Xinjiang internment camps

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Xinjiang internment camps
Indoctrination camps, labor camps
Xinjiang Re-education Camp Lop County.jpg
Detainees listening to speeches in a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, April 2017
Other names
  • Vocational Education and Training Centers
  • Xinjiang re-education camps
Location Xinjiang, China
Built by Chinese Communist Party
Government of China
Operated byXinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People's Government and the Party Committee
Operational2017–present [1]
Number of inmatesUp to 1.8 million (2020 Zenz estimate) [2]

1 million – 3 million over a period of several years (2019 Schriver estimate) [3] [4]

Plus ~497,000 minors in special boarding schools (2017 government document estimate)


Xinjiang internment camps
Uyghur name
Uyghur قايتا تەربىيەلەش لاگېرلىرى

The Xinjiang internment camps, [note 1] officially called vocational education and training centers (Chinese :职业技能教育培训中心) [12] by the government of China, [13] [14] [15] [16] are internment camps operated by the government of Xinjiang and the Chinese Communist Party Provincial Standing Committee. Human Rights Watch says that they have been used to indoctrinate Uyghurs and other Muslims since 2017 as part of a "people's war on terror", a policy announced in 2014. [1] [17] [18] The camps have been criticized by the governments of many countries and human rights organizations for alleged human rights abuses, including mistreatment, rape, and torture, with some of them alleging genocide. [19] Some 40 countries around the world have called on China to respect the human rights of the Uyghur community, [20] including countries such as Canada, Germany, Turkey, Honduras and Japan. The governments of more than 35 countries have expressed support for China's government. [21] [22] [23] Xinjiang internment camps have been described as "the most extreme example of China's inhumane policies against Uighurs". [11]

The camps were established in 2017 by the administration of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping. [18] Between 2017 and 2021 operations were led by Chen Quanguo, who was formerly a CCP Politburo member and the committee secretary who led the region's party committee and government. [24] [25] The camps are reportedly operated outside the Chinese legal system; many Uyghurs have reportedly been interned without trial and no charges have been levied against them (held in administrative detention). [26] [27] [28] Local authorities are reportedly holding hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in these camps as well as members of other ethnic minority groups in China, for the stated purpose of countering extremism and terrorism [29] [30] and promoting social integration. [31] [32] [33]

The internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the camps constitutes the largest-scale arbitrary detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II. [34] [35] [36] [37] As of 2020, it was estimated that Chinese authorities may have detained up to 1.8 million people, mostly Uyghurs but also including Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic Turkic Muslims, Christians, as well as some foreign citizens including Kazakhstanis, in these secretive internment camps located throughout the region. [38] [2] According to Adrian Zenz, a major researcher on the camps, the mass internments peaked in 2018 and abated somewhat since then, with officials shifting focus towards forced labor programs. [39]

In May 2018, Randall Schriver, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said that "at least a million but likely closer to three million citizens" were imprisoned in detention centers, which he described as "concentration camps". [3] [4] In August 2018, Gay McDougall, a US representative at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that the committee had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uyghurs in China have been held in "re-education camps". [40] [41] There have been comparisons between the Xinjiang camps and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. [42] [43] [44] [45] [46]

In 2019, at the United Nations, 54 countries, including China itself, [47] rejected the allegations and supported the Chinese government's policies in Xinjiang. In another letter, 23 countries shared the concerns in the committee's reports and called on China to uphold human rights. [48] [49] In September 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) reported in its Xinjiang Data Project that construction of camps continued despite government claims that their function was winding down. [50] In October 2020, it was reported that the total number of countries that denounced China increased to 39, while the total number of countries that defended China decreased to 45. Sixteen countries that defended China in 2019 did not do so in 2020. [51]


Xinjiang conflict

Various Chinese dynasties have historically exerted various degrees of control and influence over parts of what is modern-day Xinjiang. [52] The region came under complete Chinese rule as a result of the westward expansion of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, which also conquered Tibet and Mongolia. [53] This conquest, which marked the beginning of Xinjiang under Qing rule, ended circa 1758. While it was nominally declared to be a part of China's core territory, it was generally seen as a distant land unto its own by the imperial court; in 1758, it was designated a penal colony and a site of exile, and as a result, it was governed as a military protectorate, not integrated as a province. [54]

After the 1928 assassination of Yang Zengxin, the governor of the semi-autonomous Kumul Khanate in east Xinjiang under the Republic of China, Jin Shuren succeeded Yang as governor of the Khanate. On the death of the Kamul Khan Maqsud Shah in 1930, Jin entirely abolished the Khanate and took control of the region as its warlord. [55] In 1933, the breakaway First East Turkestan Republic was established in the Kumul Rebellion. [55] [56] [57] In 1934, the First Turkestan Republic was conquered by warlord Sheng Shicai with the aid of the Soviet Union before Sheng reconciled with the Republic of China in 1942. [58] In 1944, the Ili Rebellion led to the Second East Turkestan Republic with dependency on the Soviet Union for trade, arms, and "tacit consent" for its continued existence before being absorbed into the People's Republic of China in 1949. [59]

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the government sponsored a mass migration of Han Chinese to the region, policies promoting Chinese cultural unity, and policies punishing certain expressions of Uyghur identity. [60] [61] During this time, militant Uyghur separatist organizations with potential support from the Soviet Union emerged, with the East Turkestan People's Party being the largest in 1968. [62] [63] [64] During the 1970s, the Soviets supported the United Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (URFET) to fight the Chinese. [65]

In 1997, a police roundup and execution of 30 suspected separatists during Ramadan led to large demonstrations in February 1997 that resulted in the Ghulja incident, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) crackdown that led to at least nine deaths. [66] The Ürümqi bus bombings later that month killed nine people and injured 68 with responsibility acknowledged by Uyghur exile groups. [67] [56] In March 1997, a bus bomb killed two people with responsibility claimed by Uyghur radicals and the Turkey-based Organisation for East Turkistan Freedom. [68] [69] [56]

In July 2009, riots broke out in Xinjiang in response to a violent dispute between Uyghur and Han Chinese workers in a factory and they resulted in over 100 deaths. [70] [71] Following the riots, Uyghur radicals killed dozens of Chinese citizens in coordinated attacks from 2009 to 2016. [72] [73] These included the August 2009 syringe attacks, [74] the 2011 bomb-and-knife attack in Hotan, [75] the March 2014 knife attack in the Kunming railway station, [76] the April 2014 bomb-and-knife attack in the Ürümqi railway station, [77] and the May 2014 car-and-bomb attack in an Ürümqi street market. [78] Several of the attacks were orchestrated by the Turkistan Islamic Party (formerly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement) which has been designated a terrorist organization by several countries including Russia, [79] Turkey, [80] [81] the United Kingdom, [82] and the United States (until 2020), [83] in addition to the United Nations. [84]

Strategic motivations

After initially denying the existence of the camps [85] the Chinese government has maintained that its actions in Xinjiang are justifiable responses to the threats of extremism and terrorism. [86]

