Night Images Reveal Many New Detention Sites in China’s Xinjiang Region

Seems like every week if not more, new details regarding Chinese government repression emerge:

As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

Rather than being released, many detainees were likely being sent to prisons and perhaps other facilities, the investigation found, citing satellite images of new and expanded incarceration sites.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher who led the project at the institute, also called ASPI, said the findings undercut Chinese officials’ claims that inmates from the camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — had “graduated.”

“Evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang’s vast ‘re-education’ network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons,” Mr. Ruser wrote in the report.

The Chinese government has created formidable barriers to investigating conditions in Xinjiang. Officials tail and harass foreign journalists, making it impossible to safely conduct interviews. Access to camps is limited to selected visitors, who are taken on choreographed tours where inmates are shown singing and dancing.

The researchers for the new report overcame those barriers with long-distance sleuthing. They pored over satellite images of Xinjiang at night to find telltale clusters of new lights, especially in barely habited areas, which often proved to be new detention sites. A closer examination of such images sometimes revealed hulking buildings, surrounded by high walls, watchtowers and barbed-wire internal fencing — features that distinguished detention facilities from other large public compounds like schools or hospitals.

“I don’t believe this timing is merely coincidental,” Timothy Grose, an associate professor of China studies at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the ASPI project, said of the accumulating evidence of expanding incarceration sites.

“In my opinion, we are witnessing a new stage in the crisis,” he said. “Some detainees have been released, others have been placed in factories, while others still have been sentenced.”

China has repeatedly refused to disclose the number of detention sites and detainees in Xinjiang and elsewhere. The ASPI researchers found and examined some 380 suspected detention sites in Xinjiang. At least 61 of them had expanded in area between July 2019 and July of this year, and of those, 14 were still growing, according to the latest-available satellite images.

The researchers divided the sites into four security levels, and they said that about half of the expanding sites were higher-security facilities.

The researchers found signs that some re-education camps were being rolled back, partially confirming government claims of a shift. At least 70 sites had seen the removal of security infrastructure such as internal fencing or perimeter walls, and eight camps appeared to be undergoing decommissioning, they wrote. The facilities apparently being scaled back were largely lower-security camps, they said.

Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, the authorities have carried out a sweeping crackdown in Xinjiang, with as many as one million or more people incarcerated in recent years, according to scholars’ estimates. The ASPI report was issued one day after the sixth anniversary of a key moment in the increasingly harsh campaign, the sentencing of Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur scholar, to life in prison.

Late last year, Shohrat Zakir, the chairman of the Xinjiang government, told reporters in Beijing that the re-education sites were now housing only people who were there voluntarily, and that others who had been in the facilities had “graduated.” Where to, he did not say.

The ASPI report builds on previous investigations that also pointed to explosive growth in the prison population in Xinjiang over recent years, even as the building of indoctrination camps appeared to peak.

Last month, BuzzFeed News found 268 detention compounds in Xinjiang built since 2017. The news organization identified the compounds with the help of spots blanked out of the online mapping service from Baidu, the Chinese technology company.

An investigation by The New York Times last year found that courts in Xinjiang — where Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities make up more than half of the population of 25 million — sentenced 230,000 people to prison or other punishments in 2017 and 2018, far more than in any other period on record for the region.

Official sentencing statistics for 2019 have not been released. But a report released by the authorities in Xinjiang early this year said that prosecutors indicted 96,596 people for criminal trial in 2019, suggesting that the flow of trials — which almost always lead to convictions — was lower than in the previous two years, but still much higher than in the years before the crackdown took off.

“Even though the internment camps are obviously the most headline-grabbing aspect of what’s happening, there’s been a much broader effort from the beginning that has also included significant incarceration” in prisons, said Sean R. Roberts, an associate professor at George Washington University and author of “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Campaign Against Xinjiang’s Muslims.” (Uyghur is another spelling for Uighur.)

Uighurs who have left China often struggle to find out what has happened to family members who were detained, and possibly tried and imprisoned.

Still, growing numbers of Uighurs abroad report having learned of relatives being sentenced to prison terms of five, 10 or even 15 years on sweeping charges like “separatism,” said Elise Anderson, a senior program officer for research and advocacy with the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a group based in Washington, who is involved in an unfinished study of incarceration in Xinjiang.

“In some cases, people don’t even know what’s happened and have to guess,” Ms. Anderson said.

Sayyara Arkin, a Uighur woman living in the United States, said she waited years for news of her brother, Hursan Hasan, a well-known actor in Xinjiang who was taken into a re-education camp in 2018. Earlier this month, her family in Xinjiang told her that Mr. Hasan had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of separatism, Ms. Arkin said by telephone.

“I felt shocked,” Ms. Arkin said. “He’s an actor who focused on his work, an intellectual who had the acceptance of the government, and I never imagined this would happen.”

The United States has begun to take a more confrontational stance toward China over the repression in Xinjiang. This year, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on officials responsible for policy in the region, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which is both a farm conglomerate and a quasi-military security institution. It has also imposed restrictions on imports of clothing, hair products and technological goods from Xinjiang, but stopped short of banning all cotton and tomatoes, two of the region’s key exports.

This week, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would bar any imports from Xinjiang unless they were proven not to have been produced using forced labor.

The Chinese government initially denied reports of mass detention in Xinjiang, and later defended the indoctrination camps, describing them as benign places that provide job training and counter religious extremism and terrorism. In a white paper released last week, Beijing defended its labor policies in the region, saying that it observed international labor and human rights standards and that its work was a successful example of governance in “underdeveloped areas with large populations of ethnic minorities.”

The Chinese authorities have also sharply criticized the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called its earlier report on forced labora “fabricated and biased accusation.” Mr. Zhao also attacked the institute’s backers, which include the State Department. ASPI says that its research is independent and not influenced by its funding sources.

Some Uighur exiles have argued that the Chinese government’s crackdown in their homeland amounts to genocide. Earlier this month, a group of watchdog groups and experts issued a joint letter that said China’s policies in Xinjiang “meet the threshold of acts constitutive of genocide,” a crime brought into international law after World War II, as well as other possible crimes against humanity.

The Chinese government has angrily rejected such claims. And the continued growth of detention sites across Xinjiang suggests that the authorities are determined to transform and subdue Uighur society for generations to come.

“The Chinese government potentially could keep up this regime of intense repression for a significant amount of time,” said Professor Roberts of George Washington University. “It could essentially destroy the Uighur identity as we know it inside China.”

Source: nytimes.com/2020/09/24/wor…

China sharply expands mass labour program in Tibet

Yet again:

China is pushing growing numbers of Tibetan rural labourers off the land and into recently built military-style training centres where they are turned into factory workers, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labour.

Beijing has set quotas for the mass transfer of rural labourers within Tibet and to other parts of China, according to over a hundred state media reports, policy documents from government bureaus in Tibet and procurement requests released between 2016-2020 and reviewed by Reuters. The quota effort marks a rapid expansion of an initiative designed to provide loyal workers for Chinese industry.

A notice posted to the website of Tibet’s regional government website last month said over half a million people were trained as part of the project in the first seven months of 2020 – around 15 per cent of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred into jobs within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low paid work, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.

“This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1976, said Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher, who compiled the core findings about the program. These are detailed in a report released this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based institute that focuses on policy issues of strategic importance to the U.S. “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labour.”

Reuters corroborated Zenz’s findings and found additional policy documents, company reports, procurement filings and state media reports that describe the program.

In a statement to Reuters, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied the involvement of forced labour, and said China is a country with rule of law and that workers are voluntary and properly compensated.

“What these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labour’ simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies,” it said.

Moving surplus rural labour into industry is a key part of China’s drive to boost the economy and reduce poverty. But in areas like Xinjiang and Tibet, with large ethnic populations and a history of unrest, rights groups say the programs include an outsized emphasis on ideological training. And the government quotas and military-style management, they say, suggest the transfers have coercive elements.

China seized control of Tibet after Chinese troops entered the region in 1950, in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation.” Tibet has since become one of the most restricted and sensitive areas in the country.

The Tibetan program is expanding as international pressure is growing over similar projects in Xinjiang, some of which have been linked to mass detention centres. A United Nations report has estimated that around one million people in Xinjiang, mostly ethnic Uyghurs, were detained in camps and subjected to ideological education. China initially denied the existence of the camps, but has since said they are vocational and education centres, and that all the people have “graduated.”

Reuters was unable to ascertain the conditions of the transferred Tibetan workers. Foreign journalists are not permitted to enter the region, and other foreign citizens are only permitted on government-approved tours.

In recent years, Xinjiang and Tibet have been the target of harsh policies in pursuit of what Chinese authorities call “stability maintenance.” These policies are broadly aimed at quelling dissent, unrest or separatism and include restricting the travel of ethnic citizens to other parts of China and abroad, and tightening control over religious activities.

In August, President Xi Jinping said China will again step up efforts against separatism in Tibet, where ethnic Tibetans make up around 90 per cent of the population, according to census data. Critics, spearheaded by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, accuse the Chinese authorities of carrying out “cultural genocide” in the region. The 85-year-old Nobel Laureate has been based in Dharamsala, India, since he fled China in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese authorities.

