New Evidence for China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in XinjiangMay 15, 2018
A number of separate reports place the onset of massive detentions among the Uyghur population . . . in late March 2017. This timing coincides neatly with the publication of “de-extremification regulations” (新疆维吾尔自治区去极端化条例) by the government of the XUAR. Directive No. 14 in Section 3 of this document states that “de-extremification must do transformation through education (教育转化) well, jointly implementing individual and centralized education”.
A potentially influential document in this development was a research paper published by Xinjiang’s Urumqi Party School. The paper recommends the creation of “centralized transformation through education training centers” in all prefectures and counties. It lists three types of re-education facilities: “centralized transformation through education training centers” (集中教育转化培训中心), “legal system schools” (法制学校), and “rehabilitation correction centers” (康复矫治中心). Government construction bids confirm this and indicate that these are sometimes part of large new compounds that also host criminal detention centers, police stations or even hospitals and supermarkets.
The start of [the] re-education initiative correlates closely with the release of detailed information in the form of government procurement and construction bids (采购项目 and 建设项目). Nearly all bids were announced from March 2017, just prior to the re-education drive.
Bid descriptions indicate both the construction of new as well as upgrades and enlargements of existing re-education facilities. Some pertain to adding sanitary facilities, warm water supplies and heating or catering facilities, indicating that existing buildings are being used to house more people for longer periods of time. Several planned facilities feature compound sizes exceeding 10,000sqm. One bid combines vocational training and re-education facilities totaling 82,000sqm.
Many bids mandate the installation of comprehensive security features that turn existing facilities into prison-like compounds: surrounding walls, security fences, pull wire mesh, barbwire, reinforced security doors and windows, surveillance systems, secure access systems, watchtowers, and guard rooms or facilities for armed police. One bid emphasized that its surveillance system must cover the entire facility, leaving “no dead angles” (无死角). Several facilities branded as vocational or other educational training facilities also carried bids calling for extensive security installations, with some mandating police stations on the same compound.
Overall, documentation assembled by the author lists 73 re-education facility related procurement bids valued at RMB 682 million in respect to their re-education components. Nearly all of these were for regions with significant Uyghur or other Muslim minority populations.
The scale of re-education facility construction can be reflected in local budget reports. For example, Akto County stated that in 2017 it spent RMB 383.4 million or 9.6 percent of its budget on security-related projects, including “transformation through education centers infrastructure construction and equipment purchase” (教育转化中心等基础设施建设和装备购置).