mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs, including through frequent baseless police stops and the scanning of mobile phones at police checkpoint stations”.

There were reports that “many Uighurs abroad who left China have allegedly been returned to the country against their will”, it said, calling on China to disclose the current location and status of students and asylum seekers who went back.

The panel also urged China to allow Tibetans access to passports for foreign travel and to promote the use of the Tibetan language in education, the judicial system, and media.

Reuters

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Bolton

Related:

An executive at Human Rights Watch told Peace and Freedom, “Like the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the Rohingya are in the way of China’s Belt and Road. And nobody seems to care.”

Image may contain: text

Related:

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

  (Academic Freedom Chinese Style)

Image result for China’s ethnic Kazakhs, photos

 

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China’s Mass Internment Camps Have No Clear End in Sight

August 25, 2018

Around 1 million Uighurs have disappeared without trial. Worse may come. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is behaving much like Hitler’s Nazis before them….

Last summer, online links between China’s western Xinjiang region and the rest of the world began to go dark. Uighurs, who make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, started cutting friends and family members abroad from their contacts on WeChat, the dominant online communication platform in China. Many asked their family members not to call them by phone. The family of one Uighur I spoke to smuggled a final communication through the chat function integrated into a video game. In 2009, the government had shut down the internet entirely for almost a year, but this was something different. Entire minority groups were cutting themselves off from the outside world, one contact deletion at a time.

A woman and child walk in front of a line of police

Uighurs and members of other Muslim minorities are seen as a “problem” by the Communist China government

As Uighurs were disappearing from cross-border conversations, distinctive new building complexes began cropping up throughout the region: large construction projects surrounded by double fences and guard towers, all clearly visible on satellite imagery. Hundreds of thousands of minority men and women, mostly Uighurs but also others, have disappeared into these compounds in the last year, usually with no notice to family members and no charges of illegal activity. As police have struggled to round up enough Uighurs to meet internment quotas, the tiniest signs of potential disloyalty to the authorities, such as giving up drinking or not greeting officials, have become grounds for disappearance. Contact with the outside world is one of those signs of purported untrustworthiness.

Given the dark consequences for communication with foreigners, it is surprising how much those of us outside of China have been able to discover about the mass-internment program for minorities in Xinjiang. Based in part on leaks by an unusually forthcoming police official in Kashgar (now himself incommunicado), scholars have estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of the adult Uighur population has been interned without criminal charge. In one township, police told reporters from Radio Free Asia that they were expected to send 40 percent of the population, including nearly 100 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 50, to the internment system.

For international audiences, the Chinese state has denied the existence of what have come to be known as “re-education camps,” but local officials continue to build new compounds, and openly call for construction contracts online, providing details on everything from camp sizes (up to 883,000 square feet) to the types of materials (“bomb-proof surfaces”) required. A few internees have been released for one reason or another and shared their stories of camp life with reporters, describing conditions ranging from uncomfortable to literally torturous.

But questions remain, including the crucial matters of what the internment network is designed to do and what is in store for its victims. The range of interpretations is wide. Local media in Xinjiang present the camps as short-term rehabilitation facilities. Uighurs with family members and friends now gone for six months and more fear much worse. And the appearance of a recruitment notice for 50 “stouthearted” guards at a crematorium outside of Urumqi, the regional capital, has fed fears that the Chinese government is equipped for mass killing.

While the intent behind policy choices is never fully knowable, particularly in an opaque state like China, the last year has produced leaked data, online traces, and eyewitness reports that provide clues about the goals of decision-makers in Xinjiang. Viewed in the context of the long history of resistance to Chinese rule in Xinjiang and the Chinese attempts to eliminate it, some motives become clear.

