The Chinese government recently allowed journalists to tour high-security facilities housing countless Muslim religious minorities in an attempt to paint institutions that the U.S. government labels “concentration camps” as “training” schools helping terrorists get on the right path.
In a documentary last month, BBC reporter John Sudworth highlighted his experiences as one of just a few journalists the Chinese communist government allowed to tour selected “training education” centers built throughout China’s far-west Xinjiang province.
Over the last few years, the Chinese government received much international criticism for building a network of centers that have been used to imprison as many as over 3 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other non-Han Chinese Muslim minority communities that have called the Xinjiang province home for centuries.
“China used to deny that these places exist. But now we are being given a tour. The message: these are schools not prisons,” Sudworth said.
“This is what [the government] wants the world to see, [to] offer to others proof that these are not prisoners, but students willingly being guided away from extremism.”
As rights activists and the U.S. government has spoken out against China’s imprisonment of hundreds of thousands in Xinjiang, what Sudworth saw in the so-called “training centers” is not what many would expect from a population of people that have largely disappeared in the night to high-security facilities.
Inside the camps, Sudworth witnessed dancing, singing, and seemingly forced merriment.
One man shown dancing in a classroom visited by BBC told the British news outlet that it was his choice to come to the center. However, it should be noted that he may have said it was his choice to avoid extra punishment for speaking negatively about the government.
“I had a weak awareness of the law,” he said. “I was influenced by extremism and terrorism. … A policeman at my village told me to get enrolled in school and transform my thoughts.”
The Chinese government claims that these camps are established to re-educate people who have shown extremist tendencies and were built in response to decades of separatist and extremist violence in the region. The “students” are said to be vocationally trained to get a job after being released.
Despite the government’s claim that it is the students’ choice to attend the school, Sudworth reports that many people are enrolled in the school without any idea of how long they will be kept there.
“These are places where adults wear uniforms and they don’t go home at the end of the day but sleep up to 10 a room sharing a toilet with no idea how many months or years it will be before they can return to their families,” Sudworth said.
Sudworth said that “thoughts are transformed” through “long hours of rote learning Chinese,” the study of “China’s tightening restrictions on religion” and “the replacing of faith and cultural identity with a different loyalty.”
Sudworth asked one detainee if he is allowed to pray in the camp.
“China’s laws define schools as public places and in public places, religious activities are not allowed,” the man replied.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith