Human language

Rehabilitation is at the heart of life in Xinjiang beyond Chinese camps, according to think tank ASPI

Chinese authorities are engaged in an effort to fundamentally reshape the way residents of the Xinjiang region “act and speak,” according to a new study from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

The think tank, which is primarily funded by the Australian government, presented 170 offices involved in implementing Chinese Communist Party policies in Xinjiang, a remote region in northwest China, ssince 2014.

“In the past seven years in Xinjiang, the party-state has returned to mass political campaigns with the aim of manufacturing loyalty, conformity and stability through a profound transformation of society,” said Vicky Xu, co-author. of the report.

“Rehabilitation work does not only take place in ‘vocational education and training centers’, but is also at the heart of everyday life.

Government positions are dominated by Han Chinese in Xinjiang, according to ASPI.(Reuters: Thomas Pierre )

Human rights groups accuse China of genocide and crimes against humanity for its policies in Xinjiang, including the detention of a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in re-education camps labeled as vocational training centers by the authorities.

ASPI has relied on thousands of Chinese-language sources, including leaked police records and state budgets, to provide a picture of the people and systems governing Xinjiang.

James Leibold, a professor at La Trobe University and another co-author of the research, said that despite the numerous media reports on Xinjiang, little attention had been paid to “pulling the curtain, and watching who and how. , with regard to what we call “the architecture of repression”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds at event
The ASPI claims that Xi Jinping is adopting the tactics used by the founding father of Communist China, Mao Zedong.(AP: Andy Wong)

“Xinjiang is very much a part of our lives today because the repression that is happening in the region, mainly through the products we all consume, really has implications around the world.”

ASPI mapped more than 440 senior officials who had served as county party secretaries and found that most of them were from the country’s majority Han ethnicity.

President Xi Jinping personally ordered the reintroduction of a Mao-era policy of neighborhood informants in Xinjiang, and local authorities popularized public denunciations comparable to the so-called “struggle sessions” that Mr. Xi personally endured as a child, ASPI said.

“Xi Jinping Really Takes A Page From Mao’s Playbook [in Xinjiang] … Leaders like Xi or Mao can bypass the messy or complicated nature of the vast party-state system to achieve goals, ”said Dr. Leibold.

Woman wearing headscarf holds sign reading
Many Uyghurs outside of China accuse the country of genocide.(Reuters: Dilara Senkaya)

In late 2019, China said the detainees had “graduated” from re-education camps, and officials in Xinjiang have since been accused, including by ASPI, of implementing forced labor programs.

“Although some camps may have been put on the back burner and some of the overt forms of oppression are not as strong as in the past, the program to manufacture stability in Uyghur continues to this day and there are casualties. human, ”said Dr Leibold. .

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has been contacted for comment.

Chinese authorities have previously dismissed ASPI as “publishing false news that is critical of China” and “slanderous.”

“The facts have amply demonstrated that the ASPI fabricates and spreads lies, rumors and disinformation on issues related to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in response to a separate report of the ASPI in 2020.

“It aims to stigmatize and demonize China and damage China’s image and interests.

Call on China to “open its doors” in Xinjiang

The few journalists able to access Xinjiang in 2021 have reported an abandonment of the harsh security crackdown on Uyghurs, as the government seeks to boost domestic tourism in the region.

“After more than seven years of intense propaganda work, Uyghurs and other indigenous groups are now assigned fictitious Han relatives,” Ms. Xu said, referring to a “stay-at-home” policy whereby officials are assigned to stay with people.

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China’s propaganda campaign in Xinjiang is nothing new, but the effort appears to be outdated (ABC News: GFX / Jarrod Fankhauser)

“[Uyghurs are] learn to dress and maintain their home; their courtyards are “modernized” and “embellished” while their old tombs and mosques are destroyed. “

In June, more than 40 countries, including Australia, called on China to allow UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet access to Xinjiang to investigate allegations of mass incarceration and death. other human rights violations.

“I regret that I am unable to report progress in my efforts to gain meaningful access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council last month.

“In the meantime, my office is finalizing its assessment of the information available on allegations of serious human rights violations in this region, with a view to making them public.”

Dr Leibold said the only way to suppress the treatment of Uyghurs as a “major irritant” between the West and China was to “get China to open its doors.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a billboard with slogans
Beijing has overseen a “root-and-branch” transformation of Xinjiang, according to ASPI.(AP: Ng Han Guan)

China says Xinjiang is open to observers, but press and diplomatic visits to the region are tightly controlled.

“It is important to realize that Xinjiang’s repressive policies are designed and implemented by people – real people who went to Harvard or want a promotion,” Ms. Xu said.

“When you put a face to the act, it makes it so much easier to understand these events.

“Those who played a leading role in these massive human rights violations should be held accountable. “

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