Last week, state television praised the Xinjiang facilities and showed a class of Uighur students reading out a Chinese lesson titled “I am a law-abiding citizen.” Dake Kang of the Associated Press noticed in the video that there were at least five surveillance cameras monitoring the students in a classroom of a so-called “vocational skills training center.” Separately, a Western human-rights activist counted four surveillance microphones in the same “classroom.” These tools of Big Brother mirror the extensive surveillance that China has installed outside the detention centers to monitor the Uighur population, as well as other ethnic groups living in Xinjiang.
China has long struggled with the restive Uighur population and violent separatism. But the latest effort to round up as many as 1.1 million people and put them through forced indoctrination outstrips anything it has tried before. It has justified the harsh measures as counterterrorism, but all signs point to a far more ominous goal: to forcibly wipe out the culture and Muslim religion of the ethnic Uighurs and to compel them to embrace the Chinese language and Communist Party ideology.
The story put forward by China is that these are happy places. The state news agency Xinhua interviewed the chairman of Xinjiang’s government, Shohrat Zakir, who insisted that the Uighurs are taking advantage of “free” language schooling and vocational training. “The cafeteria prepares nutritious free diets, and the dormitories are fully equipped with radio, TV, air conditioning, bathroom and shower” he said, according to Xinhua.
This is utter hogwash. The annual report of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China noted on Oct. 10 that the camps are “reeducation” facilities, filled by forcible mass detentions, and the internees subjected to, among other things: forced marches, overcrowding, bad food, torture, waterboarding, sleep deprivation and lack of adequate clothing.” If the Xinjiang facilities are innocent vocational schools, then China should throw open the gates now and permit international inspection.