CNA Staff, Sep 24, 2020 / 13:08 pm
Researchers at an Australian think tank have found that re-education camps for Muslims in China's Xinjiang region have expanded in the past year, despite government claims that most detainees had been released.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a Sept. 24 report that it had “identified and mapped more than 380 suspected detention facilities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, highlighting ‘re-education’ camps, detention centres and prisons that have been newly built or expanded since 2017.”
“The findings of this research contradict Chinese officials’ claims that all 'trainees' from so-called vocational training centres had 'graduated' by late 2019. Instead, available evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang’s vast 're-education' network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons, or sent to walled factory compounds for coerced labour assignments.”
The think tank presented satellite imagery evidence showing construction and expansion at 61 sites since July 2019; half of these, it said, are 'higher security facilities, which may suggest a shift in usage from the lower-security, ‘re-education centres’ toward higher-security prison-style facilities.”
It added that “at least 70 facilities appear to have been desecuritised by the removal of internal fencing or perimeter walls. This includes 8 camps that show signs of decommissioning, and it is possible they have been closed.”
An estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.
The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.
The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat, and claiming they are vocational training centers.