Source: The Guardian
BY Tom Phillips in Beijing
At least 120,000 members of China’s Muslim Uighur minority have been confined to political “re-education camps” redolent of the Mao era that are springing up across the country’s western borderlands, a report has claimed.
Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US-backed news group whose journalists have produced some of the most detailed reporting on the heavily securitised region of Xinjiang, said it obtained the figure from a security official in Kashgar, a city in China’s far west that has been the focus of a major crackdown.
Last year, as Xi Jinping was crowned China’s most powerful leader since Chairman Mao at a politically sensitive congress in Beijing, Xinjiang’s re-education centres were “inundated” by detainees, who were forced to endure cramped and squalid conditions, the report said. Just in the city of Kashgar – which has a population of about half a million inhabitants – tens of thousands of people were allegedly confined. Taking into account the wider region around Kashgar, the number allegedly rose to 120,000.
Maya Wang, a Human Rights Watch campaigner who wrote a recent report on the camps, said the figures cited by RFA were credible although growing levels of repression in Xinjiang meant reliable numbers were impossible to ascertain. Estimates of the total number of people who have spent time in such centres in Xinjiang, which has a population of about 22 million, ran as high as 800,000, Wang added. “It’s just like a black hole which people are added to and don’t get out of.”