Since the Qing dynasty’s conquest of the region in 1759, China-based states have confronted the difficulties of outsider rule in the region they dubbed Xinjiang—the “new frontier”—including rebellions in 1864, 1933, and 1945 that led to the establishment of short-lived independent states. At the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, only 6 percent of Xinjiang’s population was Han Chinese, and the Chinese authorities tended to view the indigenous inhabitants, particularly the majority Uighur ethnic group, with condescension and suspicion. By 1982, pro-settler policies had increased the proportion of ethnic Chinese in Xinjiang to 40 percent, but authorities continued to worry about indigenous resistance as a threat to their state’s territorial aspirations. Even after two centuries of China-based rule, the indigenous inhabitants of Xinjiang had more in common culturally with Central Asia and the Middle East than with China, and resistance, both peaceful and violent, was common.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made sense of this resistance in different ways over the years. In the 1990s, it was mostly seen as ethno-nationalist “separatism” fueled by pan-Turkic ideology. After 2001, when the PRC aligned itself with the U.S. “global war on terror,” authorities began to speak more often of “terrorism” supposedly bred by religious “extremism,” borrowing heavily from Islamophobic discourses in the West. What the two approaches share is an assumption that belief systems and ideas are what cause people to resist, not restrictive cultural policies, economics, or relative status within society, and certainly not unfair treatment by a colonizing state.

Until recently, official explanations for acts of resistance dealt with the unsettling prospect of discontent by insisting that only a handful of bad apples held beliefs opposed to CCP rule. Authorities in Xinjiang invested their energy in controlling those “evil forces” through security measures. This approach peaked in the response to the deadly protests-turned-riots of 2009. In July of that year, Uighurs in Urumqi protested the deadly beating of Uighur factory workers outside Shenzhen. When police tried to break up an initially peaceful protest, it degenerated into rioting, and Uighurs murdered almost 200 bystanders, mostly Han Chinese.

State media blamed a purported plot by Uighur exiles in Europe and the United States. The People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary security force, flooded the region, setting up checkpoints and fortified guard posts throughout Xinjiang. Convoys of olive-green troop transports paraded continuously around town centers. Not forgetting the importance of Uighur hearts and minds, they bore banners promoting “ethnic unity.” In the following years, authorities blanketed cities with security cameras and placed restrictions on travel for rural Uighurs. The early 2000s had seen a steady tightening of state controls on Uighur movement, religious practices, and expression, but the fallout of the 2009 uprising accelerated the transformation of Xinjiang into a full-bore racist police state.

Today’s internment camp system reflects a shift in official ideas about the scale of ideological threats. Under Chen Quanguo, Xinjiang’s top official since August of 2016, state policy treats all Uighurs as likely opponents of the party, an implicit recognition that huge numbers of Uighurs are not, in fact, grateful for Chinese rule. In this view, not only are wrong beliefs the root of Uighur dissatisfaction with the party, but those wrong beliefs are endemic to Uighur, Kazakh, and other minority groups.

It is not surprising, then, that the most common officially cited purpose for the internment camps is to purify people’s thoughts, “eliminating extremism” and instilling a love for the party. A recorded announcement leaked this month from Xinjiang’s Communist Party Youth League, designed to calm rampant fears about the re-education camps, explained that camps “treat and cleanse the virus from their brains.” The names used for camps have varied widely, both for the same camp over time and from one camp to the next, but most have included the word “transformation”—for example, “concentrated education transformation center.”

The handful of people released from the camps and able to share their stories describe a variety of indoctrination techniques aimed to instill love for the Communist Party of China and its leader, Xi Jinping. “Teachers” and guards compel internees to chant slogans, watch videos on how to identify Islamic extremism, study Confucian texts, give thanks to Chairman Xi Jinping before meals, renounce Islam, write self-criticisms, and denounce fellow internees. Some of these, particularly self-criticisms and denunciations, are staples of CCP indoctrination programs as old as the People’s Republic itself, techniques that gave the English language the word “brainwashing,” a direct translation of the Chinese xi nao. These go-to CCP techniques are combined with what are presented as modern psychological approaches, as re-education centers recruit staff with psychological training.

The content of the indoctrination reflects a new emphasis on nationalism throughout the PRC. State media outlets tout the party as China’s savior as they always have, but “China” is now more tightly linked to the culture of the ethnic majority, the Han Chinese. In this view, religions deemed foreign, for example Islam and Christianity, are seen as threats, as is the purportedly Chinese religion of Buddhism when it is practiced by non-Han people such as Tibetans. More than any leader since Mao Zedong, Xi Jinping has promoted the idea that he himself is the embodiment and protector of the Chinese nation. In some camps, inmates are required to replace the common Islamic blessing before meals, bismillah, with thanks to Xi Jinping.

Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard

Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard on a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in 2014.
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Outside of China, it is difficult to find informed observers who think that forced indoctrination, limits on cultural expression, and restricting religious practice are likely to do anything other than breed anger at the party. In Xinjiang however, faith in these techniques seems to run high, or at least there is little room for officials to voice concerns. Before 2016, local officials enjoyed some room for improvisation as they attempted to implement central policies. In many counties they created programs clearly aimed at compelling ideological transformation. The strangest of these were the coerced line-dancing competitions that spread across the region in 2014. These were supposed to move people away from “extremist” forms of Islam that forbid dance. In other places they pushed children to sign promises not to believe in God and arranged public ceremonies for pledging loyalty to the CCP. The indoctrination materials themselves can promote the notion of “transformation,” as in the case of a camp where internees were forced to memorize Confucian classics, the foundational texts of a philosophy that promotes the power of ritual to refashion the individual.

But the internment camps play other important roles. They allow police to physically remove whole classes of people from society. In at least three counties, police have reported that they interned all or nearly all Uighurs born between 1980 and 2000, calling them an “untrustworthy generation.” Interned Uighurs are physically unable to engage in public resistance to CCP rule. Physical removal also bolsters CCP programs to assimilate Uighur children to Chinese culture, by removing them from the care of their parents. One Kashgar-area county alone has seen the construction of 18 new orphanages over the last year to accommodate children left behind by interned parents, where they will be taught entirely in Chinese.

At a wider scale, the camps serve as the punitive threat behind the state’s cultural and ideological re-engineering of Uighur society. Without the need for legal charges, authorities can arbitrarily disappear any member of an ethnic minority group for the smallest perceived disobedience. In January, an instructor at a daytime re-education course told his students that they would be sent to the internment camps if they could not memorize both the oath of allegiance to the Communist Party and the national anthem in Chinese within three days, according to village police who spoke to Radio Free Asia. The day before the deadline, a class member in his 40s who was having difficulty memorizing the text hanged himself.

The threat of internment is magnified by a surveillance apparatus of unprecedented scale, marrying old-fashioned manpower—such as armed police and neighborhood committees of the sort that fueled East Germany’s police state—with high-tech, networked surveillance equipment. Uighurs are subject to regular mandatory home visits by “work teams” composed of party members and other “loyal” state representatives. These visits range in duration from daytime visits to multi-day stays, during which the visitors interview their hosts about their thoughts and habits and inspect their homes for prohibited items. The results of these interviews are normally kept secret, but in one case a visiting team boasted online of their effectiveness: they sent one-fifth of a village population for internment and indoctrination. Children assist in the policing of private spaces, as schools encourage them to report on their parents’ religious practices in the home.

Cities are blanketed with surveillance cameras. Checkpoints at market entrances, train stations, and even book stores scan people’s faces and check them against their identification cards using facial recognition software. Smartphone owners are required to install government spyware that reports on content stored in the phone. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the enormous amounts of data generated by these electronic monitoring systems are combined with the information from work teams’ home visits and entered into an “integrated joint operations platform” that employs big-data analysis to predict which individuals will engage in acts of disloyalty. Police at checkpoints regularly check phones for “illegal” content. Attempts to drop out of this surveillance web are dangerous; one police station reported interning people who stopped using their phones.

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The near-complete eradication of privacy and the massive scale of internment appears to be changing Uighurs’ behavior. Ten years ago, bans on the Uighur language in schools, popular novels (often printed by government-run presses), and private prayers and rituals seemed unenforceable. Local teachers ignored rules about language use, banned books were easy to find in private bookstores, and purportedly illegal rituals like Sufi dance remained common. Today Uighurs rush to burn their own books and strain to guess what will make their home visitors view them as loyal, out of fear that they will join the many family members and friends whom they have personally seen disappear over the last 18 months.

The re-education camps also cast their shadows beyond Xinjiang and even China’s borders. Xinjiang security personnel have been calling Uighurs working in the rest of China back to their hometowns, where, more often than not, they disappear. Police track the activities of Uighurs from their locales even when they reside abroad, demanding photographic evidence of their presence at universities or offices. Some are commanded to return home to certain detention. Uighurs comply out of fear for their families. Some who have spoken out about the situation in their homeland have seen large numbers of relatives disappear. Depression is rampant among Uighur exiles. All known cases of Uighurs returning to China in the last year have resulted in the returnee’s disappearance. Across the world, Uighurs with expiring passports or visas are currently weighing whether to claim asylum in foreign lands and never see their families again, or to face near-certain internment upon their return to Xinjiang.

