China’s network of detention centres in the northwest Xinjiang region is much bigger than previously thought and is being expanded, even as Beijing says it is winding down a “re-education” programme for ethnic Uighurs that has been condemned internationally, new research released by an Australian think-tank showed on Thursday.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said it had identified more than 380 “suspected detention facilities” in the region, where the United Nations says more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking residents have been held in recent years.
China has said the camps are vocational skills training centres and a necessary part of efforts to counter the threat of “extremism”.
The number of facilities is around 40 percent higher than previous estimates.
“The findings of this research contradict Chinese officials’ claims that all “trainees” from so-called vocational skills training centres had “graduated” by late 2019,” lead researcher Nathan Ruser wrote. “Instead, available evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities.”