ELIMINATE ‘LAZY PEOPLE’

While there has been some evidence of military-style training and labour transfers in Tibet in the past, this new, enlarged program represents the first on a mass scale and the first to openly set quotas for transfers outside the region.

A key element, described in multiple regional policy documents, involves sending officials into villages and townships to gather data on rural labourers and conduct education activities, aimed at building loyalty.

State media described one such operation in villages near the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Officials carried out over a thousand anti-separatism education sessions, according to the state media report, “allowing the people of all ethnic groups to feel the care and concern of the Party Central Committee,” referring to China’s ruling Communist Party.

The report said the sessions included songs, dances and sketches in “easy to understand language.” Such “education” work took place prior to the rollout of the wider transfers this year.

The model is similar to Xinjiang, and researchers say a key link between the two is the former Tibet Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who took over the same post in Xinjiang in 2016 and spearheaded the development of Xinjiang’s camp system. The Xinjiang government, where Chen remains Party boss, did not respond to a request for comment.

“In Tibet, he was doing a slightly lower level, under the radar, version of what was implemented in Xinjiang,” said Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Government Department.

Around 70 per cent of Tibet’s population is classified as rural, according to 2018 figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. This includes a large proportion of subsistence farmers, posing a challenge for China’s poverty alleviation program, which measures its success on levels of basic income. China has pledged to eradicate rural poverty in the country by the end of 2020.

“In order to cope with the increasing downward economic pressure on the employment income of rural workers, we will now increase the intensity of precision skills training … and carry out organized and large-scale transfer of employment across provinces, regions and cities,” said a working plan released by Tibet’s Human Resources and Social Security Department in July. The plan included 2020 quotas for the program in different areas.

Some of the policy documents and state media reports reviewed by Reuters make reference to unspecified punishments for officials who fail to meet their quotas. One prefecture level implementation plan called for “strict reward and punishment measures” for officials.

As in Xinjiang, private intermediaries, such as agents and companies, that organize transfers can receive subsidies set at 500 yuan ($74) for each labourer moved out of the region and 300 yuan ($44) for those placed within Tibet, according to regional and prefecture level notices.

Officials have previously said that labour transfer programs in other parts of China are voluntary, and many of the Tibetan government documents also mention mechanisms to ensure labourers’ rights, but they don’t provide details. Advocates, rights groups and researchers say it’s unlikely labourers are able to decline work placements, though they acknowledge that some may be voluntary.

“These recent announcements dramatically and dangerously expand these programs, including ‘thought training’ with the government’s co-ordination, and represent a dangerous escalation,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of U.S. based advocacy group, the International Campaign for Tibet.

The government documents reviewed by Reuters put a strong emphasis on ideological education to correct the “thinking concepts” of labourers. “There is the assertion that minorities are low in discipline, that their minds must be changed, that they must be convinced to participate,” said Zenz, the Tibet-Xinjiang researcher based in Minnesota.

One policy document, posted on the website of the Nagqu City government in Tibet’s east in December 2018, reveals early goals for the plan and sheds light on the approach. It describes how officials visited villages to collect data on 57,800 labourers. Their aim was to tackle “can’t do, don’t want to do and don’t dare to do” attitudes toward work, the document says. It calls for unspecified measures to “effectively eliminate ‘lazy people.’”

A report released in January by the Tibetan arm of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a high-profile advisory body to the government, describes internal discussions on strategies to tackle the “mental poverty” of rural labourers, including sending teams of officials into villages to carry out education and “guide the masses to create a happy life with their hard-working hands.”

MILITARY DRILLS AND UNIFORMS

Rural workers who are moved into vocational training centres receive ideological education – what China calls “military-style” training – according to multiple Tibetan regional and district-level policy documents describing the program in late 2019 and 2020. The training emphasizes strict discipline, and participants are required to perform military drills and dress in uniforms.

It is not clear what proportion of participants in the labour transfer program undergo such military-style training. But policy documents from Ngari, Xigatze and Shannan, three districts which account for around a third of Tibet’s population, call for the “vigorous promotion of military-style training.” Regionwide policy notices also make reference to this training method.

Small-scale versions of similar military-style training initiatives have existed in the region for over a decade, but construction of new facilities increased sharply in 2016, and recent policy documents call for more investment in such sites. A review of satellite imagery and documents relating to over a dozen facilities in different districts in Tibet shows that some are built near to or within existing vocational centres.

The policy documents describe a teaching program that combines skills education, legal education and “gratitude education,” designed to boost loyalty to the Party.

James Leibold, professor at Australia’s La Trobe University who specializes in Tibet and Xinjiang, says there are different levels of military-style training, with some less restrictive than others, but that there is a focus on conformity.

“Tibetans are seen as lazy, backward, slow or dirty, and so what they want to do is to get them marching to the same beat … That’s a big part of this type of military-style education.”

In eastern Tibet’s Chamdo district, where some of the earliest military-style training programs emerged, state media images from 2016 show labourers lining up in drill formation in military fatigues. In images published by state media in July this year, waitresses in military clothing are seen training at a vocational facility in the same district. Pictures posted online from the “Chamdo Golden Sunshine Vocational Training School” show rows of basic white shed-like accommodation with blue roofs. In one image, banners hanging on the wall behind a row of graduates say the labour transfer project is overseen by the local Human Resources and Social Security Department.

The vocational skills learned by trainees include textiles, construction, agriculture and ethnic handicrafts. One vocational centre describes elements of training including “Mandarin language, legal training and political education.” A separate regional policy document says the goal is to “gradually realize the transition from ‘I must work’ to ‘I want to work.’”

Regional and prefecture level policy documents place an emphasis on training batches of workers for specific companies or projects. Rights groups say this on-demand approach increases the likelihood that the programs are coercive.

SUPPLY CHAIN

Workers transferred under the programs can be difficult to trace, particularly those sent to other parts of China. In similar mass transfers of Uyghur people from Xinjiang, workers were discovered in the supply chains of 83 global brands, according to a report released by the The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

Researchers and rights groups say transfers from these regions pose a challenge because without access they can’t assess whether the practice constitutes forced labour, and transferred workers often work alongside non-transferred counterparts.

Tibetan state media reports in July say that in 2020 some of the workers transferred outside of Tibet were sent to construction projects in Qinghai and Sichuan. Others transferred within Tibet were trained in textiles, security and agricultural production work.

Regional Tibetan government policy notices and prefecture implementation plans provide local government offices with quotas for 2020, including for Tibetan workers sent to other parts of China. Larger districts are expected to supply more workers to other areas of the country – 1,000 from the Tibetan capital Lhasa, 1,400 from Xigaze, and 800 from Shannan.

Reuters reviewed policy notices put out by Tibet and a dozen other provinces that have accepted Tibetan labourers. These documents reveal that workers are often moved in groups and stay in collective accommodation.

Local government documents inside Tibet and in three other provinces say workers remain in centralized accommodation after they are transferred, separated from other workers and under supervision. One state media document, describing a transfer within the region, referred to it as a “point to point ‘nanny’ service.”

The Tibetan Human Resources and Social Security Department noted in July that people are grouped into teams of 10 to 30. They travel with team leaders and are managed by “employment liaison services.” The department said the groups are tightly managed, especially when moving outside Tibet, where the liaison officers are responsible for carrying out “further education activities and reducing homesickness complexes.” It said the government is responsible for caring for “left-behind women, children and the elderly.”

Disney Wanted to Make a Splash in China With ‘Mulan.’ It Stumbled Instead.

Companies as big as McKinsey and Disney can have equally big blind spots:

Executives at Walt Disney Studios were celebrating. “Mulan,” a $200 million live-action spectacle five years in the making, had arrived on Disney’s streaming service to strong reviews, with critics lauding its ravishing scenery and thrilling battle sequences.

The abundant controversies that had dogged “Mulan” over its gestation — false rumors that Disney was casting a white lead actress, calls for a boycott after its star expressed support for the Hong Kong police — had largely dissipated by Sept. 4, when the film arrived online. Success looked likely around the world, including the crucial market of China, where “Mulan” is set and where Disney hoped its release in theaters on Friday would advance the company’s hold on Chinese imaginations and wallets.

“In many ways, the movie is a love letter to China,” Niki Caro, the film’s director, had told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Then the credits rolled.

Almost as soon as the film arrived on Disney+, social media users noticed that, nine minutes into the film’s 10-minute end credits, the “Mulan” filmmakers had thanked eight government entities in Xinjiang, the region in China where Uighur Muslims have been detained in mass internment camps.

Activists rushed out a new #BoycottMulan campaign, and Disney found itself the latest example of a global company stumbling as the United States and China increasingly clash over human rights, trade and security, even as their economies remain entwined.

Disney is one of the world’s savviest operators when it comes to China, having seamlessly opened Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, but it was caught flat-footed with “Mulan.” Top studio executives had not seen the Xinjiang credits, according to three people briefed on the matter, and no one involved with the production had warned that footage from the area was perhaps not a good idea.

