Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in “re-education” camps throughout the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Estimates suggest that some 1.1 million people are currently being held in the network—equating to 10 to 11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the region.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, official media are now claiming that the camps are an effective tool to protect the country from “terrorism” and provide “vocational training” for Uyghurs.
The mass detentions have drawn significant attention from the international community, and particularly from the U.S., where lawmakers have called for access to the camps and proposed sanctions against officials and entities in China deemed responsible for abusing the rights of inmates.
In the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in northern Xinjiang, bordering Kazakhstan, nine Kazakh women from Yining county were recently sent back to a “re-education” camp after they refused to sign a labor contract with a monthly salary of 600 yuan, around 40 percent of a typical wage for a manual worker, of which they would have received only around 300 yuan, Kazakh Muslims with ties to the region told RFA.
The women were sent to work in the Yining County Textile Industrial Park after being released from an internment camp, and expected to work 12 hour shifts and undergo an hour’s “political education” every day for the money, sources said.
When they refused to go along with the terms of the contract, they were sent back to the camp, they said.
Friends and relatives later wrote to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) about the case.
One source said the majority of the textile park’s 2,000 employees are former camp inmates who work 12 hours a day, with one hour’s “political study” after finishing their shifts at 7.00 p.m.