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Re-education camp in Xinjiang? Let's find out the truth | Updated: 2021-02-05 10:56
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Workers make down-filled coats at a factory in Jiashi county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

In a BBC interview with a Uyghur woman named Zumrat Dawut on July 17, 2020, the latter claimed to have been detained in a "re-education camp". But the fact is she never studied in any vocational education and training center in Xinjiang.

This woman has become an actor and a tool for anti-China forces' attacks on and hyping of Xinjiang.

Actually, there are no so-called "re-education camps" in Xinjiang. The vocational and educational training centers set up in Xinjiang in accordance with laws are schools. They are no different from the Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP) of the UK, or the de-radicalization centers in France. They are all active steps to realize preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization goals so as to cut off terrorism and religious extremism at the source. They are in line with the principles and the spirit embodied in a number of international documents on counter-terrorism, such as the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Trainees at the centers all graduated in October last year after participating in education and training programs of standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills and deradicalization.

Ablajan Ablat, a former trainee at the vocational education and training center in Aksu prefecture, said that through studying at the center he improved his standard spoken and written Chinese, mastered the skill of automobile maintenance and recognized the harm of religious extremism.

Religious extremism uses people like him to cause conflicts between Muslims and other ethnic groups and stir up hatred, he said.

Noting that his time at the center was a turning point and a new beginning for him, Ablajan Ablat said that the government and the teachers had saved him.

Now he owns an automobile maintenance shop and earns over 10,000 yuan a month, and he works as a translator for businessmen purchasing local agricultural products during the autumn harvest, which earns him about 30,000 yuan a year.

A number of foreign journalists who have conducted interviews in the education and training centers have published stories that reflect the true role of the centers and express their understanding, approval and support for the education and training programs in Xinjiang.

"China respects ethnic minorities and their religious beliefs," says a report in Saudi Arabia's newspaper Al Riyadh titled Xinjiang: Gateway to China on the Belt and Road, which was published on May 15, 2019. "The Chinese government at all levels and its departments have formulated a series of policies and regulations to respect and accommodate the dietary habits, clothing, festivals, weddings and funerals of ethnic minorities. ... In Xinjiang, all ethnic groups have the right to maintain or change their own lifestyles or customs, which is China's consistent policy."

A report from Turkey's DHA says: "The centers provide human-based management and services for the trainees. There is no maltreatment or restrictions on personal freedom. The trainees are happy to study and live there. What I saw and felt during the visit was very different from the negative propaganda of the US and other Western countries, and I felt their double standards were simply rude and unreasonable."

The US magazine International Focus published Val Thompson's A Journey to the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, China in its May 2019 issue: "A visit to the Kashgar Vocation Skills Educational and Training Center, which I found well organized with young people, was mostly of the Uyghur ethnicity. The young people, men and women, were, or could be, victims of extremist teaching, and now were learning a vocational skill and being taught a better way of life. ... They were well fed, and they had good sleeping conditions. ... I interviewed several of them; they seemed very happy; and they were treated well by their supervisors. For those who want to believe these young people may have been coerced, I say you can't fake happiness; and happiness is exactly what I saw."

On July 5, 2019, The Straits Times of Singapore published an article titled Inside Those Uighur Re-education Camps written by Ravi Velloor, associate editor of the newspaper. The article gives a vivid account of the true situation in Xinjiang's education and training centers and explains how a number of trainees have changed. "From an administrative point of view, the measures have been effective without question," says the article. Velloor learned from his contact with the trainees that many of them "had undergone a measure of self-radicalization after downloading extremist videos from the internet on their smartphones". Velloor felt that the training centers "had the air of a boarding school". "In the housing blocks being built for the poorer sections, in the hospitals where people can access medical services, including moxibustion, in the thriving bazaars where the locals ply their trade, and in the cities of Xinjiang where people enjoy ethnic song and dance performances", he was impressed that the Chinese government was not suppressing local culture and that the Uygurs and many other minorities were never subject to the one-child policy.

In conclusion, practice has proved that vocational education and training in Xinjiang can effectively eradicate the conditions that enable terrorism and religious extremism to breed and spread. It can protect the rights to life, health and development of the various ethnic groups of the region. It ensures social stability in Xinjiang and regional security and stability. The practice conforms to the basic principles of international efforts in countering terrorism and extremism, and accords with the fundamental interests and needs of the peoples all around the world.

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