As a region on the northwestern periphery of China which is inhabited by ethnic/linguistic/religious minorities, Xinjiang has been said (by Raffi Khatchadourian) to have "never seemed fully within the Communist Party's grasp". [87] Part of Xinjiang was once seized by Czarist Russia and it was also independent for a short period of time. Traditionally, the government of the People's Republic of China has favored an assimilationist policy towards minorities and it has accelerated this policy by encouraging the mass immigration of Han Chinese into minority lands. After the collapse of its rival and neighbor the Soviet Union—another huge multi-national communist state with one dominant ethnicity—the Chinese Communist Party was "convinced that ethnic nationalism had helped tear the former superpower to pieces". In addition, terrorist attacks were committed by Uyghurs in 2009, 2013, and 2014. [87]

Several additional potential motives for the increased repression in Xinjiang have been presented by scholars who have conducted research outside China. First, the repression may simply be the result of increased dissent within the region beginning in circa 2009; second, it may be due to changes in minority policy which promoted assimilation into Han culture; and third, the repression may primarily be spearheaded by Chen Quanguo himself, the result of his personally hardline attitude towards perceived acts of sedition. [88]

China's government has used the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as a justification for its actions against the Uyghurs. It claims that its actions in Xinjiang are necessary because Xinjiang is another front in the "global war on terrorism." [89] Specifically, they are trying to rid China of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's three evils. The three evils are "transnational terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism," all three of which the CCP believes the Uyghurs possess. The true reason for the repression of the Uyghurs is quite convoluted but some argue that this is based on the CCP's desire to preserve China's identity and integrity, rather than its desire to condemn terrorism. [90]

Additionally, some analysts have suggested that the ruling Communist Party considers Xinjiang a key route in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), however, it considers Xinjiang's local population a potential threat to the initiative's success, or it fears that opening Xinjiang up may also open it up to radicalizing influences from other states which are participating in the BRI. [91] Sean Roberts of George Washington University said the CCP sees Uyghurs' attachment to their traditional lands as a risk to the BRI. [92] Researcher Adrian Zenz has suggested that the initiative is an important reason for the Chinese government's control of Xinjiang. [93]

In November 2020, when the US dropped the Turkistan Islamic Party from its terrorist list because it was no longer "in existence", the decision was lauded by some intelligence officials because it removed the pretext for the Chinese government's decision to wage "terrorism eradication" campaigns against the Uyghurs. However, Yue Gang, a military commentator in Beijing stated, "in the wake of the US decision on the ETIM, China might seek to increase its counterterrorism activities." The group continues to be designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council as well as by the governments of other countries. [94] [95] [96]

Policies from 2009 to 2016

Number of re-education related government procurement bids in Xinjiang, 2016-2018, according to the Jamestown Foundation Number of re-education related government procurement bids in Xinjiang.svg
Number of re-education related government procurement bids in Xinjiang, 2016–2018, according to the Jamestown Foundation

Both prior to and until shortly after the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, Wang Lequan was the Party Secretary for the Xinjiang region, effectively the highest subnational role; roughly equivalent to a governor in a Western province or state. Wang worked on modernization programs in Xinjiang, including industrialization, development of commerce, roads, railways, hydrocarbon development and pipelines with neighboring Kazakhstan to eastern China. Wang also constrained local culture and religion, replaced the Uyghur language with Standard Mandarin as the medium of education in primary schools, and penalized or banned among government workers (in a region in which the government was a very large employer), the wearing of beards and headscarves, religious fasting and praying while on the job. [98] [99] [100] In the 1990s, many Uyghurs in parts of Xinjiang could not speak Mandarin Chinese. [101]

In April 2010, after the Ürümqi riots, Zhang Chunxian replaced Wang Lequan as the Communist Party chief. Zhang Chunxian continued and strengthened Wang's repressive policies. In 2011, Zhang proposed "modern culture leads the development in Xinjiang" as his policy statement and started to implement his modern culture propaganda. [102] In 2012, he first mentioned the phrase "de-extremification" (Chinese : 去极端化 ) campaigns and started to educate "wild Imams" (野阿訇) and extremists (极端主义者). [103] [104] [97]

In 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative was announced, a massive trade project at the heart of which is Xinjiang. [105] In 2014, Chinese authorities announced a "people's war on terror" and local government introduced new restrictions, including a ban on long beards and wearing the burqa in public. [106] [107] [108] [109] [110] In 2014, the concept of "transformation through education" began to be used in contexts outside of Falun Gong through the systematic "de-extremification" campaigns. [111] Under Zhang, the Communist Party launched its "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism" in Xinjiang. [112]

In August 2016, Chen Quanguo, a well-known hardline Communist Party secretary in Tibet, [113] took charge of the Xinjiang autonomous region. Chen was branded as responsible for a major component of Tibet's "subjugation" by critics. [114]

Following Chen's arrival, local authorities recruited over 90,000 police officers in 2016 and 2017 – twice as many as they recruited in the past seven years, [115] and laid out as many as 7,300 heavily guarded check points in the region. [116] The province has come to be known as one of the most heavily policed regions of the world. English-language news reports have labelled the current regime in Xinjiang as the most extensive police state in the world. [117] [118] [119] [120]

Antireligious campaigns in China

As a communist country, China does not have an official state religion, However, its government recognizes five different religious denominations, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. [121] In 2014, Western media outlets reported that it has conducted antireligious campaigns in order to promote atheism. [122] According to The Washington Post , the CCP under Xi Jinping shifted its policies in favor of the outright sinicization of ethnic and religious minorities. [32] The trend accelerated in 2018 when the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the State Administration for Religious Affairs were placed under the control of the CCP's United Front Work Department. [123]

Groups that are targeted for surveillance

Around 2015, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a senior CCP official argued that "a third" of Xinjiang's Uyghurs were "polluted by religious extremist forces," and needed to be "educated and reformed through concentrated force." [124]

At about the same time, the Chinese state-security apparatus was developing a "Integrated Joint Operations Platform" (IJOP) to analyze information which was collected from its surveillance data. According to an analysis of this software by Human Rights Watch, a member of a minority group might be assessed by the IJOP as falling under one of 36 "person types" that could lead to arrest and internment in a re-education camp. Some of these person types included:

  • people who do not use a mobile phone,
  • who use the back door instead of the front,
  • who consume an "unusual" amount of electricity,
  • have an "abnormal" beard,
  • socialize too little,
  • maintain "complex" relationships,
  • have a family member that exhibits some of these traits and so is "insufficiently loyal". [87]


Beginning in 2017, local media outlets generally referred to the facilities as "counter-extremism training centers" ( 去极端化 培训班 ) and "education and transformation training centers" (教育转化培训中心). Most of those facilities were converted from existing schools or other official buildings, although some of them were purpose-built. [1]

The heavily policed region and thousands of check points assisted and accelerated the detention of locals in the camps. In 2017 the region constituted 21% of all arrests in China despite comprising less than 2% of the national population, eight times more than the previous year. [117] [125] The judicial and other government bureaus of many cities and counties started to release a series of procurement and construction bids for those planned camps and facilities. [97] Increasingly, massive detention centers were built up throughout the region and are being used to hold hundreds of thousands of people targeted for their religious practices and ethnicity. [126] [17] [127] [114] [128]

Victor Shih, a political economist at the University of California, San Diego, said in July 2019 the mass internments were unnecessary because "no active insurgencies" existed, only "isolated terrorist incidents". He suggested that because a great deal of money was spent setting up the camps, the money likely went to associates of the politicians who created them. [129]

