A new “political reeducation” system answers the protests against the detention of popular religious figures
by Dilnur Sultanov
In the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, the last few weeks have seen mass arrests of Kazakh and Uyghur Muslims, in preparation for the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which will open on October 16.
A new system of “political reeducation” is being implemented. Inmates of transformation through education camps, some of whom had been released in past years, are now detained for 15 days, then released, then after 15 days detained again, and so on.
Some local Kazakhs told Bitter Winter that originally they found the system better than the previous one, when once arrested they could expect to disappear into the camp archipelago for several years if not forever. However, they soon discovered that the new “political reeducation” system completely disrupts their lives. Farmers cannot normally attend to their fields. Small businesses go bankrupt. Loans are not paid. Periodical separations between husbands and wives lead to tensions and a soaring divorce rate. This situation is now made worse by the COVID-19 lockdowns, which impoverish even the families of those who are not “reeducated.”
Local Muslims have reported to Bitter Winter that for those who have some money, there is a way to escape “political reeducation” by bribing the police. However, when money ends and the officers can no longer be bribed, “reeducation” becomes unavoidable.
Besides being a preparation for the 20th Congress, during which all the country is expected to be quiet, the new system is an answer to widespread protests for the detention of popular religious figures. Several well-known ethnic Kazakh mosque imams and their co-workers were arrested in 2018 and sentenced in 2021 to heavy jail penalties. They include Imam Raguzbay Yizbashar from Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County, Imam Lawuerzbai Yizbasar, Mulatibek Umar, who was the assistant to the imam of the mosque in Almal village, in Gongliu county, and others. These popular Muslim leaders were sentenced to jail terms from 18 to 23 years, despite the fact that they were all members of the official China Islamic Association.