Part 1: Investigating the Growth of Detention Facilities in Xinjiang Using Nighttime LightingFebruary 26, 2021
This first report introduces our methodological approach and uses nighttime lighting data to investigate the rapid, coordinated growth of detention facilities in Xinjiang over the last decade. It captures the speed and scope with which China’s detention campaign escalated beginning in 2016, an inflection point after which growth in Xinjiang’s detention facilities would accelerate rapidly over the course of a multi-year campaign through early 2019.
After analyzing the nighttime lighting trends of all 380 detention facilities in our dataset, we can ultimately assess the extent to which major periods of construction occurred across the broader Xinjiang detention system. FigureFive below plots the number of detention facilities in our dataset experiencing a major period of growth in nighttime lighting for each month since January 2014. We include those facilities experiencing a major decline as well, for reference. In a given month on this figure, each bar represents the number of distinct detention facilities experiencing an uninterrupted period of growth (blue) or decline (red) in smoothed nighttime lighting.