According to the Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye in December 2019, all of the "trainees" in the centers have graduated and have gradually returned to their jobs or found new jobs with government assistance. [130] Cheng also called reports that one million Uyghurs had been detained in Xinjiang "fake news" and that "what has been done in Xinjiang has no ... difference with what the other countries, including western countries, [do] to fight against terrorists." [130] [131]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China, there were no reports of cases of the coronavirus in Xinjiang prisons or of conditions in the internment camps. [132] After program suspensions due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, Uyghur workers were reported to have been returned to other parts of Xinjiang and the rest of China to resume work beginning in March 2020. [132] [133] [134] In September 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) launched its Xinjiang Data Project, which reported that construction of camps continued despite claims that their function was winding down, with 380 camps and detention centers identified. [50] [135]

The Muslim-majority countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were showing open support towards the Asian nation, stating that "China has the right to take anti‐terrorism and de‐extremism measures". The Arab nations were neglecting the human rights abuses to not ruin the economic ties they maintained with China, which is a crucial trading partner and investor for these countries. Moreover, the exiled Uyghur Muslims in these countries were regularly being detained and deported back to China. [136] [137]

According to the Associated Press, a young Chinese woman, Wu Huan was captured for eight days in a Chinese-run secret detention site in Dubai. She revealed that at least two other Uyghur prisoners were detained with her at a villa turned into jail. Critics have largely criticized the UAE for its supporting role in detaining as well as deporting the Uyghur Muslims and other Chinese political dissidents at the orders of the Chinese government. [138]

Leaks and hacks

The New York Times leak

Pages from the China Cables Pages from the China Cables.png
Pages from the China Cables

On 16 November 2019, The New York Times released an extensive leak of 400 pages of documents, sourced from a member of the Chinese government, in the hope that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping would be held accountable for his actions. The New York Times stated that the leak suggests discontent inside the Communist Party relating to the crackdown in Xinjiang. The anonymous government official who leaked the documents did so with the intent that the disclosure "would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions." [18]

We must be as harsh as them and show absolutely no mercy. — Xi Jinping on the terror attacks in 2014, (translated from Mandarin Chinese) [18]

One document was a manual aimed at communicating messages to Uyghur students who were returning home and would ask about their missing friends or relatives who had been interned in the camps. It said that government staff should acknowledge that the internees had not committed a crime and that "it is just that their thinking has been infected by unhealthy thoughts." Officials were directed to say that even grandparents and family members who seemed too old to carry out violence could not be spared. [18] [139]

The New York Times stated that speeches obtained show how Xi views risks to the party similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which The New York Times stated Xi "blamed on ideological laxity and spineless leadership." [18] Concerned that violence in the Xinjiang region could damage social stability in the rest of China, Xi stated "social stability will suffer shocks, the general unity of people of every ethnicity will be damaged, and the broad outlook for reform, development and stability will be affected." [18] Xi encouraged officials to study how the US responded following the September 11 attacks. [18] Xi likened Islamic extremism alternately to a virus-like contagion and a dangerously addictive drug, and declared that addressing it would require "a period of painful, interventionary treatment." [18]

The China Daily reported in 2018 that CCP official Wang Yongzhi was removed for "serious disciplinary violations." [18] [140] The New York Times obtained a copy of Wang's confession (which the report noted was likely signed under duress) and stated that The New York Times believed he was sacked for being too lenient on Uyghurs, for example his release of 7,000 detainees. Wang had told his superiors that he was concerned that the actions against the Uyghurs would breed discontent and thus result in greater violence in the future. The leaked documents stated, "he ignored the party central leadership's strategy for Xinjiang, and he went as far as brazen defiance. ... He refused, to round up everyone who should be rounded up". [18] The article was discreetly shared on the Chinese platform Sina Weibo, where some netizens expressed sympathy for him. [141] [139] In 2017, there were more than 12,000 investigations into party members in Xinjiang for infractions or resistance in the "fight against separatism," which was more than 20 times the figure in the previous year. [18]

ICIJ leak

On 24 November 2019, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the China Cables, consisting of six documents, an "operations manual" for running the camps and detailed use of predictive policing and artificial intelligence to target people and regulate life inside the camps. [142] [143]

Shortly after the publication of the China Cables, leaker Asiye Abdulaheb went on to provide Adrian Zenz with the "Karakax list", allegedly a Chinese government spreadsheet that tracks the rationale behind 311 of the internments at a "Vocational Training Internment Camp" in the seat of Karakax County in Xinjiang. [144] The purpose of the list may have been to coordinate judgments on whether an individual should remain in internment; in some entries, the word "agree" was written beside a judgment. [145] Records detail how subjects dress and pray, and how their relatives and acquaintances behave. [146] One subject was interned because she wore a veil years ago; another was interned for clicking on a link to a foreign website; a third was interned for applying for a passport, despite posing "no practical risk" according to the spreadsheet. In general, the subjects on the Karakax list all have relatives living abroad, a category that reportedly leads to "almost certain internment." 149 subjects are documented as violating birth control policies. 116 of the subjects are listed without explanation as "untrustworthy"; for 88 of these, this "untrustworthy" label is the only reason listed for internment. Younger men, in particular, are often listed as "untrustworthy person born in a certain decade". 24 subjects are accused of formal crimes, including six terrorism-related allegations. Most of the subjects have been released, or scheduled for release, following the end of their one-year internment term; however, some of these are recommended for release into "industrial park employment", raising concerns about possible forced labor. [147]

Xinjiang Police Files hack

The 'Xinjiang Police Files', a large body of police files derived from data found in a hack of a local computer server, [148] was sent to the German anthropologist Adrian Zenz, who works for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. [149] Zenz has been sanctioned by the Chinese government since 2021. He has been instrumental in exposing the camp system in Xinjiang. The files and some English translations are partly accessible via their special homepage set up by this foundation or via the links to an academic repository in Zenz' article in the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies . [150]

The data was evaluated by journalists from 14 media companies worldwide, including the British BBC, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. In Germany, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Der Spiegel examined and researched the data. [151] [152] [153] [149] [154]

According to the evaluation of a number of digital forensic scientists and other experts, the Xinjiang Police Files come from the computers of the Chinese authorities. It is the largest data leak on Chinese state-run re-education camps that has been made public outside of China to date. [153]

In May 2022, the BBC published summaries of the Xinjiang Police Files. [148] The Xinjiang Police Files were published during the first visit by a UN human rights commissioner to China in 14 years. By combining the photographs of some 5,000 Uyghurs contained in the data with other data in the hack, details of over 2,800 detentions emerged. [148] Other documents in the leak included police protocols for running an internment camp. [155]

Camp facilities

In urban areas, most of the camps are converted from existing vocational schools, CCP schools, ordinary schools or other official buildings, while in suburban or rural areas the majority of camps were specially built for the purposes of re-education. [156] These camps are guarded by armed forces or special police and equipped with prison-like gates, surrounding walls, security fences, surveillance systems, watchtowers, guard rooms, and facilities for armed police. [157] [158] [159] [160]