The filmmakers may not have known what was happening there when they chose it as one of 20 locations in China to shoot scenery, but by the time a camera crew arrived in August 2018 the detention camps were all over the news. And all of this for what ended up being roughly a minute of background footage in a 1-hour-55-minute film.

Disney declined to comment.

Asked about the credits fiasco at a Bank of America conference on Thursday, Christine M. McCarthy, Disney’s chief financial officer, noted that it was common practice in Hollywood to credit government entities that allowed filming to take place. Although all scenes involving the primary cast were filmed in New Zealand, Disney shot scenery in China “to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography for this historic period drama,” Ms. McCarthy said.

“I would just leave it at that,” she said, before allowing that the credits had “generated a lot of issues for us.”

No overseas market is more important to Hollywood than China, which is poised to overtake the United States and Canada as the world’s No. 1 box office engine. Disney has even more at stake. The Chinese government co-owns the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, which Disney executives have said is the company’s greatest opportunity since Walt Disney himself bought land in central Florida in the 1960s. Disney is also pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into upgrades at its money-losing Hong Kong Disneyland in hopes of creating a must-visit attraction for families.

Disney worked overtime to ensure that “Mulan” would appeal to Chinese audiences. It cast household names, including Liu Yifei in the title role and Donnie Yen as Mulan’s regiment leader. The filmmakers cut a kiss between Mulan and her love interest on the advice of a Chinese test audience. Disney also shared the script with Chinese officials (a not-uncommon practice in Hollywood) and heeded the advice of Chinese consultants, who told Disney not to focus on a specific Chinese dynasty

“If ‘Mulan’ doesn’t work in China, we have a problem,” Alan F. Horn, co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, told The Hollywood Reporter last year.

The “Mulan” controversy underscores the dilemma companies face when trying to balance their core principles with access to the Chinese market. The Chinese government shut out the National Basketball Association last year after the general manager of the Houston Rockets shared an image on Twitter that was supportive of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The backlash cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. (After mounting pressure from American politicians to sever ties with a basketball academy in Xinjiang, the N.B.A. disclosed in July that it had already done so.)

Disney has long argued that its infractions are unfairly magnified because its brand provides a convenient punching bag. A lot of American companies had operations in Xinjiang in 2018, and some still source goods there.

Apologizing for the Xinjiang credits could anger China and threaten the release of future movies. China blocked the release of Disney’s animated “Mulan” for eight months in the late 1990s after the company backed Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun,” a film seen as sympathetic to the Dalai Lama. The animated “Mulan” bombed in China as a result.

“On one hand, Disney supports Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement and has been responsive to calls for inclusion by making a movie like ‘Mulan’ with an all-Asian cast and a female director,” said Michael Berry, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “On the other, it has to be very careful on the topic of human rights in China. That’s business, of course, but it’s also hypocritical, and it makes some people angry.”

The political realities have shifted drastically since 2015, when Disney started working on “Mulan.” As part of its escalating confrontation with the Chinese government, the Trump administration has started to attack Hollywood for pandering to the country. In July, Attorney General William P. Barr criticized studios for making changes to films like “Doctor Strange” (2016) and “World War Z” (2013) to avoid trouble with China.

The pressure is not coming just from conservatives. PEN America, the free-speech advocacy group, on Aug. 5 released a major report on Hollywood’s censoring itself to appease China.

“Hollywood was already in the election-year cross hairs,” said Chris Fenton, the author of “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the N.B.A. & American Business.” “This situation with ‘Mulan’ only makes it worse.”

At least 20 members of Congress have already written Disney to express outrage over the Xinjiang matter and demand more information.

It remains to be seen how “Mulan” will fare in China. The country’s 70,000 theaters have reopened, but most are still limiting capacity to 50 percent as a coronavirus precaution. Rampant piracy and chilly reviews could also cut into ticket sales.

On Friday, theaters in China were decked out with large posters of a fierce-looking Ms. Liu as Mulan, clad in a red robe and wielding a sword as her long black tresses billowed behind her. At one Beijing cinema, moviegoers were invited to test their archery skills.

By the end of the day, “Mulan” had taken in a humdrum $8 million. “The Lion King,” released last year, collected $13 million on its first day in China.

Detail-oriented Disney set out to make a movie that rang true to Chinese audiences in aspects big and small — much as the company approached Shanghai Disneyland. It infused the park with myriad Chinese elements and avoided classic Disney rides to circumvent cries of cultural imperialism.

“I had an army of Chinese advisers,” Ms. Caro, the film’s director, told the Xinhua News Agency. Many Chinese feel an intense ownership of the character of Mulan, having grown up learning about the 1,500-year-old “Ballad of Mulan” in school. The poem has been the source of inspiration for countless plays, poems and novels over the centuries.

In the quest to make a culturally authentic film — and to give “Mulan” sweep and scale — Disney sought to showcase the diverse scenery of China. In keeping with China’s rules on filming in the country, Disney teamed with a Chinese production company, which secured the necessary government permits. A crew filmed in the Xinjiang area for several days, including in the red sandstone Flaming Mountains near Turpan, said Sun Yu, a translator on the film.

“Usually when a lot of foreigners go to Xinjiang, officials there are pretty sensitive,” Ms. Sun said in an interview. “But actually our filming process went very smoothly because the local government was very supportive and understanding at the time.”

To find the perfect Mulan, Disney casting directors scoured the globe before choosing the Chinese-born Liu Yifei. To Disney, Ms. Liu was ideal: physically fit, a household name in China (for playing elegant maidens in martial arts dramas) and fluent in English, having spent part of her childhood in Queens.

Then, last summer, as tensions boiled in Hong Kong over the antigovernment protests, Ms. Liu reposted an image on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, expressing support for the police there.

The backlash was swift. Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists quickly called for a boycott of the movie.

Mr. Horn told The Hollywood Reporter that her post had caught Disney by surprise. “We don’t wish to be political,” he said. “And to get dragged into a political discussion, I would argue, is sort of inherently unfair. We are not politicians.”

As Disney’s marketing campaign for “Mulan” ramped up this year, other contretemps surfaced. There were complaints about a lack of Asians among the core creative team; cries of sacrilege that Mushu, a wisecracking dragon in Disney’s animated version, had been jettisoned; and grumbles that this telling of the Mulan tale seemed to pander to Chinese nationalism.

The internet storms had mostly died down by the time “Mulan” arrived on Disney+ on Sept. 4. The credits changed that.

As many as one million Uighurs — a predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic minority — have been rounded up into mass detention centers in Xinjiang in what advocates of human rights have called the worst abuse in China in decades. The entities mentioned in the movie’s credits included a local police bureau that the Trump administration blacklisted last year from doing business with U.S. companies.

As the backlash over Xinjiang mounted, China ordered major media outlets to limit their coverage of “Mulan,” according to three people familiar with the matter.

Still, on Friday night, the Emperor Cinema in Beijing was set for a “Mulan” party.

Some moviegoers wore red, in homage to the title character, while others opted for a more traditional Chinese look: flowing robes and bejeweled hair accessories. After the screening, two traditional Chinese opera singers dressed in elaborate red-and-yellow costumes took the stage to perform an excerpt from a well-known Henan Opera rendition of “Mulan” called “Who Says Women Are Inferior to Men?”

The movie had already been playing in China, thanks to pirated versions on the internet. By Friday’s opening, there were more than 76,000 reviews on Douban, a popular Chinese review website. Most were tepid, averaging 4.7 out of 10 stars. (The 1998 animated version had 7.8 stars.)

In a review posted on Weibo, Luo Jin, a Chinese film critic who goes by the nom de plume Magasa, called the film “General Tso’s Chicken” — an Americanized take on Chinese culture.

“Some people are just going to be against these Hollywood takes on Chinese movies no matter how well made the movie might be,” Mr. Luo said in a phone interview. “For them, the thinking is like, ‘Who are you to appropriate our culture for your own benefit?’”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/12/business/media/disney-mulan-china.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Business

Glavin: Don’t show up at Black Lives Matter rallies in clothes made by slaves

While much of Glavin’s commentary is appropriate, he overstates IMO the contrast between the USA and Canada, given that all the big companies he lists as being complicit, have a large American retail presence with comparable sourcing issues. Not too mention Disney’s Mulan shot in Xinjiang.

So while American laws may be better, is the reality?

It’s positively uplifting, you could say, that owing to the protests and riots and presidential election-year shouting about systemic racism and police violence in the United States, quite a few Canadians seem to have developed an acutely attentive awareness of the history of Black slavery in America and its enduring legacy. Perhaps not so heartwarming is that the throngs of earnest protesters turning out for all those Black Lives Matter rallies across Canada are wearing clothes made by slaves.

That Canadians of even the most advanced progressive sophistication give every appearance of being completely oblivious to this ugly irony is even less uplifting. An entire summer of American-style protests about the wickedness of racism and capitalism has come and gone without any obvious notice that Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Adidas, Esprit, Calvin Klein, Nike, UNIQLO, H&M, Lacoste and quite a few other globe-spanning corporations are demonstrably implicated in slavery, child labour, and forced-labour production in prisons and detention centres and sweatshops from Dhaka to Urumqi.

