USA

China expanded Uighur internment camps despite denials, researchers say

The Chinese government has expanded its number of internment camps in the Xinjiang province despite its claims to the contrary, researchers have found.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank that is also US-backed, unveiled the findings of the Xinjiang Data Project on Thursday, which showed that at least 61 detention centers were expanded since July 2019.

Both at that time and now, Chinese government officials had claimed that they were winding down their mass internment practices.

ASPI’s investigation, which took place over two years, tells a different story, identifying 380 detention centers. The number is over 100 more than was previously known.

About 14 of these camps were still under construction this year, despite government officials saying that all detainees had “graduated” and thus returned to society.

The report stated that only eight camps showed signs of that they were being shut down.

Xinjiang is a province in the Communist country where an estimated 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained since 2016.

These ethnic minorities are held in internment camps and prisons where they are subjected to ideological discipline, forced to denounce their religion and language and physically abused.

Chinese Communist Party officials, however, have long suspected Uighurs of harboring separatist tendencies because they have their own culture, language and religion.

Thursday’s report comes at a critical time for China in terms of global relations.

Earlier this month, more than 300 organizations published an open letter to the United Nations demanding it address the rampant human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party.

In an open letter, the groups — which include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights — requested that the UN create an “impartial and independent” watchdog to place scrutiny on the long-ruling Communist Party over its documented human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

A Uighur internment camp near Kashgar in Xinjiang
A Uighur internment camp near Kashgar in XinjiangAustralian Strategic Policy Institute via Storyful

In the letter, the groups denounced China’s efforts to manipulate some of the UN’s work on human rights globally.

“We are dismayed at China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by promoting ‘cooperation’ over accountability, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world,” the letter reads.

“It has sought to deny access to human rights defenders to UN premises, denounced speakers on NGO side events as ‘terrorists,’ and threatened delegates to deter them from attending UN side events on rights violations, including abuses in Xinjiang.”

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