Australian researchers find China is still expanding controversial detention centres


Satellite imaging obtained by a top Australian think-tank has revealed that China has built almost 380 internment camps in Xinjiang region, with construction on dozens continuing over the last two years.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said it had identified more than 380 "suspected detention facilities" in the region, where China is believed to have detained more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking residents.

This is despite Chinese state news agency Xinhua reporting late past year that "trainees" attending "vocational education and training centres" meant to de-radicalise them had "all graduated".

While China claims that such facilities are utilized for dealing with religious extremism and poverty, reports show that "many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang's vast re-education network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons, or sent to walled factory compounds for forced labor assignments".

Ruser stated that numerous centers that had got expanded were higher security facilities while the others were built close to the industrial parks, suggesting those who were charged might also have been sent to the "walled factory compounds for forced labor assignments".

"It forces Beijing to confront its propaganda: At first they said there were no camps and that every report of a camp was a lie, then it shifted to saying these camps are necessary and that they were the only way to stop terrorism", said Nathan Ruser, a lead researcher on the project.

Satellite imagery of the new Chinese detention facility near Kashgar taken in January 2020.

"Xinjiang's total number of mosques is more than 10 times the number in the United States, and the average number of mosques per Muslim person is higher than in some Muslim countries", Wang told a regular press briefing.

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The protection of the central government's crackdown on minorities in Xinjiang has led to the suggestion that the latest ed0 facilities, which have recently been expanded, have about half the higher protection.

Beijing has faced consistent charges - supported by mounting evidence - of mass human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the detention of more than a million Uighur and Muslim Turks in concentration camps, which it initially denied existed before claiming they were training and restoring education centers. At least 70 sites had seen the removal of security infrastructure such as internal fencing or perimeter walls, and eight camps appeared to be undergoing decommissioning, they wrote. A map created from the ASPI database shows an arc of camps across the populated parts of the region, though the think-tank noted that the rate of growth in detention facilities was slowing. Of the camps stripped of security infrastructure, 90% were lower security facilities, the report said.

Chinese authorities have been condemned by the Australian government and human rights groups for their treatment of Muslims in the province, including arbitrary detention, surveillance and forced labour.

The largest camp registered in the region, Dabancheng, sits just outside the regional capital, Urumqi.

Performers dance during the Dragon Boat Festival at an intangible cultural heritage exhibition park in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 25, 2020.

Estimates by the USA government suggest China has imprisoned as many as three million people in over 1,000 Xinjiang concentration camps in the past three years.

Last year, a senior official claimed that most of the detainees in the camp had "returned to society".