New Evidence on the Re-education Camps in Xinjiang

Adrian Zenz

Around a year ago, troubling accounts began to emerge from China's north-western Muslim frontier region of Xinjiang about large swathes of the Uyghur and Kazakh minority populations disappearing into clandestine political re-education camps. The Chinese government denies that these camps exist, but new research shows substantial official evidence for the existence of a vast re-education network in the region, consisting of heavily secured facilities, some of them large enough to host thousands of detainees. We can assume that between several hundred thousand and just over one million Muslim adults are currently detained. It is therefore likely that the region's re-education network exceeds the size of the entire Chinese re-education through labour system that was abolished in 2013. Just as Xinjiang has become China's testing ground for cutting-edge surveillance technology, Beijing may use the experiences gathered from this re-education drive for its social re-engineering efforts across the nation.


Adrian Zenz is lecturer at the European School of Culture and Theology, Korntal, Germany. His research focus is on China’s ethnic policy and public recruitment in Tibetan regions and Xinjiang. He is author of “Tibetanness under Threat” and co-edited “Mapping Amdo: Dynamics of Change”.  

Is it really about “Religious Extremism”?

Rachel Harris

Over the past ten years, through my work on the Leverhulme Research Project Sounding Islam in China, I have observed the steady rise of religious piety in Xinjiang, and the accompanying state discourse of religious extremism and terrorism. Rather than targeting those vulnerable to radicalization, the “anti-extremism campaign” in Xinjiang has sought to eliminate all visible and audible expressions of Islamic faith. Coercive forms of disciplinary state power now condition the experience of everyday life for millions of Uyghurs. The mechanisms of control extend across the region and right into family homes, underpinned by a system of mass detention whose scope now goes far beyond the religious sphere to encompass anyone who has connections abroad, or has promoted Uyghur cultural identity, or simply fails to demonstrate adequate loyalty to the state.


Rachel Harris is Reader in the School of Arts at SOAS, University of London. She has published extensively on religious and expressive culture among the Uyghurs and cultural policy in Xinjiang. She is preparing an edited volume “Ethnographies of Islam in China”, and her monograph “Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam” is forthcoming with Indiana University Press.

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