Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

As China legalizes Xinjiang ‘re-education camps’, Weibo netizens cheer on

“Graduates” would receive a certificate after they finished the “vocational training”. Screen capture from CCTV.

As international media and human rights organizations unveil details about re-education camps in Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities may have imprisoned up to a million Muslim citizens without charge, the Chinese government has switched its public relations tactics from denying to defending the camps.

China's government has been under fire in the past year over allegations that it was forcibly detaining Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang for “extremist behaviour”, a language often invoked to describe any vaguely religious conduct, from growing a beard to wearing a headscarf.

What happens at the camps is not widely known, but testimonies from ex-internees reveal that they were forced to convert their beliefs and pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and made to criticize their own culture and religion, as well as adopt diets against their own will. They have also reported that the camps are secured with barbed wire, surveillance systems and armed police.

Initially, China's approach was to deny the existence of such camps. As recently as August 2018, shortly after a UN human rights panel brought attention to the matter, a Chinese delegation said that “there is no such thing as re-education centres in Xinjiang”.

Less than two months later, the camps were made official. On October 9, the local Xinjiang government revised its “Regulation on Anti-Extremism” to empower local authorities to operate “vocational training centres” for the purpose of education and ideological conversion. In other words, the new regulation has legalized the existence of the “re-education camps”.

The new strategy was almost immediately reflected on Chinese media and social networks, where many have applauded the policy.

On October 16, the China Central Television aired a feature report and interviewed some “graduates” from such centre in Hotan, Xinjiang. One of them said:

我如果不來這裏的話可能我就會跟隨那些宗教極端分子走上犯罪道路。

If I had not come here, I would follow the religious extremist and become a criminal.

Also on October 16, party-affiliated media outlet Global Times published an editorial stating that Xinjiang's anti-extremism measures were actually a “humanitarian move” to prevent an ethnic cleansing disaster, and should be regarded as a successful model by the rest of the world:

新疆通过加强治理避免了世界其他地方上演的各种极端情况,应被视为化解高风险局势的难得正面范例。[…]从波黑到科索沃,再到利比亚、叙利亚,悲剧故事的类型既有区别又很相似。那些地区都死了很多人,输出了大量难民。西方对那些地区的动荡过程实施了大量干预,但曾经的或者正在付出的代价却如此沉重。难道西方真的愿意新疆也出现震动世界的人道主义灾难、对外输出几十万甚至上百万难民吗?

Xinjiang has strengthened its governance to prevent extremism from happening like in other parts of the world. It should be considered a good model for resolving high-risk conflict situations. […] From Bosnia and Herzegovina to Kosovo, and from Liberia to Syria, the tragedies are distinctive but also similar. Many people in these regions have died, many more became refugees. The West has had great influence in the unrests and have paid and are still paying the price. Does the West really want to see another humanitarian disaster that shocks the world and exports tens of thousands or even millions of refugees?

A day earlier, on Twitter, Global Times’ editor-in-chief Hu Xijin claimed that the one million Muslims detainees figure was pure speculation:

The one million figure is an estimation by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who say they have received many credible reports by international human rights organizations. Further reports have pointed to the scale of the camps as shown by satellite images, which hints at a capacity of up to a million detainees or more.

A lot of people rebuffed Xijin's claim and drew attention to the fact that China doesn't allow journalists to visit the camps and objectively report on what happens in them.

On the next day, Hu wrote three more tweets defending Xinjiang’s security measures:

Hu’s argument received no echo but a number of mockeries, particularly in respect to his claim about the 1,000 violent attacks and the mob incident. A commenter said:

believe me , if that really happened, your government will not wast any chance to show it in public and in your fake 新闻联播 [CCTV news program].

On October 15, on a talk show that he hosts, he said:

【新疆设立职业技能教育培训中心,取得好的效果】围绕新疆治理,中国人与西方的干涉势力完全不在一个对话频道上。我们要的是新疆的和平稳定,要的是那里各族人民的幸福安宁生活,这是最大的人权。而西方那些势力是要找中国的茬,扰乱新疆,牵制中国发展。

[Vocational training centres in Xinjiang has good effect.] Regarding the governance of Xinjiang, China and Western interfering forces are not on the same channel. What we want is Xinjiang’s stability and peace, and different ethnic groups could enjoy a happy life there. This is the most important human right. Western forces want to find fault with China and create chaos in Xinjiang so as to confine China’s development.

In contrast to comments on Twitter, which is blocked but accessible via VPN in China, Hu has attracted many positive responses on Weibo, where political speech is much more heavily controlled. The most popular comments under Hu’s Weibo post were:

有吃有喝不乱是对人权的最大尊重!

food, drink and no chaos is the utmost respect to human rights.

对于新疆来讲,确实稳定压倒一切。没有新疆的稳定,就没有全国的稳定,没有全国的稳定,中国就会出大问题,就会正中某些国家、某些人的下怀。

In Xinjiang, stability is most important. If Xinjiang is unstable, the whole country would be unstable. If the country is unstable, China will have big problem and we will fall into the same trap that some countries did.

Global Times’ official Weibo account has also promoted Hu’s view. It said:

今年以来,西方的一些舆论机构和政客不断对新疆为帮助受极端思想影响的人员而开展教育培训工作进行恶毒攻击,指责新疆“侵犯人权”。学员们在那些中心里学习国家通用语言、法律知识和工作技能,却被西方势力指责为“宗教迫害”。

This year, western opinion organizations and politicians keep attacking the vocational training centers in Xinjiang. These centers are to help those who had been affected by extremism but they accused Xinjiang for violating human rights. The trainees are learning common language [Putonghua], legal knowledge and vocational skills inside the center, but Western forces condemned the measure as “religion persecution”.

Again, there are many echoes under the thread:

作为一个新疆人表示如果没有暴恐新疆这些年经济早腾飞了,新疆财政大都拿来慰问了,出门身上啥也不敢装到处检查,快递限制app限制网络限制,都是那帮孙子害的!站着说话不腰疼的西方人,明里暗里支持那帮人的,都是坏蛋!

As someone from Xinjiang, I would like to say that if there weren't any acts of terrorism, the economy would be flying. Now, a large part of Xinjiang revenue has been allocated for the victims of attacks. We dare not bring anything out in the street for fear of inspection, door to door delivery, internet and mobile applications all have restriction thanks to the terrorists. The Westerners bare no pain. Those who support or sympathize with those [terrorists] are villains.

绝大多数情况,大多数情况下,西方越是对我们的某项政策或事物进行恶意攻击时,就越证明我们这政策的是对的正确的,反之亦然,他们越是吹捧的,我们就越要小心提高警惕了,因为他们见不得我们好,只会希望我们越糟越好。

In most cases, when the West starts to attack a particular policy or issue, it usually implies the policy is right, on the contrary, if they praise something, we have to be careful. They don’t hope for our best but for our worse.

Of course, as is always the case within the great Chinese firewall, it is impossible to appraise real public sentiment from the social media commentariat.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site