“Our education centers are like boarding schools where the students eat and live for free,” said Shohrat Zakir, deputy Chinese Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in western China, earlier this month.
Yet, whereas many boarding school budgets typically include school supplies, textbooks and athletic equipment, an Agence France-Presse analysis of official budget documents found that China’s “boarding schools” in Xinjiang purchased police batons, cattle prods, handcuffs and pepper spray.
“China’s claims that its Xinjiang camps are voluntary training facilities are outright lies,” the United States Mission to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva said in a recent tweet.
China is arbitrarily detaining more than 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups “under horrific conditions in Xinjiang’s internment camps,” said Ambassador Kelley Currie, a U.S. representative at the United Nations.
Hiding the truth
The camps are part of an ongoing campaign to suppress ethnic minority cultures in western China, where prisoners are tortured, abused, and forced to renounce their religion and memorize Chinese Communist Party slogans, according to survivors.
Internal documents acknowledged the reality inside the camps: Chinese Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang Chen Quanguo stated that the camps should “teach like a school, be managed like the military, and be defended like a prison.”
The State Department’s recent Human Rights Report notes that the security budget for Xinjiang has increased more than 300 percent in recent years and the local government has advertised for more than 90,000 security-related jobs.
The ongoing repression has destroyed local communities in Xinjiang, with people disappearing for crimes as minor as speaking their ethnic language in school or fasting during Muslim religious holidays. And once they disappear, families stop hearing from them, with no idea what is happening to them or if they are alive.
As Secretary Pompeo said when he introduced the 2018 Human Rights Report, China is “in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations.”