Posts Tagged ‘Uyghurs’

Ex-Prisoner Says China’s ‘Vocational Training Centers’ a Complete Lie

December 7, 2018
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The ongoing repression in China is about “protecting the Chinese Communist Party.”
Uyghur Reveals Chinese Communist Party’s Crimes in Xinjiang
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December 6, 2018

China’s claims that Xinjiang’s mass internment camps—where at least one million predominantly ethnic Uyghurs are being held—are “vocational training centres” are completely “fake and made up,” a former Uyghur camp detainee has told The Epoch Times.

Countering claims made by the China’s ruling Communist Party, who in October described the facilities as “free vocational training centers” that make life more “colorful,” the former detainee, Gulbukhar Jalilova, said “they are lying through their teeth,” adding that she “never saw a single classroom.”

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir told state-run Xinhua news agency that people detained in the camps “will advance from learning the country’s common language to learning legal knowledge and vocational skills.”

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir

But 54-year-old Gulbukhar said instead of learning vocational skills, “I moved from camp to camp, room to room, and never saw anybody spending any time learning something.”

Gulbukhar, a Kazakhstan national and businesswoman, was held in an all-female camp in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, for just over 15 months before she was released in September this year. She was detained after being falsely accused of transferring $17,000 into a company called Nur. She was released by officials after they said they had been told she was innocent.

She was tricked into traveling to Urumqi after receiving a phone call from her business associate’s daughter. She was told there were “big problems” and that she needed to come to the capital immediately from her home in Kazakhstan. She was arrested upon her arrival.

Uyghur woman Gulbukhar Jalilova who was released from Xinjiang reeducation camp
Businesswoman Gulbukhar Jalilova, 54, a former Uyghur detainee in Xinjiang, China. (Gulbukhar Jalilova)

The CCP’s narrative of providing detainees with “vocational skills” to help with employment does not add up, the 54-year-old said, because the types of women held in camp with her were “very rich, educated people,” such as “businesswomen, doctors, nurses and teachers.”

“They weren’t homeless people or those with no money who needed training—that’s a lie from the CCP,” she told The Epoch Times.

“They could afford to go overseas and then when they came back, they were detained.”

But amongst the claims Zakir made, as the CCP moved to legalize the facilities, is that detainees are offered “practical opportunities,” such as learning about “businesses in garment making, mobile phone assembly, and ethnic cuisine catering.”

The CCP has long justified its measures against Uyghurs, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim, saying the facilities aim to “educate and transform” those that it deems at risk of the “three evil forces” of “extremism, separatism, and terrorism.”

Uyghurs, alongside other ethnic minorities like the Tibetans, as well as faithful believers who remain outside state control, including house Christians and Falun Gong, have long been targeted by the CCP for transformation through “re-education.”

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired a 15-minute segment in October, offering a glimpse into life inside one of the centers—the Hotan City Vocational Skills Education and Training Center.

The “trainees” can be seen reading from large textbooks in the clip and are shown learning various skills such as baking, woodworking, sewing, and cosmetology.

“Whatever the CCP shows on TV and videos—it’s all fake and made up. There are no classrooms. We just sit in our rooms and stare at the wall. The door only opens to punish you, that’s it,” Gulbukhar added.

While China’s state TV footage showed rooms with air conditioning, decorated with bunting and balloons, Gulbukhar said it is a depiction far from reality. Detainees are confined to their rooms, poorly treated, and kept in shackles in overcrowded conditions, she said.

Those in her camp were forced to ingest unknown medicine daily and were injected with a substance every month which “numbs your emotions.” They were also subject to various forms of torture including food and sleep deprivation, physical punishments, while some were even killed, she said.

Chairing a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing on Nov. 29, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said given the daily realities in communist China, where “Uyghur Muslims are rounded up and interned in camps, Tibetan monks and nuns are forced to undergo political re-education sessions, Falun Gong practitioners are reportedly sent to legal education centers for indoctrination, and Christian believers are harassed and imprisoned,” many observers are describing the current wave of repression in China as “the most severe since the cultural revolution.”