In July, the International Confederation of Trade Unions joined with 180 human rights and Uyghur advocacy organizations to launch an ambitious campaign to bring all this to light and to bring forced Uyghur labour to an end. It’s hard to say whether the campaign has gained much traction. Perhaps they should pull down some statues.

At least the U.S. Congress has been doing its bit. The bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would build on existing U.S. prohibitions on the import of slave-made goods, and the proposed Slave-Free Business Certification Act is an even tougher law, promising penalties of up to $500 million.

Canadians, however – for all our boasts about being unstained by the original American sin of slavery – have long been global laggards in the cause of slavery’s abolition. Unlike the United States, Britain, Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Norway and so on, Canada has no specific legislation aimed at banning the import of goods produced by forced labour. World Vision Canada reckons that forced labour or child labour is implicated in $34 billion in products imported into Canada annually.

It is doubly embarrassing – maybe this is why it’s been the subject of nearly no public notice at all – that it’s taking the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the deal that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, to drag Canada into the world’s anti-slavery camp. Effective July 1, USMCA requires Canada to amend the Customs tariff laws to impose prohibitions on the importation of goods produced wholly or in part by forced labour.The USMCA’s forced-labour provisions should be expected to put wind in the sails of an effort by Liberal MP John McKay and Quebec Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne that has been marooned in a procedural tidepool of committee hearings and on-again, off-again consultations for two years. Their proposed law, the Modern Slavery Act, would force corporations to show that their supply chains are free of forced labour, on pain of fines of up to $250,000.

Because the Americans were already in compliance with the UMSCA’s forced-labour provisions, on July 1 they hit the ground running. U.S. law already allows for the seizure of goods and criminal charges for violators, and just this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was preparing to block imports of cotton from Xinjiang, where almost all of China’s cotton fields are located. One in five garments worldwide contains cotton from Xinjiang.

The U.S. import bans are expected to also include tomato products and human hair, and computer parts from Hefei Bitland Information Technology. Products from the Lop County Industrial Park and Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center are headed for banned list, following the July 1 seizure of several tons of hair extensions shipped to the U.S. believed to have been “harvested” from Uyghur women by the Lop County Meixin Hair Products Company. The U.S. State Department has also warned Walmart, Amazon and the Apple corporation that they face severe legal risks over their supply chains associated with Xinjiang.

According to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Slavery Index, Canada is vulnerable to slave-labour contamination in supply chains involving nearly $10 billion worth of laptop computers and mobile phones annually imported from China and Malaysia, and $6 billion worth of apparel imports. Several other supply chains are suspect, including gold from Peru and sugarcane from Brazil.

While Canada has been noticeably absent in the global struggle against slavery, there is one Canadian bright spot, involving a particularly grotesque Canadian embarrassment.

The bright spot: Last March, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that three Eritrean refugees could sue the Vancouver-based mining company Nevsun Resources for engaging in slavery and committing crimes against humanity at the notorious Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in Eritrea, co-owned by Nevsun and the Eritrean dictatorship. The three plaintiffs in the case say they were conscripted into the military and forced to work at the mine for 11, 14 and 17 years respectively, and that they were tortured and made to put in 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week.

The embarrassment: Four years ago, when a UN commission of inquiry confirmed reports of abuse at the mine so grotesque as to amount to crimes against humanity, it turned out that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board owned 1.5 million shares of Bevsun Resources. In 2018, Nevsun’s shareholders agreed to sell the company for $1.86 billion to China’s Zijin Mining Group.

Perhaps Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should take a knee.

Source: Glavin: Don’t show up at Black Lives Matter rallies in clothes made by slaves

In China’s Xinjiang, Forced Medication Accompanies Coronavirus Lockdown

News from China and the Uighurs gets worse and worse:

When police arrested the middle-aged Uighur woman at the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak, she was crammed into a cell with dozens of other women in a detention center.

There, she said, she was forced to drink a medicine that made her feel weak and nauseous, guards watching as she gulped. She and the others also had to strip naked once a week and cover their faces as guards hosed them and their cells down with disinfectant “like firemen,” she said.

“It was scalding,” recounted the woman by phone from Xinjiang, declining to be named out of fear of retribution. “My hands were ruined, my skin was peeling.”

The government in China’s far northwest Xinjiang region is resorting to draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, including physically locking residents in homes, imposing quarantines of more than 40 days and arresting those who do not comply. Furthermore, in what experts call a breach of medical ethics, some residents are being coerced into swallowing traditional Chinese medicine, according to government notices, social media posts and interviews with three people in quarantine in Xinjiang.

There is a lack of rigorous clinical data showing traditional Chinese medicine works against the virus, and one of the herbal remedies used in Xinjiang, Qingfei Paidu, includes ingredients banned in Germany, Switzerland, the U.S. and other countries for high levels of toxins and carcinogens.

The latest grueling lockdown, now in its 45th day, comes in response to 826 cases reported in Xinjiang since mid-July, China’s largest caseload since the initial outbreak. But the Xinjiang lockdown is especially striking because of its severity, and because there hasn’t been a single new case of local transmission in over a week.

Harsh lockdowns have been imposed elsewhere in China, most notably in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected. But though Wuhan grappled with over 50,000 cases and Hubei with 68,000 in all, many more than in Xinjiang, residents there weren’t forced to take traditional medicine and were generally allowed outdoors within their compounds for exercise or grocery deliveries.

The response to an outbreak of more than 300 cases in Beijing in early June was milder still, with a few select neighborhoods locked down for a few weeks. In contrast, more than half of Xinjiang’s 25 million people are under a lockdown that extends hundreds of miles from the center of the outbreak in the capital, Urumqi, according to an AP review of government notices and state media reports.

Even as Wuhan and the rest of China has mostly returned to ordinary life, Xinjiang’s lockdown is backed by a vast surveillance apparatus that has turned the region into a digital police state. Over the past three years, Xinjiang authorities have swept a million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities into various forms of detention, including extrajudicial internment camps, under a widespread security crackdown.

After being detained for over a month, the Uighur woman was released and locked into her home. Conditions are now better, she told the AP, but she is still under lockdown, despite regular tests showing she is free of the virus.

Once a day, she says, community workers force traditional medicine in white unmarked bottles on her, saying she’ll be detained if she doesn’t drink them. The AP saw photos of the bottles, which match those in images from another Xinjiang resident and others circulating on Chinese social media.

Authorities say the measures taken are for the well-being of all residents, though they haven’t commented on why they are harsher than those taken elsewhere. The Chinese government has struggled for decades to control Xinjiang, at times clashing violently with many of the region’s native Uighurs, who resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule.

“The Xinjiang Autonomous Region upheld the principle of people and life first….and guaranteed the safety and health of local people of all ethnic groups,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing Friday.

Xinjiang authorities can carry out the harsh measures, experts say, because of its lavishly funded security apparatus, which by some estimates deploys the most police per capita of anywhere on the planet.

“Xinjiang is a police state, so it’s basically martial law,” says Darren Byler, a researcher on the Uighurs at the University of Colorado. “They think Uighurs can’t really police themselves, they have to be forced to comply in order for a quarantine to be effective.”

Not all the recent outbreak measures in Xinjiang are targeted at the Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities. Some are being enforced on China’s majority Han residents in Xinjiang as well, though they are generally spared the extrajudicial detention used against minorities. This month, thousands of Xinjiang residents took to social media to complain about what they called excessive measures against the virus in posts that are often censored, some with images of residents handcuffed to railings and front doors sealed with metal bars.

One Han Chinese woman with the last name of Wang posted photos of herself drinking traditional Chinese medicine in front of a medical worker in full protective gear.

“Why are you forcing us to drink medicine when we’re not sick!” she asked in a Aug. 18 post that was swiftly deleted. “Who will take responsibility if there’s problems after drinking so much medicine? Why don’t we even have the right to protect our own health?”

A few days later she simply wrote: “I’ve lost all hope. I cry when I think about it.”

After the heavy criticism, the authorities eased some restrictions last week, now allowing some residents to walk in their compounds, and a limited few to leave the region after a bureaucratic approval process.

Wang did not respond to a request for interviews. But her account is in line with many others posted on social media, as well as those interviewed by the AP.

One Han businessman working between Urumqi and Beijing told the AP he was put in quarantine in mid-July. Despite having taken coronavirus tests five times and testing negative each time, he said, the authorities still haven’t let him out – not for so much as a walk. When he’s complained about his condition online, he said, he’s had his posts deleted and been told to stay silent.

“The most terrible thing is silence,” he wrote on Chinese social media site Weibo in mid-August. “After a long silence, you will fall into the abyss of hopelessness.”

“I’ve been in this room for so long, I don’t remember how long. I just want to forget,” he wrote again, days later. “I’m writing out my feelings to reassure myself I still exist. I fear I’ll be forgotten by the world.”

“I’m falling apart,” he told the AP more recently, declining to be named out of fear of retribution.

