The Australian study found that the camps had expanded despite claims that Uyghurs were being released.
China’s network of detention centers in northwest Xinjiang is much larger than previously thought and is expanding, despite Beijing saying it is completing an internationally convicted “re-education” program for ethnic Uyghurs, the Australian think tank revealed Thursday.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said it had identified more than 380 “suspected detention facilities” in the region in recent years, which, according to the United Nations, held more than a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim-Turkish-speaking residents .
China said the camps are professional skills training centers and a necessary part of efforts to counter the threat of “extremism”.
The number of facilities is around 40 percent above previous estimates.
“The results of this research contradict claims by Chinese officials that all” apprentices “from so-called vocational skills training centers will have” graduated “by the end of 2019,” wrote lead researcher Nathan Ruser. “Instead, the available evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities.”
Today ASPI launches the ‘Xinjiang Data Project’, which maps the detention system of Xinjiang with 380 locations of suspicious re-education camps, detention centers and prisons that have been built or expanded since 2017. See the interactive map ➡️ https://t.co/iykruAT4PP pic.twitter.com/xpNphYlhwI
– ASPI (@ASPI_org) September 24, 2020
The researchers used satellite imagery, testimony, media reports and official tender documents to divide the detention facilities into four levels, depending on security features such as high perimeter walls, watchtowers and internal fences.
It was found that at least 61 detention centers had new construction and expansion work carried out by July 2020.
Fourteen more facilities are still under construction, while about 70 have fences or perimeter walls removed, suggesting their uses have changed or they have closed, ASPI added. It was found that more than 90 percent of the sites were subordinate safety devices.
The data is part of the institute’s Xinjiang data project, which includes details not only on the network of detention facilities – creating 3D animated models – but also on the region’s cultural sites such as mosques.
Ruser noted that many of the expanded centers were higher security facilities, while others had been set up near industrial parks, suggesting that those charged may also have been sent to “walled factory buildings for forced labor”.
Politicians in the United States recently voted to ban imports from Xinjiang, citing the alleged use of systematic forced labor.
China is still building detention centers in Xinjiang – and they’re getting bigger. – New @ ASPI_org report https://t.co/ZVak5xEFjX
The evidence of China’s extensive system of oppression in Xinjiang is overwhelming. Beijing’s refusal does not deceive anyone. https://t.co/o1gJW7MO8p pic.twitter.com/EyaElsASi2
– Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) September 24, 2020
Beijing recently published a white paper in defense of its policies in the semi-autonomous region, saying that training programs, work programs and better education have all resulted in better lives.
Separately, the Global Times, a state tabloid, reported Thursday that two Australian scholars, Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske, had been banned from entering China.
Hamilton is a professor at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, while Alex Joske is an analyst at ASPI who specializes in the Chinese military and the international influence of the Communist Party.
Joske, who grew up in China, said in a statement that he has not applied for a Chinese visa in years because the risks are too high. He added that the ban “was the latest in a series of attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to punish those who shed light on its activities.”
The Global Times, citing unnamed sources for its story, did not go into the reason for the move.
Earlier this month, Australia canceled the visas of two Chinese academics in connection with an ongoing investigation into foreign interference.