Rubio added he believes the CCP’s motivation behind the escalating crackdown “is an obsessive desire … to create a sort of unified, national identity, which must be stripped of anything that competes with it—ethnicity, religion, ethnic cultural tradition.”

China analyst Dr. Samantha Hoffman from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute added at the hearing that the ongoing repression in China is about “protecting the Chinese Communist Party.”

The CCP’s “concept of what we would call national security I think is better translated as party state security,” she said. “[T]here are dimensions … dealing with the internal struggle for power … and then dealing with everything outside the party; controlling the narrative, controlling the ideological space.

“That means that the state security methods extend far beyond China’s borders and that’s why you see the harassment of overseas Chinese.”

https://www.theepochtimes.com/ex-prisoner-says-chinas-vocational-training-centers-a-complete-lie_2731988.html

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China’s Social Credit System is Nothing To Worry About

November 17, 2018

China’s sweeping, data-driven “social credit” initiative is sounding alarms. In a speech on Oct. 4, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described it as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.” But there’s a small problem. The system doesn’t actually exist—at least as it’s generally portrayed.

It’s not surprising that myths about the system are spreading, given the shrinking space in China for civil society, rights lawyering, speech, investigative journalism, and religious belief; its increasingly ubiquitous, invasive surveillance capability; and the Chinese Communist Party’s push to apply big data and artificial intelligence in governance. China’s party-state is collecting a vast amount of information on its citizens, and its social credit system and other developments internally and overseas raise many serious concerns. But contrary to the mainstream media narrative on this, Chinese authorities are not assigning a single score that will determine every aspect of every citizen’s life—at least not yet.

Opinion
By 
Foreign Policy
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AI (Artificial Inteligence) security cameras using facial recognition technology are displayed at the 14th China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security at the China International Exhibition Center in Beijing on October 24, 2018. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s true that, building on earlier initiatives, China’s State Council published a road map in 2014 to establish a far-reaching “social credit” system by 2020. The concept of social credit (shehui xinyong) is not defined in the increasing array of national documents governing the system, but its essence is compliance with legally prescribed social and economic obligations and performing contractual commitments. Composed of a patchwork of diverse information collection and publicity systems established by various state authorities at different levels of government, the system’s main goal is to improve governance and market order in a country still beset by rampant fraud and counterfeiting.

Under the system, government agencies compile and share across departments, regions, and sectors, and with the public, data on compliance with specified industry or sectoral laws, regulations, and agreements by individuals, companies, social organizationsgovernment departments, and the judiciary. Serious offenders may be placed on blacklists published on an integrated national platform called Credit China and subjected to a range of government-imposed inconveniences and exclusions. These are often enforced by multiple agencies pursuant to joint punishment agreements covering such sectors as taxation, the environment, transportation, e-commerce, food safety, and foreign economic cooperation, as well as failing to carry out court judgments.

These punishments are intended to incentivize legal and regulatory compliance under the often-repeated slogan of “whoever violates the rules somewhere shall be restricted everywhere.” Conversely, “red lists” of the trustworthy are also published and accessed nationally through Credit China.

The scope, scale, diversity, and language of the evolving system have caused a lot of confusion, particularly with respect to the existence of a single social credit scoreThere is no such thing as a national “social credit score.”

There is no such thing as a national “social credit score.”

A few dozen towns and cities in China, as well as private companies running loyalty-type programs for their customers, do currently compute scores, primarily to determine rewards or access to various programs. That was the source of at least some of the confusion. Alibaba’s Sesame Credit program, for instance, which gives rewards on Alibaba’s platforms and easier access to credit through a linked company, was often cited as a precursor of a planned government program, despite being a private enterprise.

