WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flash Flood Warning View Alerts

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims detained in Chinese 'political education' camps

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims are currently being detained in cramped conditions at so-called political education camps...

Posted: Feb 3, 2018 3:06 PM
Updated: Feb 3, 2018 3:06 PM

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims are currently being detained in cramped conditions at so-called political education camps in China's restive far-western region of Xinjiang -- and the trend shows no sign of abating, exiled Uyghur activists and human rights advocacy groups say.

"Every household, every family had three or four people taken away," said Omer Kanat, executive committee chairman of the World Uyghur Congress, an umbrella group for the Uyghur diaspora.

"In some villages, you can't see men on the streets anymore -- only women and children -- all the men have been sent to the camps."

One recent news report put the number of Uyghurs confined at 120,000 in "overcrowded and squalid" conditions in just one prefecture in southern Xinjiang. Radio Free Asia, a US Congress-funded station known for its extensive Uyghur reporting, attributed the figure to an anonymous security official in Kashgar.

Tensions have remained high in Xinjiang -- a resource-rich area long inhabited by the Turkic-speaking ethnic Uyghurs -- following a spate of violent attacks in recent years. The Chinese authorities have blamed the incidents on Muslim Uyghur separatists seeking to establish an independent state.

While activists CNN spoke to couldn't confirm the figure reported by RFA, they say it fits with the increasingly bleak picture for the 10 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang, where the government has been waging unrelenting campaigns against what it calls the forces of "terrorism, separatism and religious extremism."

'Brainwashing' process

Kanat and other human rights advocates describe, citing sources on the ground, how people supposedly prone to influences of Islamic extremism undergo a "brainwashing" process inside the detention camps -- often housed in converted schools or government buildings.

Detainees are required to praise the ruling Communist Party, sing revolutionary songs, learn to speak Mandarin, study the thought of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and confess perceived transgressions such as praying at a mosque or traveling abroad, according to activists.

"It's completely unlawful -- the authorities provide no legal documentation to the families and there are no time limits (on the length of detention)," said Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, which published a detailed report on the subject last September and called on Beijing to free all detainees.

"There's a lot of fear, with people losing contact with loved ones."

Xinjiang authorities have not responded to CNN's repeated requests for information on the political education camps and response to activists' allegations, but state media outlets have covered these facilities and touted their effectiveness in de-radicalizing the locals.

One newspaper article last April said that Uyghur residents "eat and live alongside party cadres" in one such camp that had "already trained 2,008 people."

Calling for a "great wall of iron" to safeguard the region's stability, President Xi has further expanded and strengthened China's vast security forces in Xinjiang.

Ubiquitous surveillance

Activists say the regional government, now led by a hardline Xi loyalist, has not only continued to arrest and imprison many Uyghurs but also increasingly relied on high-tech tools to keep the population in check. They cite examples ranging from ubiquitous surveillance cameras, to mandatory GPS tracker installation in cars and DNA collection for all residents aged 12 to 65.

The authorities also enacted a sweeping anti-extremism law last year, with long beards, veils in public and home-schooling all on the ban list, prompting new denunciations from international human rights groups.

Amnesty International has said Uyghurs face widespread discrimination in housing, education and employment as well as curtailed religious freedom in their homeland. Other critics have linked the rise of violence in Xinjiang to Beijing's repressive reign there -- a claim the government vehemently denies.

Over the past decades, the arrival in Xinjiang of waves of Han Chinese, the country's predominant ethnic group, has also fueled ethnic tensions, despite the government's best effort to paint a picture of ethnic harmony.

"We guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of all ethnicities and prohibit the discrimination and oppression against any ethnic groups," Zhang Yijiong, a senior Communist Party official in charge ethnic minority affairs, told reporters last October. "The cultures, histories, languages and traditions of all ethnicities are protected and respected by national laws."

Critics of Beijing's Uyghur policy see a starkly different scenario in Xinjiang, as the authorities intensify their crackdown and forced political indoctrination spreads.

"These campaigns are purportedly about counter-extremism and counterterrorism, but ... it's really about surveillance, control and assimilation," said Wang, the Human Rights Watch researcher.

"The real intention of the Chinese government is to eliminate the Uyghurs as a distinct ethnic group," Rebiya Kadeer, a longtime exiled Uyghur leader who recently stepped down as president of the World Uyghur Congress, told CNN in an interview in Washington last year.

"Religious suppression, cultural restrictions, Uyghur language ban -- all this repression in Xinjiang only makes the Uyghurs hold on to their identity more firmly," she added. "China has awakened the Uyghur people."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
69° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 69°
Columbus
Few Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather