China Legalizes ‘Re-education Camps’ for Muslim Minorities ‘Affected by Extremism’

Regional authorities in Xinjiang, China, appeared to legalize “re-education centers” for its persecuted Uighur minority despite Beijing’s previous denials that they existed. Here, Uighur men gather for a holiday meal in Turpan County, Xinjiang, in 2016. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese regional authorities have legally formalized the existence of re-education centers for the country’s persecuted Muslim Uighur ethnic minority after Beijing denied that such camps existed.

Officials in Xinjiang, the western Chinese region where 8 million Uighurs live, revised a local law to encourage “re-education institutions” to help those “affected by extremism.”

The new law, which was published on Tuesday, stated: “Officials at or above the county level may set up vocational education and training centers, and other re-education institutions and management departments, to carry out the educational transformation of those affected by extremism.”

Beijing justifies its surveillance and crackdown on Uighurs as a measure to counter terrorism and religious extremism. It has also repeatedly insisted that people in Xinjiang – known to Uighurs as East Turkestan – lived in harmony and enjoy religious freedom.

China previously denied that such camps existed. Shortly after a United Nations panel said it had received credible reports that 1 million Uighurs were held in internment camps, senior Communist Party official Hu Lianhe claimed that there are “no such things as re-education centers,” but had detained people it considers extremists.

Earlier this month Radio Free Asia this week quoted unnamed regional authorities as saying they had to transfer inmates out of Xinjiang to other regions across China because, one said, “we are experiencing an overflow of inmates.”

Is this law legitimate?

Rights activists claim that Xinjiang’s local government have no right to legalize re-education camps because the process itself is still “arbitrary and abusive.”

Maya Wang, the senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement sent to Business Insider:

“Xinjiang’s regional government is not empowered under China’s constitution to legalize detention in the political education centers where a million Turkic Muslims are being held.

“Without due process, Xinjiang’s political education centers remain arbitrary and abusive, and no tweaks in national or regional rules can change that.”

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SOURCE: Business Insider, Alexandra Ma