While there is no public, verifiable data for the number of camps, there have been various attempts to document suspected camps based on satellite imagery and government documents. On 15 May 2017, Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think tank, released a list of 73 government bids related to re-education facilities. [97] On 1 November 2018, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) reported on suspected camps in 28 locations. [161] On 29 November 2018, Reuters and Earthrise Media reported 39 suspected camps. [162] The East Turkistan National Awakening Movement reported an even larger numbers of camps. [163] [164]

In a 2018 report from US government-funded Radio Free Asia, Awat County (Awati) was said to have three re-education camps. An RFA listener provided a copy of a "confidentiality agreement" requiring re-education camp detainees to not discuss the workings of the camps, and said local residents were instructed to tell members of re-education camp inspection teams visiting No. 2 Re-education Camp that there was only one camp in the county. [165] The RFA listener also said the No. 2 Re-education Camp had transferred thousands of detainees and removed barbed wire from the perimeter of the camp walls. [165]

Boarding schools for the children of detainees

The detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities has allegedly left many children without their parents. The Chinese government has allegedly held these children at a variety of institutions and schools colloquially known as "boarding schools," although not all are residential institutions, that serve as de facto orphanages. [166] [167] [168] In September 2018, the Associated Press reported that thousands of boarding schools were being built. [167] According to the Chinese Department of Education children as young as eight are enrolled in these schools. [169]

According to Adrian Zenz and BBC in 2019, children of detained parents in boarding schools were penalized for failing to speak Mandarin Chinese and prevented from exercising their religion. [170] [171] [172] [173] In a paper published in the Journal of Political Risk, Zenz calls the effort a "systematic campaign of social re-engineering and cultural genocide". [174] Human Rights Watch said that the children detained at child welfare facilities and boarding schools were held without parental consent or access. [175] [176] In December 2019, The New York Times reported that approximately 497,000 elementary and junior high school students were enrolled in these boarding schools. They also reported that students are only allowed to see family members once every two weeks and that they were forbidden from speaking the Uyghur language. [169]


Camp locations identified by the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Australian Strategic Policy Institute Xinjiang Internment Map, US-Aus Gov Assessment.jpg
Camp locations identified by the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Numerous locations have been identified as re-education camps. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, whose funding is primarily from the Australian Government with overseas funding primarily from the US State Department and Department of Defense, had identified more than 380 "suspected detention facilities". [177] [178]

Information reasonably indicates that this "re-education" internment camp, which is often called a Vocational Skills Education and Training Center, is providing prison labor to nearby manufacturing entities in Xinjiang. CBP identified forced labor indicators including highly coercive/unfree recruitment, work and life under duress, and restriction of movement.
(statement of the US Department of Homeland Security [184] [185] )

Camp detainees

The mass internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the camps has become largest-scale arbitrary detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II. [34] [35] [36] [37]

Many media outlets have reported that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities, are held in the camps. [191] [192] [193] Radio Free Asia, a news service funded by the US government, estimated in January 2018 that 120,000 members of the Uyghurs were being held in political re-education camps in Kashgar prefecture alone at the time. [194] In 2018, local government authorities in Qira County expected to have almost 12,000 detainees in vocational camps and detention centres and some projects related to the centres outstripped budgetary limits. [195] Reports of Uyghurs living or studying abroad being detained upon return to Xinjiang are common, which is thought to be connected to the re-education camps. Many living abroad have gone for years without being able to contact their family members still in Xinjiang, who may be detainees. [196] [197] :1:23

Uyghur political figure Rebiya Kadeer, who has been in exile since 2005, has had as many as 30 relatives detained or disappeared, including her sisters, brothers, children, grandchildren, and siblings, according to Amnesty International. [198] [199] It is unclear when they were taken away. [200] [201] In February 2021, two of Kadeer's granddaughters appeared in a video on Twitter denying abuses and telling her not to be "fooled again by those bad foreigners". [202]

On 13 July 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national and former employee of the Chinese state, appeared in a court in the city of Zharkent, Kazakhstan for being accused of illegally crossing the border between the two countries. During the trial she talked about her forced work at a re-education camp for 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs. [203] [204] Her lawyer argued that if she is extradited to China, she would face the death penalty for exposing re-education camps in Kazakh court. [205] [204] Her testimony for the re-education camps have become the focus of a court case in Kazakhstan, [206] which is also testing the country's ties with Beijing. [207] [208] On 1 August 2018, Sauytbay was released with a six-month suspended sentence and directed to regularly check-in with police. She applied for asylum in Kazakhstan to avoid deportation to China. [209] [210] [211] Kazakhstan refused her application. On 2 June 2019 she flew to Sweden where she was subsequently granted political asylum. [212] [213]

According to a Radio Free Asia interview with an officer at the Onsu County police station, as of August 2018, 30,000 persons, or about one in six Uyghurs in the county (approximately 16% of the overall population of the county), were detained in re-education camps. [214]

Gene Bunin created the Xinjiang Victims Database [215] to collect public testimonies on people detained in the camps. Each page lists basic demographic information including dates and suspected cause of detention, location, in addition to supplementary videos, photos and documents.

Writing in the Journal of Political Risk in July 2019, independent researcher Adrian Zenz estimated an upper speculative limit to the number of people detained in Xinjiang re-education camps at 1.5 million. [216] In November 2019, Adrian Zenz estimated that the number of internment camps in Xinjiang had surpassed 1,000. [217] In November 2019, George Friedman estimated that 1 in 10 Uyghurs are being detained in re-education camps. [218]

When the BBC was invited to the camps in June 2019, officials there told them the detainees were "almost criminals" who could choose "between a judicial hearing or education in the de-extremification facilities". [219] The Globe and Mail reported in September 2019 that some Han Chinese and Christian Uyghurs in Xinjiang who had disputes with local authorities or expressed politically unwelcome thoughts had also been sent to the camps. [220]

Anonymous drone footage posted on YouTube in September 2019 showed kneeling blindfolded inmates that an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said may have been an inmate transfer at a train station near Korla and may have been from a re-education camp. [221] [222]

Anar Sabit, an ethnic Kazakh from Kuytun living in Canada who was imprisoned in 2017 after returning home following the death of her father, was detained for having gone abroad. She found other minorities were interned for offenses such as using forbidden technology (WhatsApp, a V.P.N.), travelling abroad, but that even a Uyghur working for the Communist party as a propagandist could be interned for the offense of having been booked in a hotel by an airline with others who were under suspicion. [87]

According to an anonymous Uyghur local government employee quoted in an article by US government-sponsored Radio Free Asia, during Ramadan 2020 (23 April to 23 May), residents of Makit County (Maigaiti), Kashgar Prefecture were told they could face punishment for religious fasting including being sent to a re-education camp. [223]

According to a Human Rights Watch report published in January 2021, the official figure of people put through this system is 1.3 million. [224] [225]

Waterboarding, mass rape, and sexual abuse are reported to be among the forms of torture used as part of the indoctrination process at the camps. [226] [227]

Testimonies about treatment

Officially, the camps are known as Vocational Education and Training Centers, informally as "schools", and described by some officials as "hospitals" where inmates are treated for the "disease" of "extremist ideology". According to interment officials quoted in Xinjiang Daily, (a Communist Party-run newspaper) while "requirements for our students" are "strict ... we have a gentle attitude, and put our hearts into treating them". Being in one "is actually like staying at a boarding school." [87] The newspaper quoted a former inmates as stating during his internment he had realized he had been "increasingly drifting away from 'home,'" under the influence of extremism. "With the government's help and education, I've returned. ... "our lives are improving every day. No matter who you are, first and foremost you are a Chinese citizen.'" [87] Testimonies in non-Communist Party literature from freed inmates have been considerably different.