The government does assign universal social credit codes to companies and organizations, which they use as an ID number for registration, tax payments, and other activities, while all individuals have a national ID number. The existing social credit blacklists use these numbers, as do almost all activities in China. But these codes are not scores or rankings. Enterprises and professionals in various sectors may be graded or ranked, sometimes by industry associations, for specific regulatory purposes like restaurant sanitation. However, the social credit system does not itself produce scores, grades, or assessments of “good” or “bad” social credit. Instead, individuals or companies are blacklisted for specific, relatively serious offenses like fraud and excessive pollution that would generally be offenses anywhere. To be sure, China does regulate speech, association, and other civil rights in ways that many disagree with, and the use of the social credit system to further curtail such rights deserves monitoring.

China’s credit reporting system, whose financial reports comprise a core component of what is considered “social credit,” may also have contributed to the  myth. The Chinese term for credit reporting (xinyong zhengxin) is often translated as “credit scoring.” However, the primary financial credit reporting system for companies and individuals overseen by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, does not provide credit scores or assessments with its standard reports and does not mention “scoring” in its definition of credit reporting. The PBOC’s Credit Reference Center, like licensed private credit reporting agencies, does offer financial credit scores (xinyong pingfen).

Widely reported private credit scoring programs launched not by credit reporting agencies but by some payment platforms such as Alibaba’s, which consider e-commerce and social media interactions as well as financial histories to determine customer scores, likely also contributed to the misconception of a social credit score. The PBOC, looking to expand its consumer credit coverage by sourcing data from online lenders and other nontraditional sources, in 2015 authorized eight companies—some of which, including Sesame Credit, ran customer scoring programs—to seek credit reporting agency licenses. None of those companies qualified.

However, this year the PBOC did license a national agency called Baihang Credit (Baihang Zhengxin), with those eight companies as shareholders, to provide credit reporting services to clients and contribute data from online microlenders and peer-to-peer lending platforms to the PBOC for compiling more accurate consumer credit histories. Baihang may offer credit scoring products, but those scores, as opposed to the data on which they are based, are not part of the official social credit system yet.

Source:https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/16/chinas-orwellian-social-credit-score-isnt-real/

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“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter”

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Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter

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Young people

The study found widespread apprehension about the future. Seeking intimacy? Or isolation?

Western envoys seek meeting on Xinjiang human rights concerns

November 15, 2018

A group of 15 Western ambassadors in Beijing, spearheaded by Canada, are seeking a meeting with the top official in China’s restive, heavily Muslim Xinjiang region for an explanation of alleged rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs.

The envoys are making their request in a letter to Chen Quanguo, Xinjiang’s Communist Party boss, according to a copy of a draft letter seen by Reuters.

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FILE PHOTO: Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) Party Secretary Chen Quanguo attends a group discussion session on the second day of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The move represents unusually broad, coordinated action by a group of countries over a human rights issue in China, and illustrates the mounting backlash Beijing is facing over its crackdown in the western region.

Beijing has faced an outcry from activists, academics, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups who call Xinjiang home.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received many credible reports that a million or more Uighurs in China are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

China says it is not enforcing arbitrary detention and political re-education, but rather some citizens guilty of minor offences were being sent to vocational centers to provide employment opportunities.

Beijing bristles at criticism of its human rights situation, espousing a policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Tuesday the world should ignore “gossip” about Xinjiang and trust authorities there.

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Wang Yi

It was not clear if the letter had been sent yet or if it contents could be revised. One diplomatic source said it was being passed around for more countries to potentially sign.

Several other diplomats familiar with the letter would only confirm its existence and refused to discuss it further, citing its sensitivity. All of the diplomats declined to be identified.

Many foreign governments have refrained from speaking out over the Xinjiang situation, with diplomats saying countries are fearful of angering China, an increasingly weighty diplomatic player thanks to its economic heft and initiatives such as the Belt and Road infrastructure program.

‘WE ARE DEEPLY TROUBLED’

In the draft letter addressed directly to Chen, who outranks the region’s ethnic Uighur governor Shohrat Zakir, the ambassadors said they were highly concerned by the U.N. findings on Xinjiang.

