China’s secret internment camps

These are satellite images from the deserts
of western China. Look closely, and you’ll see these huge complexes
being built. From the sky, they sort of look like factories
or even schools. But look even closer: this line is one facility’s
perimeter wall. And these shadows? They’re cast by the watchtowers along the
wall. This compound isn’t a school or a factory. It’s an internment camp. Inside these camps, the Chinese government
is detaining as many as 1 million Uighurs, China’s mostly Muslim minority. China doesn’t want the world to know any of
this. But the story of these camps is also the story
of how we know about them – and China’s efforts to cover them up. As soon as we began to document the re-education
centers, there was Chinese government officials deleting what
we were finding. Uighurs mainly live here, in the Xinjiang
province of northwestern China. That puts them closer to the capitals of Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan than to Beijing. And Uighurs are also closer culturally to
those Turkic groups than they are to the Han Chinese, China’s ethnic majority. The Uighurs speak a Turkic language. Their
culture is different. They have particular styles of music, a whole a whole rich history that is unique to them. This is Sigal Samuel, a reporter at Vox. I’ve been reporting on the Uighur crisis in
China for about a year now. China has been concerned for decades
about the possibility of Uighur separatism. Uighurs have actually had their own independent
nation, two separate times in the last century. In 1933, they established the Islamic Republic
of East Turkistan here in Kashgar. But it crumbled less than a year later when
it was taken over by Chinese forces. Then, in 1944, the Soviet Union backed the
creation of the East Turkestan Republic, based here. But when China became Communist in 1949, the
Soviet Union turned on East Turkestan, and helped China take it over again. Part of why the Xinjiang region is so important
to China is that it’s rich with energy resources. And as China’s economy grew, so did its
need for energy. Today Xinjiang accounts for nearly 40% of
China’s coal reserves. And over 20% of the country’s oil and gas. It also accounts for 20% of China’s potential
for wind energy. China needs resources, it needs
energy. It needs the geographical location, the area
on which Xinjiang sits. That’s where Uighurs are. That’s where they’re living. And so China really wants to have a solid
sense of control over that area. As far back as the 1950s, China saw an opportunity
to dilute the influence of the potentially rebellious Uighurs, and started encouraging
the migration of Han Chinese, into Xinjiang. And it worked. In 1945, Uighurs made up over 80% of the population, compared to just 6% Han Chinese. By 2008, Xinjiang was 46% Uighur compared
to 39% Han Chinese. But over the years, as Xinjiang developed
economically, Uighurs were left behind, working mostly low-wage jobs in agriculture
while the Han held higher-paying jobs. Finally, in 2009, a Uighur protest against
discrimination at the hands of the Han and the Chinese government erupted in violence. “Bloody riots broke out, pitting ethnic
Uighur Muslims against the dominant Han Chinese.” One of the worst riots took place in the provincial
capital of Urumqi. About 200 people were killed and hundreds
injured during the unrest. That was sort of an inflection point. After that, the Chinese really started to crack
down harder on the Uighurs. And by 2013, Xinjiang had become even more
important to China. The country launched the “Belt and Road”
initiative, a trillion-dollar investment in things like fiber optic cables, train lines,
and gas pipelines meant to boost the country’s economic and political influence around the
world by making it easier to trade with China. If you plot these projects on a map you’ll
see a lot of them pass through Xinjiang, making the province arguably the most important corridor
for the whole project. China would need to ensure that Xinjiang remained
securely in its hands. The Uighurs came to be perceived
and painted more as a threat, as a separatist threat, as an extremist threat. In 2016 and 2017, the country enacted a series
of “de-extremification” policies aimed at Muslims, like banning long beards. And Xinjiang was effectively turned into a
hi-tech police state. So this kind of thing is happening
all over the country, but in Xinjiang it’s been just increased by orders of magnitude. We’re talking about Uighurs
having to hand over their phones at checkpoints. We’re even talking about QR codes being
installed on the outside of their homes. But the most brutal part of this crackdown
was hidden to the world at first. In this image you see the opening of this
facility. The signage, it says “De-extremification reeducation center.” Around 2017, China started building
these internment camps, these large scale places to detain Uighurs.
China says that these camps are necessary because the Uighurs are a terrorist threat. A separatist threat. People who are infected with extremist thinking. But it wasn’t until Uighurs who had been
detained told their stories, that the picture from inside the camps came into clearer focus. They’re forced to memorize and
recite Communist Party propaganda every day. They’re often forced to criticize their own
Islamic beliefs and to criticize the beliefs of their fellow detainees. “We had to sing songs hailing the Communist
Party. We had to repeat in Chinese, ‘long live
[Chinese president] Xi Jinping! There have been reports of death,
of torture. “Three guards surrounded me and abused
me. “Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake.” So there’s this atmosphere of
just trying to uproot what you believe in. At first, China denied the existence of
these camps… But activists and academics fought back. A lot of people around the world are scouring the Internet for evidence of China’s internment camps for Uighurs. In terms of the strategies and tools
that I’ve used and others have used to uncover evidence of these camps, it’s quite simply
a computer and knowledge of Chinese and thinking about what ways whats words, especially government
websites, would use. People have unearthed government
documents… “And then we had growing visual evidence. We’re looking at satellite images.” We could actually trace the creation and expansion of the reeducation camp. It was a matter of, I think luck or chance I uncovered this image. And until then, we didn’t have
that piece of visual evidence that said this is what it is. And this is what the Chinese government’s
calling it. Tim isn’t alone. There’s a whole network of “web sleuths”
around the world using basic internet tools to document what China doesn’t want the world to see. And they’ve gotten China to change their
story, at least a little. China was denying that these re education centers exist, until journalists and academics and others started to really
amass a body of evidence that was so convincing that China couldn’t just deny it anymore. China took a different approach and started
admitting that these facilities exist, but carefully painted them as training schools
for potential criminals or terrorists. In the meantime, the camps are still there
and growing. This camp, one of China’s largest, was as
big as the nearby city of Dabancheng in 2017. But by 2018, the camp had expanded to twice the
size. From China’s perspective they think it’s worth
it. They want to make sure Xinjiang is an area of the country that they have total control
over. And if that comes with a high human cost and
even a reputational blow on the international stage, China so far seems willing to do that