Kayrat Samarkand, a Kazakh citizen who migrated from Xinjiang, was detained in one of the internment camps in the region for three months for visiting neighboring Kazakhstan. On 15 February 2018, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the same day as Kayrat Samarkand was freed from custody. [228] After his release, Samarkand said that he faced endless brainwashing and humiliation, and that he was forced to study communist propaganda for hours every day and chant slogans giving thanks and wishing for a long life to Xi Jinping. [229] [ better source needed ]

Mihrigul Tursun, a Uyghur woman detained in China, after escaping one of these camps, talked of beatings and torture. After moving to Egypt, she traveled to China in 2015 to spend time with her family and was immediately detained and separated from her infant children. When Tursun was released three months later, one of the triplets had died and the other two had developed health problems. Tursun said the children had been operated on. She was arrested for the second time about two years later. Several months later, she was detained the third time and spent three months in a cramped prison cell with 60 other women, having to sleep in turns, use the toilet in front of security cameras and sing songs praising the Chinese Communist Party. [230]

Tursun said she and other inmates were forced to take unknown medication, including pills that made them faint and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women and loss of menstruation in others. Tursun said nine women from her cell died during her three months there. One day, Tursun recalled, she was led into a room and placed in a high chair, and her legs and arms were locked in place. "The authorities put a helmet-like thing on my head, and each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I would feel the pain in my veins," Tursun said in a statement read by a translator. "I don't remember the rest. White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness," Tursun said. "The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uyghur is a crime." She was eventually released so that she could take her children to Egypt, but she was ordered to return to China. Once in Cairo, Tursun contacted U.S. authorities and, in September, went to the United States and settled in Virginia. [231] China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying has stated that Tursun was taken into custody by police on "suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination" for a period lasting 20 days, but denies that Tursun was detained in a re-education camp. [232] [233] [234]

Former inmates say that they are required to learn to sing the national anthem of China and communist songs. Punishments, like being placed in handcuffs for hours, waterboarding, or being strapped to "tiger chair" (a metal contraption) for long periods of time, are allegedly used on those who fail to follow. [235] [236]

Anar Sabit, a cooperative inmate who had a relatively minor offense of foreign travel, described her confinement in the women's section as prison-like and marked by bureaucratic rigidity but said that she was not beaten or tortured . [87] Before and after her internment, Sabit said that she experienced what Chinese sometimes call gui da qiang, or 'ghost walls' "that confuse and entrap travelers". [87] After her release from internment, she said that she remains a "focus person" in her hometown of Kuytun where she lives with her uncle's family. She described the town as resembling an "open air prison" due to the careful monitoring by cameras, sensors, police, and the neighborhood residential committee, and that she feels shunned by almost all friends and family and worries that she will endanger anyone who helps her. [87] After Sabit moved out of her uncle's house, Sabit lived in the dormitory of the neighborhood residential committee who she said threatened to return her to the internment camp for speaking out of turn. [87]

According to detainees, they were also forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, which are forbidden in Islam. [237] [235] Some reportedly received unknown medicines while others attempted suicide. [238] There have also been deaths reported due to unspecified causes. [239] [240] [241] [180] [242] [243] [244] [245] Detainees have alleged widespread sexual abuse, including forced abortions, forced use of contraceptive devices and compulsory sterilization. [246] [247] [248] It has been reported that Han officials have been assigned to reside in the homes of Uyghurs who are in the camps. [249] [250] Rushan Abbas of the Campaign for Uyghurs argues that the actions of the Chinese government amount to genocide according to United Nations definitions which are laid out in the Genocide Convention. [251]

According to Time , Sarsenbek Akaruli, 45, a veterinarian and trader from Ili, Xinjiang, was arrested in Xinjiang on 2 November 2017. As of November 2019, he is still in a detention camp. According to his wife Gulnur Kosdaulet, Akaruli was put in the camp after police found the banned messaging app WhatsApp on his cell phone. Kosdaulet, a citizen of neighboring Kazakhstan, has traveled to Xinjiang on four occasions to search for her husband but could not get help from friends in the Chinese Communist Party. Kosdaulet said of her friends, "Nobody wanted to risk being recorded on security cameras talking to me in case they ended up in the camps themselves." [252]

In May to June 2017, a woman native to Maralbexi County (Bachu) named Mailikemu Maimati (also spelled Mamiti) was detained in the county's re-education camp according to her husband Mirza Imran Baig. He said that after her release, she and their young son were not given their passports by Chinese authorities. [186] [187]

According to Time, former prisoner Bakitali Nur, 47, native of Khorgos, Xinjiang on the Sino-Kazakh border, was arrested because authorities were suspicious of his frequent trips abroad. He reported spending a year in a cell with seven other prisoners. The prisoners sat on stools seventeen hours a day, were not allowed to talk or move and were under constant surveillance. Movement carried the punishment of being put into stress positions for hours. After release, he was forced to make daily self-criticisms, report on his plans and work for negligible payment in government factories. In May 2019, he escaped to Kazakhstan. Nur summarized his experience in jail and under constant monitoring after his release saying, "The entire system is designed to suppress us." [252]

According to Radio Free Asia, Ghalipjan, a 35 year old Uyghur man from Shanshan/Pichan County who was married and had a five-year-old son, died in a re-education camp on 21 August 2018. Authorities reported his death was due to heart attack, but the head of the Ayagh neighborhood committee said that he was beaten to death by a police officer. His family was not allowed to carry out Islamic funeral rites. [253]

According to the Xinjiang Police Files, Chen Quanguo issued a shooting order for detainees attempting to escape in 2018. [254] [148]

In June 2018, President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) Dolkun Isa was told that his mother Ayhan Memet, 78, had died two months earlier while in detention at a "political re-education camp". [197] :1:45 [180] The WUC president was unsure if she had been incarcerated in one of the many "political re-education camps". [255]

According to a 2018 report in The New York Times , Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, who ran a restaurant in Hotan before fleeing China in 2018, said he spent seven months in prison and more than two months in a camp in Hotan in 2015 without ever being criminally charged. Muhemet said that on most days, the inmates at the camp would assemble to hear long lectures by officials who warned them not to embrace Islamic radicalism, support Uyghur independence or defy the Communist Party. [256]

In an interview with Radio Free Asia , an officer at the Kuqa (Kuchar, Kuche) County Police Department reported that from June to December 2018, 150 people at the No. 1 Internment Camp in the Yengisher district of Kuqa county had died, corroborating earlier reports attributed to Himit Qari, former area police chief. [257] [258]

In August 2020, the BBC released texts and a video smuggled out of a re-education camp by Merdan Ghappar, a former model of Uyghur heritage. Mergan had been allowed access to personal effects, and used a phone to take videos of the camp he is interned in. [259]