“We are deeply troubled by reports of the treatment of ethnic minorities, in particular individuals of Uyghur ethnicity, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” the draft reads, using an alternate spelling for Uighur.

“In order to better understand the situation, we request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these concerns.”

The letter is copied to China’s Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Public Security and the Communist Party’s international department.

It is not possible to directly contact any senior Chinese leader for comment. The Xinjiang government, ministries of foreign and public security, the party’s international department and party’s spokesman’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions with the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

The letter carries the names of 15 Western ambassadors, including the Canadian, British, French, Swiss, European Union, German, Dutch and Australian envoys. The other countries’ ambassadors names in the letter are Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Estonia, Finland and Denmark.

Four diplomats familiar with the letter and its contents said Canada had taken the lead in its drafting.

Canada’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, did not comment directly on the letter but expressed deep concern over the reports of detention and mass surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the situation faced by the Uyghurs directly with China’s Foreign Minister at the UN General Assembly. Canada regularly raises concerns about Xinjiang with Chinese authorities both publicly and privately, bilaterally and multilaterally, and will continue to do so.”

The EU, British, German, Swedish, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch, Finnish and Norwegian embassies declined to comment on the letter.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government was concerned about the situation in Xinjiang and officials had conveyed these concerns to China on a number of occasions.

The Irish, Danish, French and Estonian embassies did not respond to requests for comment.

The United States is not represented on the letter, although non-U.S. diplomats say the country has been deeply involved in advocacy on the Xinjiang issue.

“We remain alarmed that since April 2017 the Chinese government has detained an estimated 800,000 to possibly more than 2 million Uighurs, Kazaks and other Muslims in internment camps for political re-education,” a U.S. embassy spokesman said, responding to a question regarding the letter.

“The United States will continue to call on China to end these counterproductive policies and free all those arbitrarily detained. We are committed to promoting accountability for those who commit human rights violations and abuses, including by considering targeted measures against Xinjiang officials.”

The United States has said it is considering sanctions against Chen, other officials and Chinese companies linked to allegations of rights abuses in Xinjiang.

China’s human-rights abuses keep getting worse

November 12, 2018

The landscape of Xinjiang province in western China is dotted with political-indoctrination camps where Muslims and ethnic minorities are sent to be moulded into model socialist citizens.

The declining number of mosques allowed to remain open are fitted with security cameras and facial-recognition technology. Members of the Uyghur minority are terrified of using the traditional Muslim greeting for fear of being detained and sent for indoctrination.

These details of Beijing’s campaign to stamp out Islam, reported last week by The Globe and Mail, illustrate the degree to which China ruthlessly controls its citizens.

Editorial
The Globe and Mail

By 2020, the government plans to have fully implemented a “social credit” system that will use CCTV cameras and smartphone apps to track virtually every moment of its citizens’ lives, grading them for trustworthiness. Poor performers will be locked out of jobs or have trouble getting loans.

This growing Orwellian nightmare is blurred somewhat by the country’s parallel economic boom. Totalitarian dictatorships usually immiserate their people; China’s has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

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The Canadian government has shown some needed wariness toward Beijing of late, criticizing China for its mass detention of Muslims at the United Nations last week and pulling back from its push for a comprehensive free-trade deal with the country.

Outside of Ottawa, though, Canadian institutions continue to get burned by co-operating with Chinese state actors. The Globe reported recently that Canadian academics have collaborated with Chinese researchers who have military ties on projects that could bolster Beijing’s armed forces. And a major securities-fraud case is now at risk because Canadian authorities appear to have relied excessively on evidence gathered by Chinese investigators, who are known to use threats and torture to elicit testimony.

We can’t erect a wall between ourselves and the world’s second-largest economy. But Canada must always be clear-eyed about what it’s dealing with: a regime that is obliterating the freedoms of its citizens in ever-more frightening ways.

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Former Uyghur Inmates Tell of Torture and Rape in China’s ‘Re-Education’ Camps

October 16, 2018

Uyghurs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are being tortured, raped, and killed in secretive “political re-education” camps, former detainees have told The Epoch Times.

