Responding to a claim by a Chinese government official that all people held at so-called “vocational education centres” in Xinjiang have “graduated” and achieved “stable employment” and “happy lives”, Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director at Amnesty International, said:
“While this may sound like progress, it’s more likely just the Chinese propaganda machine’s latest attempt to shift the narrative on its horrendous human rights violations in Xinjiang in the face of growing international condemnation.
“If Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities are really being released from these repressive detention camps, then the onus is on the Chinese government to prove it.
“Otherwise the claim that former ‘trainees’ are now in ‘stable employment’ leaves them at an extremely high risk of being subjected to forced labour.
“The government should at the very least allow independent UN experts to assess the situation and allow Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities to freely communicate with their relatives overseas. Until now, this is something the authorities have repeatedly refused to do.
“As ever, it’s almost impossible to independently verify the Chinese government’s claims given the extreme constraints to reporting in the region and the authorities’ attempts to cut it off from the outside world.”
Chinese state media reported on Monday that “trainees” participating in education and training programs in Xinjiang had “all graduated”. A government official was quoted as saying that detainees had “achieved stable employment, improved their quality of life and been living a happy life, with the help of the government”.
Amnesty International has documented an intensifying government campaign of mass internment, intrusive surveillance, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups living in Xinjiang. The authorities have justified the extreme measures as necessary to counter what they claim to be “terrorism” and to ensure national security.
Compelling people placed in “re-education centres” to carry out work would be considered forced labour under international law and International Labour Organization conventions.