China formalized a legal order to establish and maintain “vocational training” camps to “promote the core values of socialism” in its western Xinjiang province Tuesday.
The law, entitled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region De-extremation Regulations, requires “Religious organizations [to] make interpretations of the religious doctrines in accordance with the requirements of the times,” and over the course of its 52 articles reiterates that all institutions and individuals are required to “integrate” into Chinese culture.
The order legalizes “vocational skills education and training center[s]” intended to “combine legal education with helping education activities, ideological education, psychological counseling, behavior correction and learning of national language.”
The Uyghurs are a pan-national ethnic group of Turkic speaking, majority-Muslim people with large populations in regions of the Middle East, Russia, and China. China has dictated that overly long beards and publicly veiled faces — two hallmarks of many Islamic practices — should be discouraged in the region and has expressly prohibited Uyghurs from refusing to watch state propaganda on television, according to the BBC. (RELATED: Chinese Game Show Deepens Cult of Personality Surrounding Leader)
Hu Lianhe, a spokesman for an arm of Chinas Communist Party, told the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which made human rights concerns in Xinjiang a priority in August, that “there is no arbitrary detention, or lack of freedom of religion and belief.” Hu told the U.N. at a summit in Geneva on Aug. 13 that “re-education centers” do not exist, instead calling the camps “vocational educational and employment training centers,” according to The New York Times.
Hu also promised the committee that “there is no arbitrary detention, or lack of freedom of religion and belief” in China in relation to the Muslim, Uyghur population, but human rights groups in Asia disagree. The group Chinese Human Rights Defenders wrote on Twitter that the body of evidence of arbitrary detention is “overwhelming.”
In China, not being sufficiently or enthusiastically culturally Chinese can land a person in a camp where revolutionary singing and socialist ideological chants are required.
“Its completely unlawful — the authorities provide no legal documentation to the families and there are no time limits (on the length of detention),” Maya Wang, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN. Praying at a mosque or traveling abroad — a custom typical of Muslims who observe the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca — could single a person out, activists told CNN.
Public security cameras are “ubiquitous,” all residents of the Xinjiang region aged 12-65 are subjected to mandatory DNA collection, and all cars are GPS monitored, according to CNN.
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