“Upwards of one million” of the predominantly Uyghur prisoners continue to be detained in what were, until Oct. 9, extrajudicial internment camps in western China, according to figures quoted by the the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and the United Nations.

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Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials say the mass detentions among the Uyghur population, the majority of whom practice Islam, are part of measures to crack down on terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism in the country. The CCP has used the excuse of potential “extremist threats” to justify its strict surveillance and crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

First-hand accounts described to The Epoch Times reveal attempts by authorities to strip Uyghur detainees of their culture and language, forcing them to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the CCP and its leader.

BY ISABEL VAN BRUGEN
Epoch Times
October 15, 2018 Updated: October 16, 2018
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If detainees fail to follow orders, they may be subject to up to five forms of torture as punishment, a Uyghur and former inmate explained in an interview from Istanbul, Turkey.

Xinjiang-born Omir Bekli, 42, a Kazakhstan national since 2006, was detained for six months in March last year after he was forcibly taken from his parents’ home in Shanshan—180 miles east of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang—his head covered in a black sack before being whisked away.

He was visiting Urumqi at the time to attend an international meeting about tourism.

Bekli was detained for seven months in a police cell and then sent to a reeducation camp in Karamay for 20 days where he was tortured, with one of the reasons being his refusal to sing songs which praise the CCP and its leader Xi Jinping.

“The torturing methods were very inhumane and extremely unbearable,” Bekli told The Epoch Times.

Former detainee Uyghur Omir Bekli
Uyghur Omir Bekli, 42, a former detainee in Xinjiang, China. (Courtesy of Omir Bekli)

Uyghurs are “chained up like animals,” deprived of food and sleep, and beaten until their bodies are “swollen and pouring blood.”

“They make you fear and make you weak, physically and mentally, so that they can make you obey them,” Bekli explained.

Another Uyghur detainee—a Kazakhstan national aged 54 who was released in September from a camp in Urumqi after being detained for 15 months—told The Epoch Times that young Uyghur women are being raped daily by CCP officials in the camps and could be killed if they resist. The 54-year-old spoke on condition of anonymity from Istanbul due to fears for her safety.

“Young girls are taken out and raped all night long. If you keep resisting, they will inject you with something and kill you,” she said.

She has personally witnessed two Uyghur females being killed by injection, she told The Epoch Times.

“There are usually 40 to 50 people in one small room, but five to 10 are regularly taken out and they just disappear—they never come back. People are being killed in tens all the time.”

Read more:

https://www.theepochtimes.com/former-uyghur-inmates-tell-of-torture-and-rape-in-chinas-re-education-camps_2689053.html

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China’s Unwillingness to Accept Uighurs Shows Why “Unification” With Taiwan Will Never Happen

September 6, 2018

Over the past week, several reports were published in the US about the mass internment of Uighurs of East Turkestan, which started at about the beginning of last year.

The number of Uighurs incarcerated by the Beijing government has now reportedly exceeded the 1 million mark.

By Gerrit van der Wees

In the past week, three reports documented the building human rights crisis in great detail:

The Washington-based Uyghur Human Right Project (UHRP) issued a report titled “The mass internment of Uyghurs,” which states: “We want to be respected as humans. Is it too much to ask?”

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The New York-based independent digital media company SupChina presented a detailed analysis titled: “China’s re-education camps for a million Muslims: What everyone needs to know.”

Foreign Policy magazine published an article titled: “China’s mass internment camps have no clear end in sight” by Rian Thum, an associate professor of history at Loyola University New Orleans.

The reports presented a haunting picture of the systematic indoctrination and repression of cultural identity in the internment camps, which are comparable to the gulag of the Soviet era.

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The massive increase of the use of such camps by the Chinese regime represents a significant intensification of the much longer-lasting campaign by Beijing aimed at political repression, economic marginalization, curbs on religious practice, demographic engineering and sinification targeting the Uighurs.

