On Tuesday, the government of China passed a regional law that will allow for ethnic Uighurs to be held in detainment centers to go under “thought transformation” where they will renounce their faith and taught to be loyal to President Xi Jinping.
The camps have already been operating for the last year.
According to the estimates by the State Department and human rights groups, Chinese officials in the Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang have detained up to one million Uighur Muslims.
According to the South China Morning Post, the law allows Xinjiang officials to “set up education and transformation organizations and supervising departments such as vocational training centers, to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism.”
The detainees undergo “ideological education to eliminate extremism” and “help trainees to transform their thoughts and return to society and their families.”
The Chinese government has been intentionally vague about the activities being conducted at these “vocational skills and educational training centers.”
But according to survivors of the internment camps, the detainees are not only forced to learn Mandarin and memorize communist propaganda, but they have also said that they are treated poorly and are physically and psychologically tortured.
“Sources say detainees face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers in the camps and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities—circumstances that can lead to severe complications for people already vulnerable to health issues,” said the Radio Free Asia (RFA,) which has investigated the centers.
“By giving these camps a legal footing, China appears to have confirmed what many have been saying for months: that it is running a string of re-education camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in the name of combating extremism,” writes BBC. “The regulations say they are for people “influenced by extremism The point is to correct bad behaviour and ensure those inside them undergo psychological counseling and ideological education. The camps are part of a broader attack on Islamic extremism in Xinjiang.
The new rules mean it’s illegal to spread religious fanaticism by, for example, having “abnormal beards or unusual names.”
The new law also outlines how a citizen gets detained at the centers. If a Uighur Muslim doesn’t watch state TV, listen to state radio, or send their children to state schools– they will be sent to these detainment camps.
Chinese government officials have defended the new law.
“Taking measures to prevent and crack down on terrorism and extremism have helped preserve stability, as well as the life and livelihood of people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang,” said Lu Kang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
China is up for review by the U.N. human rights council in November. This law appears to be an attempt to deflect the recent international criticism of the centers claiming they violate Chinese law.
“Regardless of these revisions I still believe the practice of coercively detaining Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang in ‘education through transformation centers’ not only violates Chinese law but also international legal norms against the extrajudicial deprivation of liberty,” said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.
Author’s note: China is getting close to North Korea levels. Stories like this make us thankful to live in the U.S. Can you imagine the backlash if someone proposed this in the U.S.? Remember the recent outrage about the temporary housing of illegal immigrants? That was nowhere near the levels of oppression at these Chinese camps of legal citizens.