Beijing closes some camps but continues to keep tabs on Uighurs and ethnic Kazakhs in far western region
Source: Wall Street Journal
By Eva Dou and Philip Wen
KASHGAR, China—Hundreds of discarded metal bed frames lie jumbled in a grassy lot here behind a recently emptied re-education center for ethnic-minority Muslims in northwest China. Red stickers on them read: “Recognize your mistakes, admit your mistakes, repent.”
Chinese authorities say everyone has completed their studies at such sites—which Beijing describes as vocational schools. Rights groups and Western governments say that about a million people, most of them Uighurs, have been detained in dozens of such centers across the region in recent years.
The government has long said it is fighting extremism. Muslim activists say the aim is to eradicate their culture and religion.
To reinforce the government’s message, state media broadcast images of the center here, officially named the Kashgar City Vocational Training School, with its darkened classrooms stripped bare of furniture, a bundle of orange internet cables discarded on the floor.
An hour’s drive to the south, however, a larger re-education camp was still in use in early January, with bright lights illuminating a ring of high gray walls. Two years before, locals had referred to it as a school. A uniformed guard blocking the road described it as something else.
“It’s a jail,” he said. “It’s never been a school.”
The images of the two camps illustrate a shift under way in the government’s approach in Xinjiang, an expanse of deserts, oasis communities and mountains on the doorstep of Central Asia that is home to millions of Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.
During a recent visit to several cities and towns in the Uighur heartland of southern Xinjiang, it was clear that many of the overt security measures employed in recent years have been rolled back after months of international scrutiny and criticism from the U.S. and other Western nations.
Yet other, at-times more subtle, forms of control remain in place.