In February 2021, the BBC issued further eyewitness accounts of mass rape and torture in the camps. [227] Sayragul Sauytbay told the BBC as a teacher forced to work in the camps that "rape was common" and the guards "picked the girls and young women they wanted and took them away". [227] She also described a woman who was brought to make a forced confession in front of 100 other detainees while the police took turns to rape her as she cried out for help. [227] In 2018, a Globe and Mail interview with Sauytbay found that she did not personally see violence at the camp, but did witness hunger and a complete lack of freedom. [260] Tursunay Ziawudun, a Uyghur who fled to Kazakhstan and then the US, told the BBC that she was raped three times in the camps and kicked in the abdomen during interrogations. [227] In a 2020 interview with Buzzfeed News, Ziawudun reported that she "wasn't beaten or abused" while inside, but was instead subjected to long interrogations, forced to watch propaganda, kept in cold conditions with poor food, and had her hair cut. [261]

Forced labor

Adrian Zenz reported that the re-education camps also function as forced labor camps in which Uyghurs and Kazakhs produce various products for export, especially those made from cotton grown in Xinjiang. [262] [263] [264] [265] The growing of cotton is central to the industry of the region as "43 percent of Xinjiang's exports are apparel, footwear, or textiles". In 2018, 84% of China's cotton was produced in the Xinjiang province. [266] Since cotton is grown and processed into textiles in Xinjiang, a November 2019 article from The Diplomat said that "the risk of forced labor exists at multiple steps in the creation of a product". [267]

Academics Zhun Xu and Fangfei Lin write that the conclusion of forced labor in cotton production in Xinjiang is insufficiently supported. [268] They cite the historic significance of Uyghur agricultural workers as a long-standing labor force for manual cotton harvesting and staffing companies' widespread recruitment of Uyghur workers due to lower travel costs. [268] In their view, "[T]he labor demand of Uyghur seasonal cotton pickers in south Xinjiang is largely decided by its relatively low degree of agricultural capitalization, not due to the 'special treatment' towards labor migrants of a certain ethnic minority." [268]

In 2018, the Financial Times reported that the Yutian / Keriya county vocational training centre, among the largest of the Xinjiang re-education camps, had opened a forced labour facility including eight factories spanning shoemaking, mobile phone assembly and tea packaging, giving a base monthly salary of ¥1,500 RMB. Between 2016 and 2018, the centre expanded 269 percent in total area. [190]

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported that from 2017 to 2019 more than 80,000 Uyghurs were shipped elsewhere in China for factory jobs that "strongly suggest forced labour". [269] Conditions of these factories were consistent with the stipulations of forced labor as defined by the International Labor Organization. [270] [271]

In 2021, former supplier for Nike, Esquel Group, sued the United States Government for listing it on a sanction list for forced labor allegations in Xinjiang. It was later removed from the sanction list due to lack of evidence provided by the US Commerce department. [272]

In October 2021, the CBC in collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Project Italy along with The Guardian reported on the export of tomato products from Xinjiang and tied to forced labor by the Uyghurs. The report identified tomato products being exported to other countries such as Italy to be repackaged for sale in other markets such as Canada. [273] [274]

In June 2021, human rights reports indicated that costs of solar modules had been depressed in recent years due to Chinese forced labor practices in the solar module and wind turbine exports industry. [275] [276] [277] [278] [279] Globally, China dominated manufacturing, installation and exports in the field. [280] [281] The practice of forced labor was blamed for the bankruptcy of firms in the US and German solar industries, multiple times, over the decade 2010–2020. [282] [283] In one report, upon declaring a bankruptcy, the cost of raw materials for manufacturing panels was suggested to be 30% of the total manufacturing costs. It was argued that China do not pay labor costs. [284]

Notable detainees

International reactions

Reactions at the UN

On 8 July 2019, 22 countries issued a statement in which they called for an end to mass detentions in China and expressed their concerns about widespread surveillance and repression. [289] [290] 50 countries issued a counter-statement, reportedly coordinated by Algeria, criticizing the practice of "politicizing human rights issues," stating "China has invited a number of diplomats, international organizations officials and journalist to Xinjiang" and that "what they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in the media." The counter-statement also commended China's "remarkable achievements in the field of human rights", claiming that "safety and security has returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded." [291] [292] [293] Qatar formally withdrew its name from the counter-statement on 18 July, six days after it was published, expressing a desire "to maintain a neutral stance and we offer our mediation and facilitation services." [293]

In October 2019, 23 countries issued a joint statement urging China to "uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief," urging China to refrain from "arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim communities. [48] [294]

In response, on the same day, 54 countries (including China itself) issued a joint statement reiterating that the work of human rights in the United Nations should be conducted in a "non-politicized manner", and supporting China's Xinjiang policies. The statement spoke positively of the results of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang and held that these measures have effectively safeguarded the basic human rights of people of all ethnic groups." [295] [296] [297] Civil society groups in Muslim-majority countries with governments that have supported China's policies in Xinjiang have been noted to be uncomfortable with their governments' stance and have organized boycotts, protests, and media campaigns concerning Uyghurs. [298]

In October 2020, Axios reported that more countries at the UN joined the condemnation of China over Xinjiang abuses. The total number of countries that denounced China increased to 39, while the total number of countries that defended China decreased to 45. Notably, 16 countries that defended China in 2019 did not do so in 2020. [299]

At the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, Cuba delivered a joint statement supporting China, signed by 64 countries. [300] [301] [302]

Public statements of support and condemnation of Chinese policies in Xinjiang, based on joint letters at the UN [291] [303] [295] [48] [304] [305]
CountryPosition in July 2019Position in October 2019Position in October 2020
Antigua and BarbudaSupport
Bosnia and HerzegovinaCondemn
Brunei Darussalam
Burkina FasoSupportSupport
Cabo Verde
Central African RepublicSupportSupport
Democratic Republic of the CongoSupportSupport
Costa Rica
Côte d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast]
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Equatorial GuineaSupportSupportSupport
Eswatini [Swaziland]
The Vatican
North KoreaSupportSupportSupport
South Korea
Marshall IslandsCondemn
New ZealandCondemnCondemnCondemn
North MacedoniaCondemn
Papua New Guinea
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe
Saudi ArabiaSupportSupport
Sierra LeoneSupport
Solomon IslandsSupport
South Africa
South SudanSupportSupportSupport
Sri LankaSupportSupportSupport
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab EmiratesSupportSupportSupport
United KingdomCondemnCondemnCondemn
United States of AmericaCondemnCondemn
July 201950 (including China)22
October 201954 (including China)23
October 202045 (including China)39

Reactions by international organizations

Governmental organizations

Flag of the United Nations.svg  United Nations

  • On 21 May 2018, during the resumed session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations in the United Nations, Kelley Currie, the United States representative to the United Nations for economic and social affairs, raised the issue of mass detention of Uyghurs in re-education camps, and she said that "reports of mass incarcerations in the Xinjiang were documented by looking at Chinese procurement requests on Chinese websites requesting Chinese companies to tender offers to build political re-education camps". [306] [307]
  • On 10 August 2018, United Nations human rights experts expressed alarm over many credible reports that China had detained a million or more ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang. [308] [309] Gay McDougall, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that "In the name of combating religious extremism, China had turned Xinjiang into something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone". [310] [311]
  • On 10 September 2018, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on China to ease restrictions on her and her office's team, urging China to allow observers into Xinjiang and expressing concern about the situation there. She said, "The UN rights group had shown that Uyghurs and other Muslims are being detained in camps across Xinjiang and I expect discussions with Chinese officials to begin soon". [312]
  • In June 2019, UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov visited Xinjiang and found nothing incriminating at the camps. [313] [314] [315]
  • On 1 November 2019, ten UN Special Rapporteurs together with vice-chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances released a report on the effect and application of the Counter-Terrorism Law of China and its Regional Implementing Measures in Xinjiang, which states that: [316]