A Uighur woman walks by a closed Islamic school in the old town of Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang province on July 1, 2017. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The most widely circulated estimate of the number of people interned in re-education camps—several hundred thousand to just over 1 million—was developed by Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology from leaks that surfaced in January and February. In the half-year since then, Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others have continued to disappear. Uighurs with family in Xinjiang and academics who have visited in the past few months have only rarely reported individual releases, usually of older people with health problems. Officials in one Kucha district have told reporters that none of the approximately 5,000 to 6,000 residents sent to the camps over the last two years have been released. Tellingly, the state has continued to invest in camp construction. In response to growing global scrutiny, the Chinese state has deleted its existing online bid solicitations for re-education camp construction and ceased posting new announcements. Even so, public solicitations from March and April suggest that new camps will open later this year or early next year.

The expanding re-education internment system is interconnected with the ordinary prison system, which has seen its own expansion. Last year, Xinjiang accounted for 13 percent of China’s indictments, despite having only 1.5 percent of the country’s population. The number of arrests is even larger, accounting for 21 percent of China’s total, according to analysis by the activist group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders. For many detainees, the first stop is a kanshousuo, a temporary detention center. Shawn Zhang, a Chinese graduate student in Canada who has used Google satellite images to document the “construction boom” of re-education centers and other detention facilities across Xinjiang, notes that the kanshousuo account for many facilities. Google imagery from April 22 shows one such structure near Khotan being expanded by 150 percent.

Police patrol in a night food market near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang, region, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday in 2017.
Police patrol in a night food market near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang, region, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday in 2017. PHOTO: JOHANNES EISELE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

An official in Karakash explained that re-education camps also act as gateways to the formal prison system. Another officer, from a village near Kashgar, said that evidence uncovered during re-education can lead to transfer to ordinary prisons. The construction of new re-education camps suggests that the space freed up by the prison transfers is not sufficient to house the continued influx of internees sent for forced indoctrination.

The February numbers may have been eclipsed in the months since, but they are historically significant nonetheless. At the upper end of the Zenz estimate, Xinjiang’s re-education camp population exceeds the peak daily inmate numbers of Nazi concentration camps (714,211 in 1945, according to Nikolaus Wachsmann’s 2015 bookKL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps), is several times the number of the Japanese citizens interned by the United States during World War II, and amounts to about half the capacity of the Soviet gulag system, which held around 2 million people. It remains to be seen which of these precedents the massive Xinjiang internment infrastructure will ultimately most resemble.

The permanent construction style of the re-education camps, visible in satellite images that clearly document their building process, suggests that the Chinese state, left to its own devices, intends to maintain the camp system for the foreseeable future. Barring a complete abandonment of the camp system, the most moderate plausible outcome is that at some point authorities dramatically reduce the number of internees, maintaining recalcitrant inmates in the camps, and preserving the capacity to return huge numbers to extrajudicial internment. In this outcome, the camps would continue to uphold Xinjiang’s racist police state and support the CCP’s assimilationist program of cultural and ideological cleansing.

Such a dire prediction could, however, turn out to be optimistic. Historically, extrajudicial internment systems have often deviated from their original purposes. A lack of due process, combined with the immense power that mass-internment programs give states to control the fates of minority populations, makes camps like those in Xinjiang easy to adapt to new goals. The eruption of war, acts of violence by oppressed minorities, guards’ long inurement to abusive treatment of prisoners, and ideological shifts at the top of the bureaucracy all have the potential, alone or in interaction, to turn the camps to darker purposes.

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Local officials have already expressed dehumanizing outlooks on the role of the re-education camps as “eradicating tumors” and “spraying chemicals on the crops to kill the weeds.” Should authorities decide that forced indoctrination has widely failed, much of Xinjiang’s minority population will be framed as irredeemable. And with the state-controlled Global Times claiming, in response to the recent U.N. condemnation of China’s racial policies in Xinjiang, that “all measures can be tried” in the pursuit of China’s “stability,” mass murder and genocide do not look like impossible outcomes.

