China legalises Uighur ‘re-education’ camps in first acknowledgement of detention centres
Posted On July 16, 2020
China has legalised internment camps believed to be holding hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims in the first official recognition of the centres.
A new law allows for “vocational skill education training centres” to “carry out anti-extremist ideological education" and implement “psychological and behavioural correction to promote thought transformation of trainees, and help them return to society and family.”
All those being “educated and converted” should also learn the national language of Mandarin Chinese, according to the law.
Xi Jinping, China’s president, has launched a widespread campaign to stamp out dissent, re-assert the ruling Communist party, and promote patriotism.
In Xinjiang, a western province home to Uighurs – a Turkic-speaking and primarily Muslim minority – that has meant many restrictions on daily life and reports of hundreds of thousands forced into internment camps. Human rights groups have long alleged mistreatment and abuse of Uighurs in Xinjiang, with the United Nations estimating China had detained as many as 1 million Uighurs.
In 2017, China banned activity deemed "extremist", including wearing a headscarf, having “abnormal” beards, refusing to follow state media, or preventing children from receiving state education.
Residents are also reportedly monitored via facial recognition, mobile phone scans, DNA collection and scores of security cameras.
On Wednesday, a powerful US congressional body called on the Trump administration to make human rights a priority when re-shaping Washington’s relationship with Beijing.
“Any effort to rethink US government approaches to the current Chinese government should recognise that pressing for adherence to universal standards and insistence on greater reciprocity advance American economic and security interest,” said the report by the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
The commission’s leaders also called for the release of detainees, the introduction of US legislation to condemn China for its actions, and for the FBI to investigate.
While Mike Pence, US vice president, stated in a speech last week that the US was aware of human rights abuses, the White House has yet to challenge the issue.
Chinese officials previously described the UN’s allegations as “unsubstantiated and irresponsible information,” saying they were simply “not true.”
In an unprecedented move, China’s New York consulate sent a letter to the editor published last month in the Wall Street Journal, saying the newspaper’s reports on mistreatment and abuse of Uighurs were “mistaken” and improperly “depict Xinjiang as a place of horror.”
“China is strengthening Xinjiang’s police force only because of the real threat of terrorist attacks,” the letter said. “Xinjiang will fully enjoy the dividends and unite to create a better life.”