100 thoughts on “China’s secret internment camps

  1. Yet to this day, there has been no solid evidence supporting the allegation that millions of Uighers are being held captive in these camps.

  2. Ohhh there are doing to the Muslims what the Muslims have been doing to the rest of the world since the beginning of their religion.

  3. Liars, they are not secret. China has every right to deal with its Muslim citizens for they were the ones who went about terrorising and murdering The Han majority in the hope of breaking away from China.

  4. Thank those camps, now it is much safer to tour in XInjiang. I will never worry about terrorist attack. Check the torresit attack happened during recents years on Wiki. You will be surrprised.

  5. CHINA is a more dangerous thing for the world then The USA in the coming years , its policies of taking over the world slowly is vicious

  6. China hopes that Xinjiang will become modern, not as chaotic as the Middle East. China is attacking extremist terrorist organizations. In order to build a country, they create violence and harm innocent people. Therefore, China will solve it by force. Many Chinese living in foreign countries are not traditional Chinese. Because of corruption, they split the country, were found guilty in China, and fled abroad. So they hate China in their hearts. Spread the bad things in China everywhere. We want them to be educated and do better work, but China has not attacked religion.

    When you hear this person complaining, you should know what he has done. Instead of just looking at one side.

    The United States treats Islam by advocating the use of war. However, terrorism still exists. China removes extreme beliefs through education. What qualifications does the Western media have to comment on here?

    In order to damage China, it is really disgusting.

  7. It is such a shame that China didn't take measure just like what Russian did in Chechnya, China is being so soft on those so-called separatists or extremists. If you ever watched videos about the unrest, you would know those people are just terrorists but not separatists.

  8. One thing I admire so much about the western media is that they worked so well in fanning hatred, distrust, separation and chaos within sovereign nations.

  9. At the root of all of this is Xi Jinping, since he become the "Emperor" of China, the country is going full totalitarian. We must stop this Empire from rising, China at the hands of this evil sociopath is now the main enemy of liberal democracies around the world. They only care about their own main ethnic group, the Han, and even them are treated badly.

  10. academic and journalists: here’s objective evidence these camps exist and have a nefarious purpose
    survivors: i was in a camp where they tried to torture away my religious beliefs
    china: nah

  11. Hey lookey there easy trade routes through Muslim countries… where is the outcry…where are the sanctions… What did you say there isn't any.

  12. Those camps are going be called as private companies. It is found that their are manufacturing machines in those camps, the CCP is forcing those people in camps to work for free, and selling to countries world wide. So that the CCP can manage such amount of camps with no cost.

  13. People don't realize how old school these tactics are and how far back in history they go. In the past The Chinese kept other tribes in the west from Uniting and had them in conflict with each other until one man United them by the name of Genghis Khan and you know how much they loved that guy…the Uyghurs are genetically different from han Chinese… they have Mongolian root.

  14. The very tragedy that has been drilled into my mind since childhood (the holocaust) is now back hurting more people for the exact same reason. What’s the point of grieving over the tragedy if it’s just gonna be repeated and we’re gonna stand here doing nothing abt it

  15. They need to get onboard w capitalism or they Will have. Headache the good of the many.
    You let the extremists start Doing terrorist acts you habe a headache

  16. Their organs are carved out while they are alive for transplants….a billion dollar industry….China are known liars….never trust the Chinese, no honesty or integrity

  17. qr code is not used to control the people. I know western media want to stain china, but at least based on the truth alright?

  18. They are harvesting their organs while they are awake
    Forcing the Muslims to eat pork and drink alcohol (forbidden to consume in Islam)
    Beat them daily
    Force them to denounce their religion
    They are in modern day concentration camps yet no one is saying anything

  19. Sending in spies for bringing violence, China attempts to have a right to dispatch the armed police. This is what China does. Like happening in Hong Kong, they're suppressing or even killng people as if they're just defending themselves.

  20. people need to stop saying the US leads the world in prisoners, if there's an estimated 1 million Uyghurs in re education camps, that's prison. Let's call it 'even' with China and STILL make sure people know what that means world wide.

  21. At the end, no one cares about them. Well not enough people will care for Muslim, if not Muslim themshelves. Their reputation aren't the best.

  22. Hold on. You show a picture of structures and then immediately assume they are intermittent camps Muslims. HOW did you arrive at that conclusion??

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