The fact that at present more than 1 million people — out of a total of 11 million Uighurs — are incarcerated, means that a staggering 10 percent of the population has been pulled from their homes and regular livelihood.

As the UHRP report states: “While the intention of the camps remains undisclosed, reports of repetitive political indoctrination, sinification through Chinese language and culture sessions, and compulsory denunciations of Uighur culture and belief in Islam indicate the Chinese authorities are aiming to forcibly assimilate Uighurs.”

The report speaks of credible reports of deaths in custody, torture and systematic political indoctrination.

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The SupChina report says: Xinjiang is now a totalitarian police state of historic proportions — it is widely cited as one of the most heavily policed places in the world today. Public security budgets have skyrocketed and futuristic surveillance systems have been pioneered in the region.

All of this is a wake-up call — if Taiwanese need yet another reason to be highly suspicious of Beijing’s advances and promises.

It shows clearly what would happen if Taiwan were to succumb to the pressures to accept the “one China” principle encapsulated in the so-called “1992 consensus” and “unification.”

What can or should Taiwan do in the face of such outrageously repressive behavior by China?

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First, it is important to be informed and be aware of what is happening in East Turkestan, or Xinjiang. Reports like the ones above are extremely valuable and should be read, analyzed and distributed widely.

Knowledge is power.

Second, Taiwanese should speak out about the existence of the internment camps, and the systematic indoctrination and repression of cultural identity going on in them.

In this context, it is important to be reminded of the famous words of German pastor Martin Niemoller, who said [of the Nazi regime]: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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Third, it is important for Taiwan to be clearly supportive of the rights and freedoms of Uighurs.

World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer has on many occasions courageously spoken out for freedom and democracy in Taiwan. It is time for Taiwanese to speak out for her and her people.

Gerrit van der Wees is a former Dutch diplomat who served as editor of Taiwan Communique from 1980 through 2016. He teaches Taiwan history at George Mason University in Virginia.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2018/08/31/2003699499

See also:

What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/15/opinion/china-re-education-camps.html

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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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Trump Stance on Regulating Google Could Be Trouble for All

September 3, 2018

If the White House does go ahead with regulation after the US president blamed Google for his poor press, it may set a terrible precedent

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 8:22pm
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It’s tough being big tech lately, and Google especially. It’s facing fines in the billions in the European Union for breaching antitrust laws and for rigging consumer choices in search results. Hundreds of its own staff are in revolt against a plan to re-enter China by recalibrating its search engine to meet mainland censorship laws. And, in one of his typical rage-tweeting sessions, US President Donald Trump singled out Google as being responsible for the bad press he is getting. He claimed the Google search for “Trump News” is “RIGGED”, “so that almost all stories & news is BAD”.

EDITORIAL

Trump later broadened his attack to include Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies. White House officials such as economic adviser Larry Kudlow have threatened regulation, without providing details. In a time-honoured tradition, Trump is blaming the messenger for delivering the bad news. Even without news aggregators such as Google, it’s almost certain that mainstream news outlets, the likes of The New York TimesThe Washington Post and CNN, would still be turning out stories not to the president’s liking.

If it does go ahead with regulation, the Trump White House may be setting a bad precedent, not only at home but also abroad. What’s to stop other powerful leaders and groups from demanding news aggregation to their own liking? In fact, industry direction is already moving in a way Trump would favour, even without regulation.

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The use of artificial intelligence is being pioneered by such tech giants as Google, Facebook and Spotify, the music service website that can guess your taste from past listening and offers new suggestions to you. Increasingly accurate profiles of our personal characteristics, tastes and preferences are being developed and automated by such tech companies. The current bias of Google news searches only seems to relate to the newness of stories or those that are trending, rather than following any overt political agenda.

But news aggregators can easily deliver news and views that cater to the political beliefs of individuals, as Google does with consumer searches. News readers are, after all, just consumers of news, so why not give them what they want? Maybe before his presidency ends, Trump will be able to see only news that praises him to the sky.

https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/united-states/article/2162580/trump-stance-could-be-bad-news-all

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CreditCreditIllustration by Jeffrey Henson Scales, photographs by Tom Brenner for The New York Times, and Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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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.”