    The De-Extremism Regulations have been criticised by UN Special Procedures mandates for their lack of compliance with international human rights standards. Following the introduction of those laws, an estimated million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have reportedly been sent to internment facilities under the guise of "counterterrorism and de-extremism" policies since 2016. (p.4) ...... In this context, previous communications by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have voiced their concern that the "re-education facilities," sometimes termed "vocational training centres," due to their coercive character, amount to detention centres. It is alleged that between 1 million to 1.5 million ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang may have been arbitrary forced into these facilities, where there have been allegations of deaths in custody, physical and psychological abuse and torture, as well as lack of access to medical care. It is also reported that in several cases they have been denied free contact with their families and friends or been unable to inform them of their location and denied their basic freedom of movement.(p.8)

  • In June 2020, nearly 50 UN independent experts had repeatedly communicated with the Government of the People's Republic of China their alarm regarding the repression of fundamental freedoms in China. They had also raised their concerns regarding a range of issues of grave concern, including the collective repression of the population, especially religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. [317] [318]
  • In March 2021, sixteen UN human right experts raised grave concerns about the "alleged detention and forced labour of Muslim Uyghurs in China". The experts were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, and several of them said they had "received information that connected over 150 domestic Chinese and foreign domiciled companies to serious allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghur workers". The experts also called for unrestricted access to China in order to conduct "fact-finding missions", meanwhile urging "global and domestic companies to closely scrutinize their supply chains". [319] [320]

Flag of Europe.svg  European Union

  • On 11 September 2018, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, raised the re-education camps issue in European Parliament. She said:

    The most outstanding disagreement we have with China concerns the human rights situation in China, as underlined in your Report. We also focused on the situation in Xinjiang, especially the expansion of political re-education camps. And we discussed the detention of human rights defenders, including particular cases. [321]

  • On 19 December 2019, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution condemning the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and calling on EU companies with supply chains in the region to ensure that they are not complicit with crimes against humanity. [322] [323]
  • On 17 December 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that strongly condemns China over allegations of forced labor by ethnic and religious minorities. In the statement, the EU body said Parliament "strongly condemns the government-led system of forced labor, in particular the exploitation of Uyghur, ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minority groups, in factories both within and outside of internment camps in Xinjiang, as well as the transfer of forced laborers to other Chinese administrative divisions, and the fact that well-known European brands and companies have been benefiting from the use of forced labor." [324]
  • On 22 March 2021, the European Union, joined by the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, imposed sanctions on four senior Chinese officials and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps over the human rights abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. [325] [326] This was the first sanction by the EU against China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. [326]

World Bank

  • On 11 November 2019, the World Bank issued a statement: [327]

    In line with standard practice, immediately after receiving a series of serious allegations in August 2019 in connection with the Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project, the Bank launched a fact-finding review, and World Bank senior managers traveled to Xinjiang to gather information directly. After receiving the allegations, no disbursements were made on the project. The team conducted a thorough review of project documents... The review did not substantiate the allegations. In light of the risks associated with the partner schools, which are widely dispersed and difficult to monitor, the scope and footprint of the project is being reduced. Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed.

Organization for Islamic Cooperation

  • On 1 March 2019, the OIC produced a document which "commends the efforts of the People's Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens." [328] [329] [330]
  • A coalition of American Muslim groups criticized the OIC's decision and accused member states of being influenced by Chinese power. The groups included the Council on American-Islamic Relations. [331]

Human rights organisations

People of Xinjiang protesting against the human rights violations in Bern, Switzerland People of Xinjiang protesting against the chinese government.jpg
People of Xinjiang protesting against the human rights violations in Bern, Switzerland
  • On 10 September 2017, Human Rights Watch released a report that said "The Chinese government should immediately free people held in unlawful 'political education' centers in Xinjiang and shut them down." [1]
  • On 9 September 2018, Human Rights Watch released a 117-page report, "'Eradicating Ideological Viruses': China's Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang's Muslims", [332] which accused China of the systematic mass detention of tens of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in political re-education camps without being charged or tried and presented new evidence of the Chinese government's mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life. [333] [334] The report also urged foreign governments to pursue a range of multilateral and unilateral actions against China for its actions, including "targeted sanctions" against those responsible. [335]
  • On 7 January 2020, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad condemned a tweet by the US Chinese embassy, saying that China was openly admitting to and celebrating forced sterilizations and abortions of Muslim Uyghur women by saying it had "emancipated" them from being "baby-making machines". [336]

Reactions by countries

Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia

Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain

Flag of Belarus.svg  Belarus

Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium

Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada

Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba

Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt

Flag of France.svg  France

The French authorities are examining very carefully all of the testimonies and documents disseminated by the press over the past several days, indicating the existence of a system of internment camps in Xinjiang and a widespread policy of repression in this region. As we have publicly indicated on several occasions, as have our European partners, notably at the UN, within the framework of the most recent UN Human Rights Council sessions, we call on the Chinese authorities to put an end to mass arbitrary detentions in camps and to invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang as soon possible to assess the situation in this region. [349]

Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia

Flag of Iran.svg  Iran

Flag of Japan.svg  Japan

Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan

NPR reported that "Kazakhstan and its neighbors in the mostly Muslim region of Central Asia that have benefited from Chinese investment aren't speaking up for the Muslims inside internment camps in China". SCO summit (2018-06-10) 1.jpg
NPR reported that "Kazakhstan and its neighbors in the mostly Muslim region of Central Asia that have benefited from Chinese investment aren't speaking up for the Muslims inside internment camps in China".

Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania

Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia

Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands

Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand

Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan

Flag of Palestine.svg  Palestine

Flag of Russia.svg  Russia

Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has defended China's re-education camps. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud - 2017.jpg
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has defended China's re-education camps.