He, too, is being forced to take Chinese traditional medicine, he said, including liquid from the same unmarked white bottles as the Uighur woman. He is also forced to take Lianhua Qingwen, a herbal remedy seized regularly by U.S. Customs and Border patrol for violating FDA laws by falsely claiming to be effective against COVID-19.

Since the start of the outbreak, the Chinese government has pushed traditional medicine on its population. The remedies are touted by President Xi Jinping, China’s nationalist, authoritarian leader, who has advocated a revival of traditional Chinese culture. Although some state-backed doctors say they have conducted trials showing the medicine works against the virus, no rigorous clinical data supporting that claim has been published in international scientific journals.

“None of these medicines have been scientifically proven to be effective and safe,” said Fang Shimin, a former biochemist and writer known for his investigations of scientific fraud in China who now lives in the United States. “It’s unethical to force people, sick or healthy, to take unproven medicines.”

When the virus first started spreading, thousands flooded pharmacies in Hubei province searching for traditional remedies after state media promoted their effectiveness against the virus. Packs of pills were tucked into care packages sent to Chinese workers and students overseas, some emblazoned with the Chinese flag, others reading: “The motherland will forever firmly back you up”.

But the new measures in Xinjiang forcing some residents to take the medicine is unprecedented, experts say. The government says that the participation rate in traditional Chinese medicine treatment in the region has “reached 100%”, according to a state media report. When asked about resident complaints that they were being forced to take Chinese medicine, one local official said it was being done “according to expert opinion.”

“We’re helping resolve the problems of ordinary people,” said Liu Haijiang, the head of Dabancheng district in Urumqi, “like getting their children to school, delivering them medicine or getting them a doctor.”

With Xi’s ascent, critics of Chinese traditional medicine have fallen silent. In April, an influential Hubei doctor, Yu Xiangdong, was removed from a hospital management position for questioning the efficacy of the remedies, an acquittance confirmed. A government notice online said Yu “openly published inappropriate remarks slandering the nation’s epidemic prevention policy and traditional Chinese medicine.”

In March, the World Health Organization removed guidance on its site saying that herbal remedies were not effective against the virus and could be harmful, saying it was “too broad”. And in May, the Beijing city government announced a draft law that would criminalize speech “defaming or slandering” traditional Chinese medicine. Now, the government is pushing traditional Chinese remedies as a treatment for COVID-19 overseas, sending pills and specialists to countries such as Iran, Italy, and the Philippines.

Other leaders have also spearheaded unproven and potentially risky remedies – notably U.S. President Donald Trump, who stumped for the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which can cause heart rhythm problems, despite no evidence that it’s effective against COVID-19. But China appears to be the first to force citizens – at least in Xinjiang – to take them.

The Chinese government’s push for traditional medicine is bolstering the fortunes of billionaires and padding state coffers. The family of Wu Yiling, the founder of the company that makes Lianhua Qingwen, has seen the value of their stake more than double in the past six months, netting them over a billion dollars. Also profiting: the Guangdong government, which owns a stake in Wu’s company.

“It’s a huge waste of money, these companies are making millions,” said a public health expert who works closely with the Chinese government, declining to be identified out of fear of retribution. “But then again – why not take it? There’s a placebo effect, it’s not that harmful. Why bother? There’s no point in fighting on this.”

Measures vary widely by city and neighborhood, and not all residents are taking the medication. The Uighur woman says that despite the threats against her, she’s flushing the liquid and pills down the toilet. A Han man whose parents are in Xinjiang told the AP that for them, the remedies are voluntary.

Though the measures are “extreme,” he says, they’re understandable.

“There’s no other way if the government wants to control this epidemic,” he said, declining to be named to avoid retribution. “We don’t want our outbreak to become like Europe or America.”

Source: In China’s Xinjiang, Forced Medication Accompanies Coronavirus Lockdown

Many Han Chinese don’t mind the gulag for their Uighur neighbours

Useful background and analysis:

The district of Erdaoqiao in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang, looks very similar to many urban areas of China. Its streets are filled with luxury cars competing for space with frantic food-delivery scooters. Many buildings are new, built with steel, glass and cookie-cutter uniformity.

No visible evidence remains of the riots here in July 2009, the country’s bloodiest ethnic clashes in decades. They involved battles between Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim group indigenous to Xinjiang, and ethnic-Han Chinese who make up more than 90% of China’s population. The spark was a protest by Uighurs against the killing of two Uighur factory-workers by a mob in southern China. Of more than 200 people who were killed on the first day of the violence in Erdaoqiao and other areas of Urumqi, many were Han. Later, Han crowds gathered in the streets, hungry for revenge. The city stewed for days in a miasma of anger and fear.

Urumqi today is calm, but its ethnic contours remain distinct. Erdaoqiao is still known as a Uighur area. Its Uighur-run shops sell steaming bowls of noodles and stewed lamb, circular flatbreads, colourful bolts of fabric and religious articles. In other parts of the city, the residents are mainly Han people, who make up three-quarters of Urumqi’s population and dominate its economy. The city’s tallest building is a 229-metre office tower that belongs to a state bank based 2,000km to the east, in Beijing—a city that seems a world away from Xinjiang’s Uighur culture.

Urumqi is a Han bastion, but in Xinjiang as a whole there are about 10m Uighurs and around 9m Han people. They are divided not only by culture but also by geography. Han people mainly live in the north where Urumqi is located. Uighurs are concentrated in the much poorer south, in ancient oasis towns such as Kashgar and Hotan. Between north and south is the vast Taklimakan desert (see map).

To understand why officials in Xinjiang began building a gulag in 2016 in which they have incarcerated an estimated 1m people, mostly Uighurs, it is important to understand the nature of this ethnic divide. The riots in 2009 made Han people more suspicious of Uighurs. The government’s draconian reaction has made Uighurs more resentful. The prison camps, euphemistically known as vocational training centres, are evidence that this divide has become even more institutionalised. That suggests that the Uighurs’ suffering will last a very long time.

Uighurs are put in camps for such things as being overtly pious Muslims or too fond of their Uighur traditions. The authorities say this has helped curb terrorism. They say there were thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang in the 15 years before the facilities were built, and none since. But the mass internment of Uighurs is certain to have increased their bitterness towards Xinjiang’s Han rulers.

Canadian academic denied university work, called liar by Chinese media after exposing Uyghur camps

The long reach of China. His work was also featured in this article: Like a movie’: In Xinjiang, new evidence that China stages prayers, street scenes for visiting delegations:

Olsi Jazexhi has been busy the last couple of months.

The historian has appeared on television, made presentations at universities and written op-ed articles, all to report on the ground-breaking observations he made of the camps where China is detaining as many as a million or more Uyghur Muslims.

But the Albanian-Canadian joint citizen has suddenly been deprived of paid work, and blames fallout from his outspoken testimony.

Jazexhi was denied any courses to teach at his university in Albania this semester, the first time that has happened since he started there four years ago.

Meanwhile, he’s been accused of lying and spreading “fake news” by Chinese Communist Party media and even a Chinese ambassador.

Jazexhi says the university rector told him only that the decision on his teaching work was out of her hands. In a country that has grown increasingly close to China, and where his university also has ties to Beijing, he believes he is being punished for the Uyghur exposés.

“I don’t have any proof … but I see with concern the great influence (the Chinese) are having in my university, and other universities in Albania,” he said in an interview. “There was no reason for them to reject me.”

Charles Burton, a China expert at Ontario’s Brock University who spoke alongside Jazexhi at campus talks in Montreal and Hamilton recently, said he has no direct knowledge of the history PhD’s employment record.

But he said it’s more than plausible the academic is facing retribution.

“It seems like a likely scenario to me,” said Burton. “Olsi has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the situation in Xinjiang.”

Olsi Jazexhi: “There was no reason for them to reject me.” YouTube/File

Neither the university’s rector, Kseanela Sotirofski, nor Endri Fuga, spokesman for Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, responded to emailed requests for comment on Jazexhi’s case.

While he immigrated to Canada a decade ago and did a post-doctoral fellowship at Toronto’s York University, Jazexhi divides his time between here and Albania.

On Tuesday, he, former Canadian MP David Kilgour and others were part of a panel discussion at the European Parliament in Brussels on the Uyghur situation.

Jazexhi’s role in exposing China’s treatment of the group centred in Jinjiang province is an unusual one. Convinced that reports of systematic repression of the minority were a plot by the West to turn Muslims against China, he obtained a spot on a stage-managed media tour of Jinjiang earlier this year.

But instead of reporting back that all was well, he documented with video-recorded interviews what he considered a systematic attempt to suppress the Uyghur’ language, culture and religion.

China says it’s “vocational training” centres are designed to de-radicalize extremist Muslims and prevent terrorism.

But a teacher at one centre revealed on video to Jazexhi that “students” at the camps are not even allowed to pray, and a typical reason for ending up at the facility was getting married according to Muslim tradition and not obtaining a government marriage licence.

