380 detention centres have been identified by ASPI established across the Xinjiang region since 2017; ranging from lowest security re-education camps to fortified prisons.
China has built nearly 400 internment camps in the Xinjiang region; with construction on dozens continuing over the last two years; even as Chinese authorities said their “re-education” system was winding down, an Australian think-tank has found. The network of camps in China’s far west used to detain Uighurs and people from other Muslim minorities; including 14 that are still under construction; according to the latest satellite imaging obtained by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Those 380 detention camps that are identified by ASPI is over 100 more than previous investigations have uncovered and the researchers believe they have now identified most of the detention centres in the region.
Nathan Ruser ASPI researches said that “The evidence in this database shows that despite Chinese officials’ claims about detainees graduating from the camps, significant investment in the construction of new detention facilities has continued throughout 2019 and 2020.”
The information has been made public, including the coordinates for individual camps; in a database that can be accessed online, the Xinjiang Data Project. The camps were identified using survivor accounts, other projects tracking internment centres, and satellite images.
ASPI said that night time images were particularly useful; as they looked for an area that was newly illuminated outside towns; often these were the sites of freshly built detention centres; with day time images giving a clear picture of construction.
As figured out, many are also near industrial parks; there have been widespread reports that inmates at some internment camps have been used as forced labour.
The report read “Camps are also often co-located with factory complexes; which can suggest the nature of a facility and highlight the direct pipeline; between arbitrary detention in Xinjiang and forced labour.”
On the other side, Beijing insists that there are no human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of internment camps; and then later described them as vocational training; and re-educational programmes that aim to alleviate poverty and counter terrorism threats. Last year it was claimed by a senior official that; most people held in camps returned to society. However, China has not allowed journalists, human rights groups; or diplomats independent access to the camps; and visitors to the region face heavy surveillance.
The major source of information about the camps; and a wider government campaign against Muslim minorities in the region are the survivors who have fled abroad; leaked Chinese government documents; and satellite images that have confirmed the location and existence of camps.
People have been targeted for “offences” as trivial as owning a Qur’an or abstaining from eating pork.