Political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) were “created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity” of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of Beijing’s wider “war with faith,” U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Friday.
Delivering remarks on religious freedom at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, Brownback noted that authorities in the XUAR have detained more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the camp network since April 2017, often for common religious practices, including praying and attending services.
Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the XUAR, told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.
Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
On Friday, Brownback suggested that it is time to “call these camps what they are—they’re internment camps created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities.”
“Authorities force innocent people into these camps often based primarily on their religious beliefs and ethnic identity … They are then held for an indeterminate amount of time and subjected to physical and psychological torture, intense political indoctrination, and forced labor.”