His videos showed detainees refusing to speak their Turkic language and responding to his repeated Muslim greetings with “ni hao,” Mandarin for hello. Students revealed in interviews they had been sent to the camp for such offences as downloading videos saying Muslims should not join the Communist Party, taking part in “illegal” Koran classes and reading material encouraging Muslims to pray regularly.

The recent leak of a trove of internal Chinese government documents offered a written account of the country’s Uyghur policy, but Jazexhi’s videos provide a unique glimpse inside the camps.

The Global Times, a tabloid-like Communist Party newspaper, published two articles wholly or partly dedicated to discrediting him, one last week saying Jazexhi “spread fake information on the region and what he did was out of malice and went against the basic professional ethics as a reporter.”

In Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper, the Chinese ambassador to Turkey decried an article of Jazexhi’s “in which facts are distorted and basic knowledge is absent. It is hard to believe that its author is a ‘historian.’ ”

Meanwhile, though Albania is still part of NATO and trying to join the EU, it has forged ever-closer ties with Beijing, according to leading China expert Anne-Marie Brady of New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. Albania is a founding member of the 17+1 alliance of China, central Asian and eastern European countries, and part of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure-investment initiative.

A Chinese company took over management of the capital’s international airport in 2016. The same year, Canada’s Bankers Petroleum sold its Albanian oil rights to China’s Geo-Jade Petroleum in the wake of controversial fraud allegations against it.

Jazexhi said his own university also has links, with rector Sotirofski signing a co-operation agreement with Yangzhou University last year in China, a Chinese-run Confucius Institute on campus, and professors often taking all-expense-paid trips there.

Source: Canadian academic denied university work, called liar by Chinese media after exposing Uyghur camps

What can the Muslim world do to save the Uighurs and Islam in China?

Good and unless I am missing it, all too rare commentary:

Between Aug. 16 and Aug. 25, I was in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China. Invited by the State Council Information Office of China and Xinjiang, I was part of a group of journalists who were sent to visit three major cities: Urumqi, Aksu, and Kashgar. Our visit, which was covered by the Chinese authorities, was stage-managed by Xinjiang authorities who wanted to convince us that things are fine in Xinjiang.

I arrived in Urumqi on Aug. 16. From Aug. 17 to Aug. 19, we attended several lectures by Communist Party officials regarding the history, religion and human rights practices in Xinjiang. In these sessions, Chinese officials like Xu Guixiang and Ma Pinyan delivered the white paper on Xinjiang, issued by the Chinese government.

In these lectures we were told that the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims were migrants in this region, Islam was forcefully imposed by the Arabs and Turks, and Xinjiang has always been part of China. During our stay, we visited the Museum of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in Urumqi, the Aksu Museum and the Kashgar Museum. In these museums, the Chinese government is delivering the same message from the white paper: Xinjiang has historically been Chinese, the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are migrants, Islam is a foreign religion and it was imposed by force on the Uighurs.

On top of that, the Chinese were showing to the visitors that Islam was causing much trouble in Xinjiang since it was a source of extremism and terrorism. To fight that, the government of China had built some “Vocational Education and Training Centers” where the extremists were being deradicalized.

On Aug. 20, our hosts sent us to the city of Aksu to visit the Onsu County Vocational Skills Training Center. Here we were supposed to meet the “extremists and terrorists” whom China was “deradicalizing.”

However, when we interviewed the “students” of these “Vocational Training Centers” we found that they were not students but prisoners and they were not terrorists but Muslim believers who were forced to renounce their faith under duress.

Their crimes were practicing Islam, praying to Allah, watching Muslim televangelist videos on the internet, reading the Holy Quran or articles about Islam, writing about Islam, reading Uighur history, wearing hijabs, consuming halal food, burying their dead or marrying according to Islam and preaching Islam to their relatives.

The interviews which I have recorded and uploaded on my YouTube channel prove that the so-called “Vocational Training Centers” are not schools but mass detention centers. These centers are used to mass brainwash the Turkic Muslims of China, be them Uighur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Uzbek, Tatar, etc, and force them to renounce Islam and their Turkic identity and become Han Chinese.

The claims in vain

Even though China claims that it is fighting “three evils” in Xinjiang, ethnic separatism, terrorism, and religious extremism, in fact, it is fighting the Islamic identity of the Uighurs which makes them a different nation from Han Chinese.

China is fighting against the diversity which in Xinjiang is represented by Islam. It wants to destroy any sign of Islam and totally Sinicize the province, which is a major power hub in China’s One Road, One Belt project.

The Chinese Muslims of Xinjiang, who do not present a separatist threat for China, are also suffering similar problems like the Uighurs. Under the excuse of fighting extremism, the Chinese authorities have declared Islam an extremist religion and do not want a Muslim presence to stand in the center of their Silk Road project which stretches from Beijing into Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The Chinese have banned the preaching and practice of Islam in Xinjiang and all state institutions have been ordered to fight any sign of religious practice (“The Xinjiang Regulation on De-extremification,” Chapter IV, Article 18).

The Xinjiang policy

China is treating Xinjiang as an occupied territory and its native Turkic inhabitants are considered as enemies who must be assimilated or destroyed. Xinjiang authorities are destroying mosques, graveyards and ancient Islamic buildings, and any sign of Islamic civilization that exists.

As Ma Pinyan told us during the lectures in Urumqi, the Chinese government wants to Sinicize Islam. It does not want to see any Arabic or Turkic signs among its Muslims. It does not want them to pray every day, to reject alcohol or women to wear headscarves or marry according to the Quran.

The Sinicization of Islam is legally ordered in “The Xinjiang Regulation on De-extremification,” (Article 4) and the practice of Islam is totally outlawed (“Regulation on De-extremification,” Chapter II, Article 9). Group reading of the Quran, teaching Islam to children, speaking about Islam, having or reading Islamic literature, wearing religious clothing, watching religious shows or advocating Islam in any sense is a crime that is punishable with imprisonment or a long and painful “re-education” in “The Vocational Training Centers.”

The bans on practice

Chinese authorities have prohibited the existence of minarets, the azan (call to prayer), mosques with domes and when a new mosque is ever built it must be shaped in Chinese architecture since the teleological narrative of the Chinese government claims that Islam needs to be Sinicized, and it should not have any Arabic or Turkic symbols.

To force the Sinicization of Islam, Xinjiang authorities sponsor the Islamic Institute of Xinjiang where selected imams are taught a restricted Chinese version of Islam. The campaign of terror against the Muslim population has created a climate of fear. We saw fear in the eyes of all the Muslims that we managed to meet.

The Chinese government has been mass colonizing Xinjiang with Chinese colonists since the 1950s. The Chinese, who in the 1950s counted for 5% to 9% of the population in 2010 count for 40%. The colonization is continuing very aggressively nowadays and it aims to turn the Muslims into a minority.

The Uighurs who are not being arrested and sent to concentration camps (“Vocational Training Centers”) or prisons are forced to take into their homes Chinese colonists who live and sleep in the same house with Muslim families. Many Uighur Muslim women are forced to marry Chinese men. Many Muslims are not allowed to fast during Ramadan.

Muslim restaurants are forbidden to refuse to sell alcohol. The Uighurs who show the slightest sing of Islam are separated from their families have their children taken away and raised by the Chinese. The reign of fear, religious persecution and ethnic assimilation that China is doing in East Turkistan amounts to cultural genocide.

However, while the world is witnessing the mass persecution of Turkic Muslims of China the Muslim world is ignoring it. To the shame of the Muslim world on July 8, 2019, some 22 non-Muslim states signed a letter addressed to the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights calling on China to end its massive detention program in Xinjiang.

While the Muslim majority states were absent from joining this letter, some 20 Muslim states joined a list of 37 countries in support of China for what it is doing in Xinjiang.

In the letter prepared by the Chinese, it was written: “We appreciate China’s commitment to openness and transparency. China has invited several diplomats, international organizations officials and journalists to Xinjiang to witness the progress of the human rights cause and the outcomes of counterterrorism and deradicalization there. What they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in the media. We call on relevant countries to refrain from employing unfounded charges against China based on unconfirmed information before they visit Xinjiang…”

After coming back from Xinjiang, as a Muslim scholar and journalist that I am, I would like to tell the Muslim world that the “outcomes of counterterrorism and deradicalization” measures that China is doing in Xinjiang have been the total prohibition of Islam and mass persecution of Muslims.

China invited me like it has invited “several diplomats, international organizations officials and journalists to Xinjiang to witness the progress of the human rights cause and the outcomes of counterterrorism and deradicalization there.” However, my findings prove that China is persecuting the Uighurs only because they believe in Islam and are Muslims.

Through this open letter, I would like to appeal to all the Muslim countries who signed the pro-China letter to reconsider their position. I am ready to testify anywhere in the Muslim world about what China is doing with its Muslim populations.

What to do?

The Muslim countries should reconsider their position and urge China to immediately stop the persecution of Muslims and the prohibition of Islam in Xinjiang. China must close its “Vocational Training Centers,” release the religious and political prisoners from prisons and detention camps, abolish the Islamophobic and criminal “Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region De-extremification Regulations,” stop sending Chinese colonists to the homes of Uighurs and order all state apparatuses and organs to stop their persecution of Muslims.

