China is building vast new detention centers for Muslims in Xinjiang

China is building vast new detention centers for Muslims in Xinjiang

Anna Fifield, The Washington PostSep. 23, 2020Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 7:16 p.m.Comments6

The gate of what is believed to be a new detention camp in Kashgar, China, for Uighur, spanning some 60 acres with 13 five-story buildings that can accommodate more than 10,000 people.
1of6The gate of what is believed to be a new detention camp in Kashgar, China, for Uighur, spanning some 60 acres with 13 five-story buildings that can accommodate more than 10,000 people.Washington Post photo by Anna Fifield
The Chinese flag hoisted above the famous Idkah mosque in Kashgar stands taller than the crescents and minarets, a way to show which institution is pre-eminent.
A visitor to Kashgar's Old City might think life looks relatively normal. But a close observer will notice that none of the men in this Muslim center have beards and none of the women wear hijab.

KASHGAR, China – A huge Brutalist entrance gate, topped with the red national flag, stands before archetypal Chinese government buildings. There is no sign identifying the complex, only an inscription bearing an exhortation from Communist Party founding father Mao Zedong: “Stay true to our founding mission and aspirations.”

But the 45-foot-high walls and guard towers indicate that this massive compound – next to a vocational training school and a logistics center south of Kashgar – is not just another bureaucratic outpost in western China, where authorities have waged sweeping campaigns of repression against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

It is a new detention camp spanning some 60 acres, opened as recently as January. With 13 five-story residential buildings, it can accommodate more than 10,000 people.

The Kashgar site is among dozens of prisonlike detention centers that Chinese authorities have built across the Xinjiang region, according to the Xinjiang Data Project, an initiative of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), despite Beijing’s claims that it is winding down its internationally denounced effort to “reeducate” the Uighur population after deeming the campaign a success.

A recent visit to Xinjiang by The Washington Post and evidence compiled by ASPI, a Canberra-based think tank, suggest international pressure and outrage have done little to slow China’s crackdown, which appears to be entering an ominous new phase.

For the past year, the Chinese government has said that almost all the people in its “vocational training program” in Xinjiang, ostensibly aimed at “deradicalizing” the region’s mostly Muslim population, had “graduated” and been released into the community.

“This shows that the statements made 

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