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)

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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

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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)

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As China detains Muslim Uyghurs, its economic clout mutes world criticism — A “Nazi-Like View Of ‘Impure’ Minorities”

August 27, 2018

Has China simply become too powerful for the world to protest its human rights abuses? A vast surveillance and detention campaign against a Muslim minority is putting that to the test.

Thomas Peter/Reuters
Armed police keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. Government figures gathered by China Human Rights Defenders, a US-based non-profit, show that 21 percent of all arrests in China last year were made in Xinjiang, though only 1.5 percent of the country’s population lives there.
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Eighteen months after the first reports of a major security crackdown in China’s frontier province of Xinjiang, the world is beginning to wake up to evidence that Beijing is forcing an unprecedented detention and indoctrination program on the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.

A United Nations panel in mid-August heard what one member called “credible reports” that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned and subjected to political re-education. And in a flurry of statements late last month, several senior US officials and politicians condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, citing the same figures.

“It’s an attempt to brainwash an entire people because of their religious and political beliefs,” says Nicolas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The policy aims to marginalize and stamp out an entire ethnic group.”

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But awareness is not translating into action – not yet, at any rate.

“The world is starting to pay a little more attention to the fate of the Uyghurs,” adds Mr. Bequelin, but few governments have spoken out and none have taken any firm steps to oppose the campaign. And that may be simply because, as China’s clout spreads worldwide, countries eager for a share of its trade and investment do not dare alienate Beijing. Even governments that have previously spoken up for vulnerable Muslim populations around the world have remained silent, underscoring China’s increasingly pivotal role beyond its neighborhood.

“Governments are not willing to speak up because they would be risking too much economically,” says Peter Irwin, advocacy director for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC.)

Big Brother gets bigger

At the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva earlier this month, Vice Chair Gay McDougall said China had made Xinjiang “something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a kind of no-rights zone.” Critics fear the pervasive surveillance state erected in the region may be a testing ground for broader use elsewhere in the country.

Beijing insists that its harsh policies in the restive, mainly Muslim province are aimed at curbing Islamic extremism. Uyghur separatists have staged sporadic bomb and knife attacks, and an editorial in the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper argued recently that Xinjiang “has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya’ ” because of “the high intensity of regulations.”

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In Geneva, Chinese delegate Hu Lianhe denied that as many as a million people were being held, but explained that “those deceived by religious extremism” were being sent to “vocational education and employment training centers.” He did not say how many such people had been sent to such centers.

But new evidence suggests that the crackdown has reached unprecedented proportions, with over 1,000 detention centers built or enlarged since early 2017. Former detainees have reported being obliged to spend their days reciting Chinese laws, watching pro-government propaganda films, swearing loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and renouncing tenets of their faith.

Thomas Peter/Reuters
People mingle in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. A UN panel in mid-July heard what one member called “credible reports” that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned and subjected to political re-education.

Outside these centers, Xinjiang regulations ban “abnormal” beards and veils in public, as well as certain names, including Mohammed. Uighur areas have been flooded with police, and live under one the most sophisticated and pervasive surveillance systems in the world. CCTV cameras use facial recognition technology, and authorities are collecting and registering residents’ DNA and iris scans, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

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“It is likely that experiences learned in the re-education program will inform social re-engineering practices in the rest of the country,” predicts Adrian Zenz, a Xinjiang expert at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany. “In a more subtle and refined way they could be used against more stubborn pockets of Muslim or Christian sentiment.”

Dr. Zenz published research three months ago – based on studies of Xinjiang government procurement bids, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with officials – estimating the number of Uyghurs undergoing “transformation through education” (as Chinese officials call it) at possibly 1.1 million. That is around 10 percent of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government has offered no legal justification for the detentions, nor is it clear whether there are any official criteria governing detainees’ release.

