China legalises its secret mass internment camps for Uighur Muslim minority

Blanche Robertson
October 11, 2018

Muslims pray at a mosque during Ramadan in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, July 6, 2015.

The revisions to the legal basis say government agencies at the county level and above "may establish occupational skills education and training centres, education transformation organisations and management departments to transform people influenced by extremism through education".

A United Nations human rights committee recently said it believed China could be detaining more than 1 million Uighurs in secret camps, a claim China has repeatedly denied. On Tuesday, a newly revised edition was released with passages referring for the first time to "vocational training centers", casting them as part of the government's efforts to counter extremism.

Chinese officials have denied the existence of arbitrary detention and enforced political re-education, instead saying that some citizens were sent to vocational centres for minor criminal misdemeanours.

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In 2017, China banned activity deemed "extremist" was banned, including wearing a headscarf, having "abnormal" beards, refusing to follow state media, or preventing children from receiving state education. "It's a new form of re-education that's unprecedented and doesn't really have a legal basis, and I see them scrambling to try to create a legal basis for this policy".

Members of Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities who live overseas say they have not been able to contact relatives in China, while authorities are placing children separated from their detained or exiled parents into dozens of state-run orphanages across Xinjiang.

Reports of mass detentions and strict surveillance of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China have sparked a growing global outcry, and prompted the United States to consider sanctions.

During a meeting on Monday, local Communist leaders said they would also require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism and speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public, according to a notice posted on the official Wechat account of the Urumqi procuratorate.

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