China must stop its Islamophobic policies that target the Muslims, their religion, history, culture and way of life. It must stop the forced Sinicization of Turkic people (Uighur, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Uzbek, Tatar, and et cetera), the destruction of mosques and historical buildings.

It must allow the Muslims of Xinjiang to have passports, to move freely in and out of China, to call the adhan from their mosques, to have halal food, to perform Hajj in Mecca and to be able to teach Islam to their children.

Xinjiang authorities should adopt multiculturalism and accept the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims of China as ordinary citizens equal to native Chinese, and Islam as one of the religions of China. China should revise the way it perceives its history and should accept Islam as an integral part of China and not as an enemy.

By raising these demands and reminding China that the Muslim world is a very important client, the Muslim countries must ask for the protection of their Muslim brethren who, at present, are suffering mass-persecution in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Source: What can the Muslim world do to save the Uighurs and Islam in China?

‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

More good in-depth reporting regarding Chinese repression of Muslims:

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities. Human rights experts estimate that 1.5 million Uighur Muslims and members of other ethnic minority groups, including Chinese-born Kazakhs, have been detained in Xinjiang since 2016. Former detainees say that while in detention they were forced to memorize Chinese communist propaganda and learn Mandarin and were occasionally violently interrogated orbeaten..

The government has said the operations are part of a reeducation campaign and defends its detentions and sophisticated surveillance system across Xinjiang as necessary counterterrorism measures. Senior Xinjiang officials have said that most of those brought to the centers have been returned to society. But reporting suggests that these are not mere vocational training centers and that detentions, surveillance — and worse — continue.

Last month in Kazakhstan, NPR interviewed 26 relatives of ethnic Kazakhs and Uighurs currently detained or imprisoned in Xinjiang and five former detainees. They said that rather than setting free reeducated citizens, the authorities have been transferring many detainees to formal prisons. Those who have been released remain under strict surveillance.

“I miss my mother,” Zhanibek says in her home in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Since this summer, twice a month, her relatives have been able to go to an Urumqi police station and have video calls with her mother. Zhumakhan is nearly blind, hairless and extremely thin since being detained on June 8, 2018, her relatives said.

Zhanibek still also worries about her sister, despite her release: “Nobody is in a good situation. My sister has been released and has a job, but she still has no freedom. She cannot go where she wants. How can you say things are getting better?” she says.

“Targeting people somehow related to religion”

Xinjiang courts have been sentencing detainees to lengthy prison terms — sometimes up to 20 years — in hasty trials where little but a verdict is presented, according to relatives and an ex-detainee. The sentences overwhelmingly target citizens with religious Muslim backgrounds; 23 of the 32 people sentenced in Xinjiang recently were religious students, imams or people who prayed regularly, according to their family members.

“It was a closed court trial. … They just read the verdict to him, according to his parents,” Shakhidyam Memanova says of proceedings in May in which her husband, Nuermaimaiti Maimaitiyiming, a Chinese-born Uighur, was sentenced to 17 years. He is now in prison in Xinyuan county.

One night in May 2018, her husband, a carpet seller, was taken out in handcuffs and a hood in front of their two young children. Memanova suspects it was because he took Quranic classes when he was 14. But in the absence of any trial documentation, neither she nor her husband’s parents can be sure. Her in-laws can video call with their son once a month at a police station, and what they have described to her is not reassuring. “[Maimaitiyiming] looks very bad. He has lost a lot of weight,” Memanova says.

Bahedati Aken, 27, is also being held in a Xinyuan county prison, sentenced last June to 15 years in prison for studying the Quran with an also-imprisoned imam named Muhtourhan Kanodil, according to Aken’s aunt, Gulbaran Omirali.

“[Aken] was 13 when he attended two months of religious courses,” Omirali says. “I do not understand why something so long ago and which was legal at the time is now a crime.”

Kassym Tursynkan’s two younger brothers were given lengthy prison sentences this summer, he says, for being religious Muslims.

“They are targeting people somehow related to religion,” concludes Kassym Tursynkan. His two younger brothers — Kasyem, an imam, and Karkyn, who prayed regularly — were sentenced to 20 and 10 years, respectively, this summer and are now being held in the northern Xinjiang city of Wusu.

Tursynkan believes his brothers were betrayed, particularly Kasyem the imam, who he says was regularly praised by local religious authorities for upholding ethnic harmony: “They were not extremists. They did what they were allowed to do within the state limits.”

Some detention centers have been outfitted with makeshift courts, according to former detainees. Ergali Ermekuly was tried on April 7, 2018, in a detention center court in Xinjiang’s Huocheng county. He received a threeyear sentence based on evidence allegedly taken from his cellphone showing he had visited Kazakhstan, downloaded WhatsApp and listened to audio describing China’s mosque-destruction campaign in Xinjiang. He was not allowed to see the evidence itself.

“They did tell me I could hire a lawyer, but based on cases of other people in the detention camp, those who hired lawyers were given longer sentences because it was seen as a sign of opposition to the state,” says Ermekuly, now living in Kazakhstan.

Ermekuly was freed during an agreement between Kazakhstan and China to release 2,000 Chinese-born ethnic Kazakhs at the end of 2018. But he says his life has already been destroyed. “I do not have a family, and I do not have my home,” Ermekuly, whose wife divorced him this year, says. “I came back [to Kazakhstan], but I have nothing.”

“They threatened my father”

While relatives describe being able to contact their loved ones through video monitors at local police stations, they say they have not been able to visit them in prison. What little information they can glean from infrequent contact suggests that those sent to Xinjiang’s prisons are held in poor conditions.

Almakhan Myrzan says her brother Bakytzhan, a former imam at a mosque in Xinjiang, was sentenced in May to 14 years in prison in a closed trial with no relatives present. The verdict was delivered by mail to his family.

Myrzan says her brother was allowed one phone call from prison in Urumqi. “When he finally called his wife, he sounded really faint. He could not even remember his own name at first,” Myrzan says.

The family members of another prisoner in Wusu, Berzat Bolatkhan, have phoned police repeatedly to find out why he was sentenced to 17 years in August.

“They threatened my father, saying, ‘If you keep asking about your son, you will end up the same way,’ ” Bolatkhan’s brother Yerzat recalls.

Construction tenders for Wusu prison show it underwent an expansion beginning in August 2016.

“Suitable jobs”

Xinjiang officials, however, say they are winding down the sprawling network of detention centers.

“Most people who received educational training returned to society and returned home,” Alken Tuniaz, the Xinjiang government’s vice chairman, said at a news briefing in July.

The government’s chairman, Shohrat Zakir, said about 90% of those released have found “suitable jobs.”

Some younger, well-educated detainees have been released and assigned to jobs, say relatives. But once they leave detention, they remain closely monitored through heavy state surveillance set up in the region.

University-educated Razila Nural, an ethnic Kazakh woman, was forced to work in a textile factory in Xinjiang after authorities deemed her fit for release from a detention facility in August 2018. Since being released from the factory late last December, Nural has effectively disappeared, says her mother.

“I last spoke to Razila this January and have not had contact since,” says her mother, Aiytkali Ganiguli. “She said, ‘I am healthy. I am working now. Do not believe fake media reports about my working in a black factory.’ ”

A graduate student forced to work in a textile plant located within another detention facility was allowed to resume his graduate studies this year — under strict monitoring. “He is not permitted to travel anywhere except the route from his home to his classes and back,” says a relative in China who did not provide a name for fear of retaliation from the authorities.

Aydarhan Salamat’s aunt Meniarbek Mariya has been imprisoned, and her mother and cousin are under constant surveillance.

Relatives of Xinjiang residents describe how they are effectively under house arrest; they must get permission to leave the township where their residency is registered.

The rules are enforced by a network of closed-circuit TV cameras, some equipped with facial recognition. Relatives say the cameras can spot whether someone in a household receives undeclared visitors, takes an unauthorized trip or turns on the lights suspiciously early or late.

“Once, my mother left to attend a relative’s funeral without public security permission, and the public security bureau called my nephew within an hour to have her come back. At checkpoints, her identification card sets off alarms. She is 80 years old,” says Aydarhan Salamat. She thinks her mother is monitored because Salamat’s aunt, Meniarbek Mariya, 46, is being held in a prison in the Xinjiang county of Yining for an unknown length of time.

Even nondetained Xinjiang residents who have relatives in detention or who have been previously detained have to check in with local administrative offices to report their movements.

“Every day, my brother still has to go to ideology classes at the local government office to rid him of religious thoughts,” says the brother of a Muslim former detainee living in the city of Hami, Xinjiang. He withheld both their names because he still lives in China and risks detention for speaking to a foreign journalist.

Gulserik Kazykhan is struggling to get more information about her detained brother-in-law from visiting relatives. “If you don’t return, the guarantors will suffer.”

Chinese state control covers all spheres of life in Xinjiang. Kunekai Zhanibek, the woman released in August and assigned a job in Urumqi, “got married recently but had to ask for state permission beforehand,” says her sister Aibota. “Can you imagine having to ask for permission about such a personal decision?”

