With one million minority Uyghur Muslims detained for re-education, what becomes of their children? They are locked in “schools” of Han Chinese propaganda.
The children of the detained Uyghur parents are kept in so-called Loving Heart kindergartens and schools in Xinjiang. They undergo full-time supervision and receive their education in Chinese only. Usually, the iron gates of these Loving Heart facilities are firmly locked. The walls are surrounded by barbed wire, and access is strictly controlled. There is little chance for these children to go outside. The children only get to see their parents once a month during a monthly video call. According to a teacher of one kindergarten, the children always cry after talking with their parents on video.
“Loving Heart” is a euphemistic name given by the Chinese authorities to conceal the nature of the facilities for outsiders. Such names are common in Xinjiang.
As more than one million Uyghurs are locked up in Xinjiang’s “transformation through education camps,” more and more children are losing parental care. There is even a special name for families with both mother and father in custody: “double-detained families.”
Previously, Bitter Winter reported about a shelter house located in the new town area of Qapqal county, in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. A “shelter house” is another euphemistic name given by Chinese authorities to facilities housing and indoctrinating children whose parents have been arrested.
This shelter house began operations in August 2018. Unlike ordinary schools, when entering this facility, visitors must register their ID information in a special security room, and personal belongings must pass through a security check.
Heavily-guarded lookout posts, barbed wire on the walls, densely placed surveillance cameras, helmets, and other riot control gear in the first room inside the dormitory building—these seem to tell people that this is not an ordinary school. A map of China is hung in the dorm, and the walls are covered with propaganda slogans, such as “I’m Chinese; I love my country” and “Always follow the Party.” Such displays seem familiar. They are reminiscent of the installations inside transformation through education camps.
The government even allocates a military instructor to provide military training to these young children.
Although there is a full range of facilities in the shelter house, this does not seem to make up for the children’s pain of losing their parents.
According to a teacher at the “shelter house,” as soon as evening comes, the children cry about wanting to go home to see their mom and dad. This is quite a headache for these teachers, who have been forcibly deployed by the government.
A teacher said, “Many teachers have been exhausted. There is no solution. Regardless of whether you are a Han Chinese or an Uyghur, as long as you say something wrong, you will be sent to ‘study’ for an indefinite period of time, leaving your home unattended, and your child sent to this shelter house for education. The policy for this year is to maintain stability instead of working.”
Emotional distress is not an isolated phenomenon. A teacher who previously worked at a “welfare home” (which is similar in nature to a shelter house) in Bole city told Bitter Winter that more than 200 Uyghur children who are housed at that facility had very unstable moods. Some of them even tried to ingest laundry detergent or swallow fish bones to harm themselves. And some asked, “Is this [welfare home] a jail?”
A prison officer in Xinjiang said, “When dealing with the education of the children of ethnic minorities, the government has organized a rigid and isolated education for them. With public security police officers as their teachers, the young Uyghurs are forced to study a uniform Chinese curriculum arranged by the government — they must speak Chinese, eat pork, wear Han clothes, and live according to the Han people’s habits and tradition. They are restricted to this environment, with no chance to contact the outside world. Indoctrinated with such a heavy-handed and mandatory education, these children of ethnic minorities become unconsciously obedient to the Chinese Communist Party government.”
In 2017, similar Loving Heart schools and transformation through education camps have appeared in large numbers in Xinjiang. According to sources, in Lop county alone, 11 Loving Heart nurseries (for children aged 1 to 3 years) and nine kindergartens (3 to 6 years) have been built. Seven Loving Heart full-time nursery classes have been set up in junior and senior middle schools. Among them, Xinhua Kindergarten’s Loving Heart Full-Time Nursery Class teaches 150 toddlers aged 1 to 3 years old. Yudu Loving Heart Kindergarten teaches over 500 children aged 3 to 6 years old. Lop County No. 3 Elementary School teaches more than 900 children (aged 7 to 16) of “double-detained families.” In Lop county alone, as many as 2,000 children are being held in custody.
As the interview was nearing the end, numerous Uyghur children were being sent to the shelter house in Qapqal county. Among them, the oldest is 17 or 18 years old, and the youngest is only three years old. While waiting to register, the children looked into the distance with complex expressions on their faces. Perhaps this is the last free time they will have before being placed in state indoctrination.
Reported by Chang Xin