Flag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg  Switzerland

Flag of Syria.svg  Syria

Flag of the Republic of China.svg  Taiwan (Republic of China)

Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Flag of the United States.svg  United States

Responses from China

Response from dissidents

On 10 August 2018, about 47 Chinese intellectuals and others issued an appeal against what they describe as "shocking human rights atrocities perpetrated in Xinjiang". [457]

In December 2019, during the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, a mixed crowd of young and elderly people, numbering around 1,000 and dressed in black and wearing masks to shield their identities, held up signs reading "Free Uyghur, Free Hong Kong" and "Fake 'autonomy' in China results in genocide". They rallied calmly, waving Uyghur flags and posters. The local riot police pepper sprayed demonstrators to disperse the crowd. [458]

International Criminal Court's complaint

In July 2020, the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement and the East Turkistan Government in Exile filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court calling for it to investigate PRC officials for crimes committed against Uyghurs, including allegations of genocide. [459] [460] In December 2020, the International Criminal Court declined to take investigative action against China on the basis of not having jurisdiction over China for most of the alleged crimes. [461] [462]

See also


  1. Also called the Xinjiang re-education camps, [7] [8] and informally called Xinjiang concentration camps. [9] [10] [11]

Related Research Articles

Human rights in China are periodically reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), on which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and various foreign governments and human rights organizations have often disagreed. CCP and PRC authorities, their supporters, and other proponents claim that existing policies and enforcement measures are sufficient to guard against human rights abuses. However other countries and their authorities, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including Human Rights in China and Amnesty International, and citizens, lawyers, and dissidents inside the country, state that the authorities in mainland China regularly sanction or organize such abuses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nury Turkel</span> Uyghur American religious freedom advocate

Nury Ablikim Turkel is a Uyghur American attorney, public official, and human rights advocate based in Washington, D.C. He is currently the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chen Quanguo</span> Former CCP Secretary of Xinjiang

Chen Quanguo is a retiring Chinese politician and the current deputy head of the CCP Central Rural Work Leading Group. Between 2017 and 2022, he was a member of the 19th Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and was previously the Chinese Communist Party Committee Secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region from 2011 to 2016 and of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region from 2016 to 2021, making him the only person to serve as the Party Secretary for both autonomous regions. Chen was also Political Commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps concurrently with his position as Xinjiang Party Secretary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xinjiang conflict</span> Geopolitical conflict in Central Asia

The Xinjiang conflict, also known as the East Turkistan conflict, Uyghur–Chinese conflict or Sino-East Turkistan conflict, was an ethnic geopolitical conflict in what is now China's far-northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang also known as East Turkistan. It was centred around the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group who constitute a plurality of the region's population.

In May 2014, the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) launched the "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism" in the far west province of Xinjiang. It is an aspect of the Xinjiang conflict, the ongoing struggle by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese government to manage the ethnically diverse and tumultuous province. According to critics, the CCP and the Chinese government have used the global "war on terrorism" of the 2000s to frame separatist and ethnic unrest as acts of Islamist terrorism to legitimize its counter-insurgency policies in Xinjiang. Chinese officials have maintained that the campaign is essential for national security purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mihrigul Tursun</span> Former Uyghur detainee

Mihrigul Tursun or Mehrigul Tursun, is a reported former Uyghur detainee from Xinjiang, China. After immigrating to the United States in 2018, Tursun claimed that she was taken into the custody of Chinese authorities several times, including being imprisoned at one of a network of political "re-education camps" for Uyghurs, subject to torture, and that one of her sons died while she was in the custody of Chinese authorities in 2015. Her story was widely reported in international media. In 2019 Hua Chunying of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China denied Tursun's allegations and gave the Ministry's own account of events.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xinjiang papers</span> Collection of leaked internal Chinese government documents

The Xinjiang papers are a collection of more than 400 pages of internal Chinese government documents describing the government policy regarding Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. In November 2019, journalists Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley at The New York Times broke the story that characterized the documents as "one of the most significant leaks of government papers from inside China's ruling Communist Party in decades." According to The New York Times, the documents were leaked by a source inside the Chinese Communist Party and include a breakdown of how China created and organized the Xinjiang internment camps.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uyghur genocide</span> Series of human rights abuses against an ethnic group in Western China

The Chinese government has committed a series of ongoing human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang that is often characterized as genocide. Beginning in 2014, the Chinese government, under the administration of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, incarcerated more than an estimated one million Turkic Muslims without any legal process in internment camps. Operations from 2016 to 2021 were led by Xinjiang CCP Secretary Chen Quanguo, who dramatically increased the scale and scope of the camps. It is the largest-scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II. Experts estimate that, since 2017, some sixteen thousand mosques have been razed or damaged, and hundreds of thousands of children have been forcibly separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">China Cables</span> Leak of Chinese government documents detailing re-education camps in Xinjiang

The China Cables are a collection of secret Chinese government documents from 2017 which were leaked by exiled Uyghurs to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and published on 24 November 2019. The documents include a telegram which details the first known operations manual for running the Xinjiang internment camps, and bulletins which illustrate how China's centralized data collection system and mass surveillance tool, known as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, uses artificial intelligence to identify people for interrogation and potential detention.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act</span> U.S. law on Xinjiang human rights

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 is a United States federal law that requires various federal U.S. government bodies to report on human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese government against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China, including internment in the Xinjiang re-education camps.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adrian Zenz</span> German anthropologist (born 1974)

Adrian Nikolaus Zenz is a German anthropologist known for his studies of the Xinjiang internment camps and Uyghur genocide. He is a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an anti-communist think tank established by the US government and based in Washington, DC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rushan Abbas</span> Uyghur American activist and advocate (born 1967)

Rushan Abbas is a Uyghur American activist and advocate from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. She is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for Uyghurs. Abbas became one of the most prominent Uyghur voices in international activism following her sister's detainment by the Chinese government in 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act</span> United States sanctions law

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is a United States federal law that would change U.S. policy on China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with the goal of ensuring that American entities are not funding forced labor among ethnic minorities in the region.

Merdan Ghappar is a Chinese model and a prisoner of Uyghur heritage. He became known for his internment in one of China's Xinjiang re-education camps in 2020. Merdan achieved to smuggle video footage and text messages from his internment camp to family members in Europe, who then passed the material on to the press. As of 5 August 2020, his status was unknown.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gulchehra Hoja</span> American journalist

Gulchehra "Guli" A. Hoja is a Uyghur–American journalist who has worked for Radio Free Asia since 2001. In November 2019, Hoja received the Magnitsky Human Rights Award for her reporting on the ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang and in 2020, Hoja received the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation and was listed among The 500 Most Influential Muslims.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uyghur Tribunal</span> Non-governmental genocide tribunal

The Uyghur Tribunal was an independent "people's tribunal" based in the United Kingdom that aims to examine evidence regarding China's ongoing human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and to evaluate whether the abuses constitute genocide under the Genocide Convention. The tribunal was chaired by Geoffrey Nice, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milošević, who announced the creation of the tribunal in September 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rayhan Asat</span> Uyghur lawyer and human rights advocate

Rayhan Asat is a Uyghur lawyer and human rights advocate. Since 2020, she has led a public campaign for the release of her brother, Ekpar Asat, who has been held in the Xinjiang internment camp system since 2016, and on behalf of the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China. In 2021, she joined the Strategic Litigation Project at the Atlantic Council as a Nonresident Senior Fellow and became a Yale World Fellow. Asat is also a Senior Fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and President of the American Turkic International Lawyers Association.

Nurmuhemmet Tohti was a prominent Uyghur writer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xinjiang Police Files</span> 2022 leaked documents

The Xinjiang Police Files are leaked documents from the Xinjiang internment camps, forwarded to anthropologist Adrian Zenz from an anonymous source. On May 24, 2022, an international consortium of 14 media groups published information about the files, which consist of over 10 gigabytes of speeches, images, spreadsheets and protocols dating back to 2018.

The OHCHR Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China is a report published on 31 August 2022 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concerning the treatment of Uyghurs and other largely Muslim groups in China. The report concluded that "[t]he extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity." Human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet released the report shortly before leaving the office.


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