China 'le­galises' in­tern­ment camps for mil­lion Uighurs

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Lily Kuo in Bei­jing and agen­cies

China’s far north-western re­gion of Xin­jiang has retroac­tively le­git­imised the use of in­tern­ment camps where up to one mil­lion Mus­lims are be­ing held.

Amid sus­tained in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have re­vised leg­is­la­tion to al­low the re­gional gov­ern­ment to of­fi­cially per­mit the use of “ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing cen­tres” to in­car­cer­ate “peo­ple in­flu­enced by ex­trem­ism”.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties deny that the in­tern­ment camps ex­ist but say petty crim­i­nals are sent to vo­ca­tional “train­ing cen­tres”. Former de­tainees say they were forced to de­nounce Is­lam and pro­fess loy­alty to the Com­mu­nist party in what they de­scribe as po­lit­i­cal in­doc­tri­na­tion camps.

“It’s a ret­ro­spec­tive jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the mass de­tain­ment of Uighurs, Kaza­khs and other Mus­lim mi­nori­ties in Xin­jiang,” said James Lei­bold, a scholar of Chi­nese eth­nic poli­cies at Mel­bourne’s La Trobe Uni­ver­sity. “It’s a new form of re-ed­u­ca­tion that’s un­prece­dented and doesn’t re­ally have a le­gal ba­sis, and I see them scram­bling to try to cre­ate a le­gal ba­sis for this pol­icy.”

The re­vi­sions, pub­lished on Tues­day, say gov­ern­ment agen­cies at the county level and above “may es­tab­lish oc­cu­pa­tional skills ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing cen­tres, ed­u­ca­tion trans­for­ma­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions and man­age­ment de­part­ments to trans­form peo­ple in­flu­enced by ex­trem­ism through ed­u­ca­tion”.

A new clause di­rects the cen­tres to teach the Man­darin lan­guage and pro­vide oc­cu­pa­tional and le­gal ed­u­ca­tion, as well as “ide­o­log­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, psy­cho­log­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and be­hav­iour cor­rec­tion”. An­other new clause bars “re­fus­ing pub­lic goods like ra­dio and tele­vi­sion.” Chi­nese state me­dia of­ten fea­ture pro­grams hail­ing de­vel­op­ment in Xin­jiang and pro­mot­ing the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion of sta­bil­ity in the ter­ri­tory.

The re­vised rules in­clude a ban on be­hav­iour “un­der­min­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion” of China’s fam­ily plan­ning poli­cies which re­strict fam­ily size. Last year, au­thor­i­ties ended an ex­cep­tion that had al­lowed Uighur and other eth­nic mi­nori­ties to have more chil­dren than their Han Chi­nese coun­ter­parts.

“Over­all, this clearly strength­ens the le­gal ba­sis for the type of re-ed­u­ca­tion that has essen­tially been ad­mit­ted by the state … in­di­cat­ing that the state is de­ter­mined to pro­ceed with the cur­rent cam­paign,” said Adrian Zenz, a re­searcher who fo­cuses on Xin­jiang.

The orig­i­nal leg­is­la­tion an­nounced in 2017 banned the wear­ing of veils, “ex­treme speech and be­hav­iour” and the re­fusal to lis­ten to pub­lic ra­dio and tele­vi­sion broad­casts.

Bei­jing has spent decades try­ing to sup­press pro-in­de­pen­dence sen­ti­ment in Xin­jiang fu­elled in part by frus­tra­tion about an in­flux of mi­grants from China’s Han ma­jor­ity. Au­thor­i­ties say ex­trem­ists there have ties to for­eign ter­ror groups but have given lit­tle ev­i­dence to sup­port the claim.

Mem­bers of Uighur, Kazakh and other Mus­lim mi­nori­ties who live abroad say they have not been able to con­tact rel­a­tives in China, while au­thor­i­ties are plac­ing chil­dren sep­a­rated from their de­tained or ex­iled par­ents into dozens of state-run or­phan­ages across Xin­jiang.

Lei­bold said the re­vi­sions were an at­tempt to de­flect in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism. China has come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from the US and the Euro­pean Union af­ter a United Na­tions panel con­fronted Chi­nese diplo­mats in Au­gust over re­ports of ar­bi­trary mass de­ten­tions and harsh se­cu­rity mea­sures aimed at Mus­lims. China is up for re­view by the UN’s hu­man rights coun­cil in Novem­ber.

“Re­gard­less of these re­vi­sions I still be­lieve the prac­tice of co­er­cively de­tain­ing Uighurs and other Mus­lim mi­nori­ties in Xin­jiang in ‘ed­u­ca­tion through trans­for­ma­tion cen­tres’ not only vi­o­lates Chi­nese law but also in­ter­na­tional le­gal norms against the ex­tra­ju­di­cial de­pri­va­tion of lib­erty,” Lei­bold said.

Pho­to­graph: China Stringer Net­work/Reuters

A truck car­ry­ing para­mil­i­tary po­lice­men passes a Uighur man dur­ing an anti-ter­ror­ism oath-tak­ing rally in Urumqi, Xin­jiang.

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