Rian Thum is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University New Orleans and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow. He is the author of The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History (Harvard University Press, 2014). @RianThum

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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

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Evidence of Abuse, Deaths in Xinjiang Camps Emerges

August 23, 2018

An investigative report by Eva Dou, Jeremy Page, and Josh Chin of the Wall Street Journal has found evidence that extralegal political re-education camps in  have expanded rapidly in recent months. Meanwhile, detainees have given accounts of abuse while family members have reported deaths of their loved ones in the camps.

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Experts have estimated that over a million people, from the Uyghur minority as well as other Muslim ethnic groups in China, have been held in camps where they are reportedly indoctrinated to show loyalty to the Communist Party and to disavow any religious beliefs. From the WSJ report:

Satellite images reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and a specialist in photo analysis show that camps have been growing. Construction work has been carried out on some within the past two weeks, including at one near the western city of Kashgar that has doubled in size since Journal reporters visited in November.

The full extent of the internment program was long obscured because many Uighurs feared speaking out. Now more are recounting experiences, including six former inmates interviewed by the Journal who described how they or other detainees had been bound to chairs and deprived of adequate food.

“They would also tell us about religion, saying there is no such thing as religion, why do you believe in religion, there is no God,” said Ablikim, a 22-year-old Uighur former inmate who asked to be identified only by his first name.

The Journal also spoke to three dozen relatives of detainees, five of whom reported that family members had died in camps or soon after their release. Many said they had struggled to determine where their relatives were being held and the state of their health. [Source]

In a Twitter thread, Chin explains how he and his colleagues reported on the camps despite numerous obstacles.

An article by Akbar Shahid Ahmed in the Huffington Post looks at the increased willingness by exiled Uyghurs and others to speak up about the existence of the camps and how they get the word out despite tight restrictions on communicating with people in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government has denied any abuse or persecution has taken place in the camps, calling them “vocation centers.” In a blog post, Jeremy Daum of China Law Translate explores the legality of such centers, which the government claims are being used as education centers for criminals guilty of minor crimes. But Daum argues that there is no clear legal basis for holding such people longer than 15 days and without a trial:

As discussed above, the law is quite direct in saying when  is called for, and there is no mention of detention in the discussion of corrective mentoring for minor offenses. Even for more serious offenders, who were given court ordered criminal punishments, education is mentioned only as something to be carried out during their sentence, not as additional grounds for detention. The Xinjiang Regulation on De-extremification similarly use ‘education’ as the lowest form of punishment, for situations not even meriting administrative punishments, but it would defy logic to read this as authorizing longer detention than the 15 days maximum authorized for the more serious violations.[vi]

The exception to this rule is ‘educational placement’ [安置教育]. [vii] Educational placement is one of the Counter-terrorism Law’s most troubling features, and does provide for potentially indefinite detention. Its application is limited, however, to those who are sentenced by a court to a prison term for a terrorism crime, have served that sentence, and the court has then found that they are still too dangerous to release. It is possible that some of the new prison-like educational centers are intended for those in educational-placement, but their size would then suggest that such placements were the norm following criminal sentences. [Source]

In a post for the CESS Blog, Rachel Harris of SOAS, University of London, puts the existence of re-education camps in the context of Beijing’s broader crackdown on religious expression in Xinjiang and efforts to forcibly assimilate Uyghur culture and Muslim religious practices into mainstream Han society:

Testimonies hint at the psychological trauma inflicted on detainees. Reports also attest to the trauma suffered by the wider Uyghur population, both within Xinjiang and in the diaspora. We know that  within Xinjiang are struggling to maintain daily life with over 10% of the workforce in detention. Many children have been sent to state orphanages because both their parents have been detained.  living outside Xinjiang are suffering from crippling anxiety and guilt: they risk detention for their relatives if they try to contact them, and they fear worse consequences for their detained relatives if they speak out.

