China: Mass internment camps are places of punishment, not ‘vocational training'
The governor’s remarks fly in the face of all available evidence and are an insult to both those suffering in the camps and the families of those missing.
Responding to comments by the governor of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) northwest China, who described the camps in which up to a million predominantly Muslim people are currently detained as “free vocational training” centres, Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International said:
“The governor’s remarks fly in the face of all available evidence and are an insult to both those suffering in the camps and the families of those missing. No amount of spin can hide the fact that the Chinese authorities are undertaking a campaign of systematic repression in the XUAR with up to one million people arbitrarily detained.
“The mass internment camps are primarily places of punishment and torture, not learning. There are consistent reports of beatings, food deprivation and solitary confinement. This is having a devastating toll on the lives of up to one million people. It’s time the authorities come clean on what is really happening in the XUAR.”
The past year has seen an intensifying government campaign of mass internment, intrusive surveillance, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation against the region’s Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. Most of the detainees’ families have been kept in the dark about their loved ones’ fate and are often too frightened to speak out.
The internment of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the XUAR has intensified since March 2017, when a “Regulation on De-extremification” was adopted in the region. Open or even private displays of religious and cultural affiliation, including growing an “abnormal” beard, wearing a veil or headscarf, regular prayer, fasting or avoidance of alcohol, or possessing books or articles about Islam or Uighur culture can be considered “extremist” under the regulation.
Travel abroad for work or education, particularly to Muslim majority countries, or contact with people outside China are also major reasons for suspicion.