More than 100,000 minority Uighur Muslims are reportedly being indefinitely detained in overcrowded “re-education” camps on China’s western border.
The detention centers – reminiscent of Mao-era laogai forced labor camps – are said to be holding around 120,000 Muslims in Kahgar, a prefecture in China’s northwest Xinjiang province.
The estimated number of detainees was given by a Kashgar security chief on the condition of anonymity.
The re-education camps became inundated with detainees around China’s 19th Communist Party Congress last October. The inmates are deemed to have “extremist” or “politically incorrect” views, which can include excessive praying or accessing banned websites, reports Human Rights Watch.
China claims the institutions are merely schools for “extremism eradication” that teach Chinese language, and Chinese laws on Islam and political activity. China officially abolished its “Re-education Through Labor” camps in 2013, but charities have warned they have morphed into modern brainwashing institutions.
Xinjiang, where the majority of China’s 10 million Uighur Muslims live, has seen years of bloodshed, including ethnic uprisings, anti-government riots and terrorist attacks targeting civilians.