Individuals known to have been detained

  • Professional football player Erfan Hezim detained in 2017
  • Prominent religious scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim, 82, died in custody, January 2018
  • Xinjiang University President Tashpolat Teyip detained in 2017, accused as a “two-faced” official, insufficiently loyal to the state
  • Xinjiang University Professor Rahile Dawut detained in 2017, possibly in connection with her ethnographic research on Uyghur religious culture
  • Uyghur writer and Xinjiang Normal University Professor Abduqadir Jalaleddin, detained in January 2018
  • Elenur Eqilahun, detained in 2017, possibly for receiving calls from her daughter who is studying abroad
  • Pop star Ablajan Ayup, detained in February 2018, possibly for singing about Uyghur language education
  • Halmurat Ghopur, Vice Provost of Xinjiang Medical Institute, detained in 2017for exhibiting “nationalistic tendencies.”

This short list of prominent Uyghur intellectuals, artists and athletes who we know have been detained is only the tip of the iceberg, but it demonstrates that the scope of the campaign has gone well beyond the religious sphere. Current policies seek to quarantine Uyghurs from any foreign contacts, they target individuals who have promoted Uyghur language or culture, and people who resist, or are insufficiently enthusiastic about, the campaign. It suggests that the anti-“terror” campaign is being used as part of a wider set of policies – including the so-called “bilingual education” policy which has banned the use of Uyghur language in schools and higher education – which are designed to break down ethnic identity and affiliation, and absorb minority nationalities into the wider Chinese nation (zhonghua minzu).

It also suggests that Turkic-speaking Muslim minority peoples are now collectively regarded as a threat to China’s national security. As one official from Kashgar reportedlysaid at a public meeting, “you can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one – you need to spray chemicals to kill them all; re-educating these people is like spraying chemicals on the crops …  that is why it is a general re-education, not limited to a few people.” [Source]

Among the Uyghur intellectuals who have reportedly been detained is Professor Rahile Dawut, a scholar of Uyghur religious and cultural traditions who went missing last December after telling friends she was planning to travel to Beijing from Urumqi, where she taught. Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy report for The New York Times:

But until recently, Professor Dawut’s work was welcomed by Chinese bureaucrats, as evidenced by grants and support she received from the Ministry of Culture. She had earned an international reputation as an expert on Uighur shrines, folklore, music and crafts neglected by previous generations of scholars.

“I was deeply drawn to this vivid, lively folk culture and customs, so different from the accounts in textbooks,” she said in an interview with a Chinese art newspaper in 2011. “Above all, we’re preserving and documenting this folk cultural heritage not so that it can lie in archives or serve as museum exhibits, but so it can be returned to the people.”

While Chinese policymakers worried that Uighurs were increasingly drawn to radical forms of Islam from the Middle East, Professor Dawut’s work portrayed Uighur heritage as more diverse and tolerant, shaped by Sufi spiritual traditions anathema to modern-day extremists. In 2014, she told The New York Times that she worried about Uighur women drawn to conservative Islam.

[…] “The Chinese government, after arresting Uighur government officials, Uighur rich people, they’ve begun to arrest Uighur intellectuals,” Tahir Imin, a former student of Professor Dawut, said from Washington, where he lives. “Right now I can tell you more than 20 names, all prominent Uighur intellectuals.” [Source]

Nick Holdstock, who knows Rahile Dawut, wrote about her disappearance for the London Review of Books, concluding, “Her disappearance is part of a strategy, long in gestation, to eradicate all forms of dissent in Xinjiang by either brainwashing or intimidation.” Others who have reportedly been detained include philanthropist Ablimit Hoshur Halis Haji, who had set up an education fund to help elite Uyghur students study abroad. In a 2015 interview with the New York Review of Books after Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism,” writer Wang Lixiong explained why he thought Chinese authorities were targeting moderate Uyghurs like him, who did not advocate independence or engage in terrorist acts:

We all thought he wouldn’t be in trouble. But the only conclusion is dark: it’s that they don’t want moderate Uighurs. Because if you have moderate Uighurs, then why aren’t you talking to them? So they wanted to get rid of him and then you can say to the West that there are no moderates and we’re fighting terrorists. [Source]

While many of those detained have ties to Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries bordering China, neighboring governments have done little to speak out against the camps and restrictive policies in Xinjiang. Gene A. Bunin reports for Foreign Policy:

Though people in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan all demand the reunification of their families and the safety of relatives in Xinjiang, their governments, despite not openly supporting China’s internal policies, still find themselves numb before an overwhelmingly powerful neighbor.

