Terror & tourism: Xinjiang eases its grip, but fear remainsOctober 10, 2021
The most heavily criticized aspect of Xinjiang’s crackdown has been its so-called “training centers”, which leaked documents show are actually extrajudicial indoctrination camps.
After global outcry, Chinese officials declared the camps shuttered in 2019. Many indeed appear to be closed.
On the state-led tour in April, they took us to what they said was once a “training center”, now a regular vocational school in Peyzawat County. A mere fence marks the campus boundaries — a stark contrast from the barbed wire, high watchtowers and police at the entrance we saw three years ago. On our own, we see at least three other sites which once appeared to be camps and are now apartments or office complexes.
But in their place, permanent detention facilities have been built, in an apparent move from makeshift camps to a long-lasting system of mass incarceration. We encountered one massive facility driving along a country road, its walls rising from the fields, men visible in high guard towers. At a second, we were blocked by two men wearing epidemic-prevention gear. A third ranks among the largest detention facilities on earth. Many are tucked away behind forests or dunes deep in the countryside, far from tourists and city centers.
Officials dodge questions about how many Uyghurs were detained, though statistics showed an extraordinary spike in arrests before the government stopped releasing them in 2019.