Passports in exchange for good PR

Relatives in Kazakhstan desperate to learn more about loved ones in China are turning to a new potential source of information: the slow trickle of ethnic Kazakhs born in Xinjiang who can now get Chinese passports to travel to Kazakhstan.

Once forbidden from traveling abroad, some of Xinjiang’s ethnic Kazakh residents have even been able to procure Chinese passports this year to visit relatives in Kazakhstan for one month at a time. As a condition for the passports, the residents are told by local authorities to share only positive news about the region. Travelers must name guarantors in China, such as friends or relatives, who are punished if the travelers don’t return or if they meet people they aren’t supposed to.

“If you don’t return, the guarantors will suffer,” says Gulserik Kazykhan. Her brother-in-law Raman uly Zahrkyn was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in February for praying and for donating to his local mosque. He is being held in Wusu’s prison. She finally learned of uly Zahrkyn’s fate this May from relatives living in China who visited her in Kazakhstan. They stayed for a month before they were forced to return to Xinjiang.

Access to passports still appears strictly controlled. “There are three people from the village who can go abroad for a month, and they take turns,” says Aitalim, who goes by one name. From his fellow village residents, Aitalim learned that his cousin Aiturgan Turlan, a former religious affairs state employee, remains detained in Xinjiang’s Zhaosu county for allowing a local mosque to be built too large.

Gunikai Naruzibieke’s cousin Bayimulati Naruzibieke will spend the next decade in a Xinjiang prison.

Gunikai Naruzibieke is seeking information about the condition of her cousin Bayimulati Naruzibieke, sentenced to a decade in prison this summer and now held in the military garrison city of Shihezi.

Gunikai Naruzibieke has had a hard time persuading relatives from Xinjiang to talk to her. “My relatives are terrified to talk because there was an imam in my family who is now in Kazakhstan — he didn’t come back from a trip [there],” she says. As punishment, the imam’s guarantor, his daughter Saule, was briefly placed in a detention camp last year.

State control over Xinjiang residents extends internationally, says Ainur Turlyqozha, who lives in a village outside Almaty. Her younger brother Baiasyl disappeared into the detention system in October 2018. Turlyqozha heard he had been sentenced to prison, but she could not get confirmation from relatives who recently visited Almaty.

“One relative even came just five days ago,” says Turlyqozha. “But when they come, they will not answer my questions about my brother. They just say vaguely, ‘We have heard of something like this.’ “

Source: ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

Incarceration of Christians and Han Chinese in Xinjiang shows broad reach of forced indoctrination campaign

One has to wonder what the International Metropolis Conference board members were thinking by planning to hold the immigration and integrationconference in Beijing in 2020. Or not thinking:

Chinese authorities are sending Christian Uyghurs and even members of the Han Chinese majority to internment camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, an indication that the regime’s indoctrination strategy is broader than previously understood.

Most of the hundreds of thousands of people – perhaps more than a million – sent to a sprawling network of centres for political indoctrination and vocational training are Muslims, members of minority groups such as Uyghurs and Kazakhs, according to former detainees and instructors. Beijing has said the centres are being used to stamp out extremism.

But six accounts from people who have recently lived in the region or have family there – three Christian Westerners, a lawyer, a Chinese petitioner and a Uyghur family living in France – reveal that others are also being incarcerated.

‘I felt like a slave:’ Inside China’s complex system of incarceration and control of minorities

Some are Uyghurs who have converted to Christianity. Others are Han Chinese – the ethnic group that comprises more than 90 per cent of China’s population – who have challenged local authorities by petitioning for official redress, as well as people considered politically unreliable.

The reports indicate that Beijing’s campaign in the region goes beyond the stated goal, published in an August white paper on Xinjiang, of countering “the breeding and spread of terrorism and religious extremism.” The strategy claimed to be focused on quelling Islamic radicalization rather than a unique cultural group inside China.

But “all signs point to cultural assimilation” as the chief goal of the Chinese campaign, said Timothy Grose, a scholar at Terre Haute, Ind.’s Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology who studies Uyghur culture and is the author of an upcoming book about Uyghurs who study elsewhere in China. What is taking place in Xinjiang is an “accelerated, comprehensive and violent program to jettison meaningful markers of Uyghur identity, such as language, Islam and tangible connections to Central Asia, and replace them with elements of a Han-centric Chinese culture.”

Indeed, “even secular, atheist and Christian Uyghurs are being targeted, I believe, because their milieu has still been largely shaped by Central Asian and Islamic norms.”

Over the past year, Uyghurs living outside China have documented the incarceration of dozens of scholars, artists, musicians and other cultural leaders who have been taken to facilities that China calls vocational skills and training centres but which foreign critics call re-education camps.

In a July white paper, Chinese authorities directly linked Islamic belief with the spread of separatist ideology by what it called “anti-China forces attempting to split China.”

But the incarceration of Christians on extremism grounds underpins an argument that Chinese authorities have used extremism as a cover to conduct a broader campaign of sinification, irrespective of religion.

“We know of at least 14 Christians” who have been taken away by authorities in Xinjiang, said Robert Paix, a Christian businessman who has lived and worked in the region, in part to share his faith. “Islam is just one of the matrix of problems the Chinese government has with Uyghur people,” he said.

In Xinjiang, “any ideology which really captures someone’s conscience that is other than the [Communist] Party is a threat,” Mr. Paix said. “So in essence, it doesn’t matter what religion it is – or even if it was a non-religious ideology.”

Xinjiang is home to an estimated 11 million Uyghurs, a people whose customs, language, architecture and art are among the most distinct of the country’s 55 official minorities.

One Westerner who lived in the regional capital, Urumqi, with his family described the case of a Christian Uyghur woman who lived with a Han Chinese roommate. The Uyghur woman spoke Mandarin and ran a business teaching English. But in December, 2017, police took her from her apartment, put her in a prison uniform and handed her clothes, glasses and national identification card back to her roommate, said the source, a Christian whose identity The Globe and Mail is not disclosing out of concern for the safety of the person’s friends in Xinjiang.

Police said they had found questionable content on her computer, according to the source.

“The sentencing basically was very quick. From what we could understand, it was just ‘You are a terrorist,’ and there was a document that she had to sign – basically like a confession.”

Christian Uyghurs likely number only in the thousands, according to foreigners who have lived in the region. Most Uyghurs are practising Muslims or maintain cultural ties to that faith.

But from what the Westerner could see, the incarceration of Uyghurs “did not seem religious in nature. It seemed just from our experience there that the religious extremist angle was being used to really just suppress the entire people group and culture.”

Another Christian, Gulbahar Haitiwaji was incarcerated for two years, her family said. “She converted to Christianity several years ago and eschews violence,” her husband, Kerim Haitiwaji, told religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter early this year. “There is no reason to imprison her. She is not a danger to China.” The family has declined further public statements since Ms. Hatiwaji was released, and she is now with her husband and daughter in France.

Any responsible government must “remove the malignant tumour of terrorism and extremism” and ensure its people “enjoy a peaceful and harmonious social environment,” the State Council Information Office wrote in an August white paper. It defended Xinjiang’s indoctrination and training apparatus as a “deradicalization” project in line with international principles, providing free education to trainees who “have fallen under the influence and control of religious extremism.”

At the same time, the construction of a system of internment centres has provided local authorities new options for punishment outside the formal legal system – even for people who are ethnic Chinese.

Authorities can send people to the centres for making statements deemed contrary to government dictates; for spreading politically unwelcome thoughts among colleagues; and for posting politically incorrect views to Chinese social-media platform WeChat, according to a lawyer who has travelled in the region and whose identity is not being disclosed because describing the camps could lead to his own incarceration.

The Globe reviewed documents collected by a Chinese human-rights activist that described the case of a Chinese man in Xinjiang who spent years fighting embezzlement charges that dated back to 2004. He disappeared last year but reappeared this spring.

“I studied for seven months,” he said in a recorded interview with an activist reviewed by The Globe. “Studying” is a common word to describe time in indoctrination facilities. “There are Han people” in such centres, he added.

Gulzira Auelhan, an ethnic Kazakh and former detainee, told The Globe this year that she had seen four ethnic Chinese people in the centre where she was held.

Political enforcement has been employed against Uyghurs, too. One Uyghur woman who recently left Xinjiang described how her father-in-law had been sentenced to eight years in prison for “distributing incorrect political views.” The charges were rooted in an incident that, authorities said, occurred more than two decades earlier, when he was working at a government office and complained that ethnic Chinese farmers were receiving a larger allocation of water than ethnic Uyghurs. He was held for 10 months before being tried and sentenced in a single day of court proceedings, the woman said.

The woman’s identity is not being revealed because she fears retribution against members of her family still in Xinjiang. The Globe verified elements of her account with a Canadian family member and with a Western embassy that helped her leave China.

She spoke out, she said, because “I want the world to know how insane it is” for Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Source: Incarceration of Christians and Han Chinese in Xinjiang shows broad reach of forced indoctrination campaign