The existence of re-education centers intended for China’s Muslim Uighur ethnic minority have officially been given formal recognition. The is after the government in Beijing had previously denied the existence of centers, according to reports from Business Insider.
Local officials in Xinjiang have made changes to laws in the area to allow for “re-education institutions” in an effort to help reform those “affected by extremism.” Xinjiang is one of China’s most western regions and is home to 11 million Uighurs.
The new law, as published Tuesday, states, “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.”
The Chinese government in Beijing has previously justified its surveillance measures and treatment of the Uighur people as a necessary measure in the country’s fight against religious terrorism and extremism. The government also insists that everyone who lives in Xinjiang, which is known by Uighurs as East Turkestan, lives a peaceful and harmonious life where they are granted religious liberty.
After the United Nations pressured China with reports it had received stating that 1 million Uighurs were held in internment camps, the government was adamant that such camps never existed. Senior Communist Party official Hu Lianhe stated that there were “no such things as re-education centers,” and that only extremists were detained by the government.
China okays massive re-education camps for Muslim minorities after denying the camps exist https://t.co/RUspkvvVM2
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) October 10, 2018
A report from Radio Free Asia at the beginning of October found that prisoners in Xinjiang were being transported to prisons in other parts of the country because — according to unnamed regional authorities — “we are experiencing an overflow of inmates.”
Human rights activists have said that the government in Xinjiang have no right to implement such laws, and that the determination of who is required to go to the centers is “arbitrary and abusive” regardless of its legality.
Maya Wang, the senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, said 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.”
Uighurs who have previously been detained in the re-education centers have described their experience as torturous. Examples of their alleged treatment include being constrained against chairs and beaten, being subjected to sleep deprivation, and being forced to sing songs of praise about Xi Jinping before being given food, according to the report.