The numbness is understandable— too much of these countries’ future development depends on China. Kazakhstan, owing to its geographical location, seeks to benefit from being a crucial partner on the Belt and Road Initiative’s New Eurasian Land Bridge, a series of rail links set to traverse Xinjiang and Kazakhstan, cross through Russia, and terminate in Europe. The analogue for Pakistan is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a $62 billion infrastructure project that is predicted to create hundreds of thousands of jobs while speeding up the country’s growth. For Kyrgyzstan, it’s less about ambitious projects and more about loans and investment—in addition to owning oil refineries, plants, and mines in the country, China also owns about half of its debt. Dependent on remittances and unable to generate enough income for investment, Kyrgyzstan is forced to borrow if it wants to maintain its growth.

However, despite cooperation from both governments and China-facing entrepreneurs in these Muslim-majority countries, the fact that the Chinese government is keeping as many as a million of its own  in concentration camps has not made for smooth partnerships. Of the three countries, Kazakhstan is the one where things have been the rockiest by far, as thousands of people—many of them Chinese “Oralman,” or ethnic  from China—have seen their relatives in Xinjiang detained over the past year and a half, in many cases for such simple “transgressions” as keeping in touch with them via WhatsApp, a chat client that is now banned in China. [Source]

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Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association has been operating a training camp in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, since 2016. In Slate, Isaac Stone Fish argues that the NBA’s presence helps “whitewash a network of concentration camps,” and goes against league members’ stated support for racial justice in the U.S.:

NBA stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have condemned police violence and racism in the United States, while players and executives have protested the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant children from their parents. According to his LinkedIn page, the NBA executive George Land oversees the Xinjiang training center. On Twitter, Land’s most recent activity is a retweet of the MSNBC host Chris Hayes condemning the U.S. separation of thousands of mothers from their children. But what about Xinjiang? Thousands of Uighur children are reportedly languishing in orphanages, awaiting their parents’ release from the concentration camps. The NBA didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. [Source]

https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2018/08/evidence-of-abuse-deaths-in-xinjiang-camps-emerges/

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Germany halts Uighur deportations to China

August 23, 2018

The German government has suspended deportations of Uighurs to China until further notice, according to a media report. The Muslim minority faces discrimination and persecution in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

    
A woman and child walk in front of a line of police

Uighurs and members of other Muslim minorities will no longer be deported from Germany to China, the Süddeutscher Zeitung reported on Thursday citing an Interior Ministry response to a Green party information request.

The ministry said expulsions had been put on hold because the country analysis department of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees had only recently compiled relevant country information concerning the plight of the Uighurs.

Read moreHow do deportations work in Germany?

Persecuted ethnic group

Uighur Muslims are a minority in the autonomous Xinjiang region in China’s northwest. They have historically been targets of discrimination and a raft of restrictions imposed on them by the government in Beijing. Earlier this month, a United Nations human rights committee raised serious concerns about the treatment of Uighurs in China, saying they were seen as “enemies of the state,” with hundreds of thousands being kept in facilities resembling secret internment camps.

China claims Xinjiang faces threats from Islamist extremists  seeking to carry out attacks and foment unrest between the Uighur minority and the Han majority. Hundreds of people have died in violence in the restive territory in recent years.

Read moreGermany admits to 5 illegal deportations

In April, authorities in the German state of Bavaria mistakenly deported a Uighur asylum-seeker to China due to an administrative error. According to the German dpa news agency, Berlin is trying to bring the 23-year-old back, but his whereabouts are unknown.

nm/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-halts-uighur-deportations-to-china/a-45190309?maca=en-Facebook-sharing

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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

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Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard on a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in 2014.
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China’s Xinjiang Surveillance Expands to Non-Uyghur Muslims

July 18, 2018

Over the last year, there have been an increasing number of reports detailing the proliferation of re-education camps and the rise of a totalitarian police state in the  region. The concept of re-education has existed since the advent of the People’s Republic of China. However, ever since former Tibet Party Secretary Chen Quanguo was installed in Xinjiang to replicate his perceived successes, Xinjiang’s re-education system alone grew to overshadow China’s officially-abolished re-education through labor system.

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Although the Chinese government denies the re-education camps’ existence, estimates peg (and likely underestimate) the number of Uyghurs interred at 120,000. Individuals can land in the camps for reasons such as contacting friends or relatives abroad, worshipping at mosques, or possessing Quranic verses on their phones; camps are designed to replace inmates’ Islamic beliefs with loyalty to the Party. Throughout such detention, individuals are wholly deprived of due process. The rise of cutting-edge facial recognition technology, most recently through Hikvision winning a Chinese government tender to install facial recognition cameras on 967 mosques, makes it all the easier to be placed in a re-education camp.

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While observers have expressed alarm that Xinjiang may be functioning as a pilot region for surveillance, of increasing concern is the expansion of the Xinjiang model to non-Uyghur Muslims such as the Hui and ethnic Kazakhs. The Hui minority group, traditionally treated with more acceptance by the Chinese government due to their higher levels of cultural and linguistic assimilation with the Han majority, have found themselves subject to increasingly greater levels of scrutiny. In Linxia, a hub for Hui Muslims in Western China, the CCP had already removed call-to-prayer loudspeakers from 355 mosques last fall, citing noise pollution, and has now banned minors under 16 from studying the Koran or participating in religious activity. AFP’s Becky Davis reports that Hui individuals now live in a constant state of fear and despair:

“The winds have shifted” in the past year, explained a senior imam who requested anonymity, adding: “Frankly, I’m very afraid they’re going to implement the Xinjiang model here.”

[…] “They want to secularise Muslims, to cut off  at the roots,” the imam said, shaking with barely restrained emotion. “These days, children are not allowed to believe in religion: only in Communism and the party.”

[…] “We’re scared, very scared. If it goes on like this, after a generation or two, our traditions will be gone,” said Ma Lan, a 45-year-old caretaker, tears dripping quietly into her uneaten bowl of beef noodle soup.

Inspectors checked her local mosque every few days during the last school holiday to ensure none of the 70 or so village boys were present. Their imam initially tried holding lessons in secret before sunrise but soon gave up, fearing repercussions.

Instead of studying five hours a day at the mosque, her 10-year-old son stayed home watching television. He dreams of being an imam, but his schoolteachers have encouraged him to make money and become a Communist cadre, she said. [Source]

Another group that has now been subject to increased scrutiny are China’s ethnic Kazakhs, who number over one million in Xinjiang, and may now be considered “potential confederates” of the Uyghurs. A Kazakh source with close ties to the Urumqi police claimed that the authorities had to detain a quota of 3,000 Kazakhs or Uyghurs per week.

Currently, an ongoing Kazakh court case is attracting attention as defendant Sayragul Sauytbay–an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national who illegally entered Kazakhstan to reunite with her family–claimed that as a state employee in an re-education camp, she knew that it held 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs. For more on the situation, see a report from Christopher Rickleton and Ben Dooley at the AFP.

As for the exiled Uyghur community, despite their living abroad, Beijing has attempted to exert control on some members. BuzzFeed News’ Megha Rajagopalan described how some exiled  are being  induced into spying for the government, lest their China-based family members be sent to re-education camps without due process:

Every person interviewed for this article said state security operatives told them their families could be sent to, or would remain in, internment camps for “reeducation” if they did not comply with their demands. It was a campaign, they said, that aimed not only to gather details about Uyghurs’ activities abroad, but also to sow discord within exile communities in the West and intimidate people in hopes of preventing them from speaking out against the Chinese state.

“China’s now got the capacity and willingness to reach out across sovereign borders to influence the behavior of others,” said James Leibold, an associate professor at La Trobe University in Australia. “With Chinese citizens of Chinese heritage, they may want to win them over, but with Uyghurs they want to squash them. Their willingness to do this is not only in a covert way, but now increasingly in an overt way.”

[…] State security operatives approaching Uyghurs abroad for information on their communities has become so common that it has sowed a deep mistrust in these overseas communities and a pervasive feeling of being watched, those interviewed for this article said.

[…] The lack of trust has impeded efforts toward activism abroad, even as many Uyghur groups are seeking to pressure Western governments to push back on China’s use of mass  and reeducation camps through large political demonstrations.

“The catalyst for the mistrust is China’s deploying a wide network of spies amongst the Uyghur community,” said one exile in Sydney. “This mistrust plays out as a hurdle to cooperation between different individuals and groups in political activism.” [Source]

For more CDT coverage on Xinjiang, click here.