There has been international outrage surrounding the re-education camps across China. In its defence, China claims that these camps are voluntary, and exist to reduce extremism, citing attacks by Uighur separatists in 2013 and 2014. However, there have been information leaks which suggest that these camps are far from voluntary.
In fact, these camps are an extension of the restrictions against ethnic minorities that China has imposed, which have been described as ethnic cleansing.
The previously mentioned attacks occurred in Beijing and Kunming, respectively, and were motivated by the desire to establish East Turkestan, which is currently known as the Xinjiang region. Other acts of separatism include the 2009 riots, which cost many lives.
In an attempt to reduce separatist forces, the Chinese government has imposed hi-tech strategies to trace the daily movements of the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities; for example, via facial recognition. The entire region has been subject to some of the toughest restrictions, including ‘re-education camps’.
The harrowing evidence that shows that these centres are non-voluntary originates from correspondence between Chinese authorities and contractors regarding the construction of camps.
These documents are collectively known as the China Cables. Within them are official instructions, written by the former deputy-secretary of Xinjiang’s Communist party, about how the camps should be run. Demands include: “never allow escapes”, “encourage students to truly transform”, and “ensure full video surveillance coverage”.
Furthermore, female detainees receive the worst treatment. They are sexually assaulted, forcibly sterilised and forced to have abortions
It is believed that most facilities can hold approximately 10,000 people. Interviews conducted by The New York Times with ex-detainees paint a picture of crowded centres with poor sanitation and access to food.
Furthermore, female detainees receive the worst treatment. They are sexually assaulted, forcibly sterilised and forced to have abortions.
Former inmates described experiencing degrees of torture, such as being forced to criticise Islam, eat pork and drink alcohol
The main objective of these centres is to indoctrinate inmates and revoke their religious freedom. Former inmates described experiencing degrees of torture, such as being forced to criticise Islam, eat pork and drink alcohol.
The United Nations believe that currently 1 million detainees are being detained against their own will in high security prisons, rather than through their own volition.
Overall, it is estimated that 8 million people have been through the system. China maintains that detention centres provide Uighurs with valuable training and skills, whereas the US compares them to concentration camps.
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