The authorities have implemented strict measures to disguise a camp as a vocational training center.
In Xinjiang’s Akto county, which lies in the Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture, there is a building complex in the Light Industrial Park area. While the authorities claim that it is a vocational training center, it is actually a “transformation through education” camp for Muslims. It has been in operation for over a year now.
The complex covers an area of more than 6,000 square meters. Armed police personnel guard its gates round the clock. The facility’s border walls are fenced with barbed wire up to four meters high. The detainees are held at two gray buildings while some of the troops take residence in a red watchtower. These troops participate in training as well. However, their real task is to prevent detainees from escaping and revolting and so always carry guns on themselves.
As per sources, about 5,000 Chinese citizens are detained at the building. Most of these are Muslims of various ethnicities such as Uyghurs, Kyrgyzes, and Tajiks.
The detainees are taken in for offences such as believing in God, forwarding religious content on messaging apps, expressing discontent with the CCP and so on. While at the camps, they are forced to study Communist Party policies and Mandarin. They are also forced to praise socialism and the Communist Party.
The living conditions inside this camp are dire. Smallest dormitories that measure up to five to six square meters have three bunk beds crammed inside. Detainees are not allowed to stand by the windows and if they do, they are quickly told to move. This is monitored via cameras installed in the dormitories and the hallways. Personnel of several stripes such as security guards, auxiliary police officers, and public security personnel guard the hallways at all times. They always carry an electric baton and a handheld intercom on them.
Further, to prevent any information being leaked, the staff too is prohibited from using cellphones inside the buildings.
Meanwhile, there is another camp nearby, which is much larger than this one. It reportedly covers an area of 20,000 square meters and currently holds nearly 7,000 Chinese.
A government insider also revealed that an even bigger camp is being built in the region. It is estimated to cost between three to four hundred million RMB and will house more than 10,000 people.
Reported by Li Zaili
Li Zaili (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), born in Xinjiang in 1982, went to the United States to study at the age of 16. After graduating from university, Li returned to Xinjiang and worked in journalism. In 2014, Xinjiang authorities started detaining large numbers of Muslims in “transformation through education camps.” Learning of that, he left his original position and began independently collecting and organizing information related to “transformation through education camps,” and submitted articles for publication in overseas media outlets. After Bitter Winter was founded in May 2018, Li Zaili became a special correspondent of Bitter Winter covering Xinjiang, Xizang and some other regions in China.