In the Sinister Disneyland of Xinjiang: China's Ongoing Oppression of the UighursMay 27, 2021
A 27-minute drive south of Kashgar’s center, a uniformed guard patrols on a walkway on top of a wall roughly eight meters (25 feet) high. Google Earth shows that there are around two dozen structures behind it. Through a telephoto lens, we can see that the guard has a rifle slung over his shoulder. He approaches a watchtower that juts up from the wall.
Is it a high-security prison of the kind to be found everywhere in the world? Or is it one of the region’s infamous camps? Chinese authorities leave our inquiries about the facility unanswered. ASPI analyst Nathan Ruser says that it is, in fact, a camp – inaugurated in 2020, at a time when China was claiming that it had already released all interned Uighurs.
The wall is blindingly white and the parallel, razor-wire fences glitter in the sunlight. It certainly looks as though the complex hasn’t been here for long. And from the road, it is possible to read slogans affixed on one of the roofs in large, red characters, including “qu ji duan hua” – which means “deradicalization.”
We also find another facility listed in the ASPI database – a similar ensemble of buildings set up parallel to each other. As we slowly drive by the entry gate, we can see two watchtowers in the back of the compound. But there is no razor wire on the wall circling the compound and the gate is only secured with a roll shutter. According to the signs, the facility is now a party school.
These are just two cursory observations, but they do not contradict the conclusions reached in the ASPI study – namely that fences and watchtowers have been removed from some of the complexes as they have been repurposed, with security at others having been intensified.
One possible interpretation: Those who China has deemed incorrigible may have since been sentenced and transferred to regular prisons. Many of those who officials believe had assimilated to a sufficient degree could very well have been released – or put into the Labor Transfer Scheme that has distributed Uighurs among factories across the country. The system of surveillance has since been perfected and the populace brought into line.