“The goal is to produce long-term change through intimidation in an entire ethnic and religious population,” Dr. Zenz says. “It is hard to compare it with anything else” in recent history.

US ‘deeply troubled’

The Chinese campaign has caught little international attention until now, partly because before Zenz’s report most evidence was anecdotal, and from politically motivated groups like the WUC. Foreign journalists have found it almost impossible to report from Xinjiang, and Uyghur exiles are afraid to speak for fear of what might happen to relatives in China.

But last month, in connection with a State Department-organized international conference on religious freedom, US officials broke their silence with a spate of comments.

Though President Trump’s administration has shown little interest in human rights abroad, and has a history of controversial comments toward Islam, “religious issues are something that the Republican Party very easily gets behind,” says James Millward, an expert in Uyghur affairs at Georgetown University in Washington. “The US has traditionally been concerned about religious freedoms abroad.”

At the conference, Vice President Mike Pence accused Beijing of “holding … possibly millions of Uighur Muslims in so-called re-education camps, where they’re forced to undergo round-the-clock political indoctrination.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leveled a similar accusation, and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, speaking at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that the Uyghurs’ “religious and ethnic identity is literally being extinguished by the Chinese government.”

The day before, a senior US diplomat had told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China that “the United States is deeply troubled by the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown” in Xinjiang and called on other countries to join in Washington’s denunciations.

“We have been quite disappointed at the lack of response,” says the WUC’s Mr. Irwin. “The reason things have gone as far as they have is that China saw no one was going to object so they pushed things further.”

European diplomats say they raised the Uyghurs’ plight at a human-rights dialogue with Chinese officials in Beijing last month, but that was as far as the issue went.

Majority-Muslim reactions

Most striking is the silence from Muslim countries and organizations that have in the past leaped to the defense of other Muslim peoples, such as the Palestinians or the Rohingya.

“Over the years there have been really muted reactions from the Middle East” to events in Xinjiang, says Dawn Murphy, an expert in China’s relations with the Middle East at the US Air War College in Alabama.

Many Arab countries, not eager to draw attention to their own human rights records, “appreciate China’s respect for the principle of non-interference in other countries’ affairs,” Professor Murphy suggests. “And looking broadly at their relations with China, they have likely decided that their economic and political interests are more important” than the Uyghurs’ human rights.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has said nothing about Xinjiang since 2015, when it protested a government edict forbidding civil servants and students from observing the holy fast of Ramadan.

Closer to China, the last Malaysian government cooperated with Beijing to deport a number of Uyghur asylum-seekers. In return, says Ahmad Farouk Musa, head of the Islamic Renaissance Front think tank in Kuala Lumpur, the Chinese government appears to have paid off significant debts held by the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

“Business speaks louder than a humanitarian crisis,” Dr. Musa says. But the new Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir bin Mohamed, has promised a more independent line towards Beijing, Musa points out. “Now we are not scared to stand up to China.”

Meanwhile the Turkish government – traditionally the region’s strongest supporter of the Uyghurs, their ethnic cousins – has been tight-lipped over the “re-education” program. The increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, turning East in his search for allies, is seeking Turkish membership in the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and is thought unlikely to needle Beijing amid a bitter political and economic dispute with Washington.

Some activists say they still hope that as news from Xinjiang spreads, it will spur pressure on China, despite Beijing’s economic clout.

In the past, the WUC’s Mr. Irwin points out, “states did not really believe the figures we were talking about. Now that there is a firmer basis for them we hope there will be more of a reaction. The issue is filtering up the system in the US, at least.”

In November, China is due to undergo its five-yearly “periodic review” by the UN Human Rights Committee. Uyghur activists hope their nascent momentum will “push the international community to make strong statements” at that meeting, Irwin says.

“But getting governments to pass laws” to punish China, he adds ruefully, “is another story.”

https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2018/0824/As-China-detains-Muslim-Uyghurs-its-economic-clout-mutes-world-criticism

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.”

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)

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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.
Imaginechina

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

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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