Reports from China say officials in part of the Xinjiang area have been ordered to send almost half of its population to re-education camps.
Most residents living in the area are Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority.
Officials from villages in Hotan, in southern Xinjiang, told Radio Free Asia, or RFA, that the orders came from higher-level officials.
Xinjiang Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo was appointed to lead the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in August 2016. He has since announced several policies targeting the religious freedom of Uyghurs.
The order to send residents to re-education camps appears to be Chen’s latest measure aimed at assimilating ethnic Uyghurs.
An officer from Aqsaray’s No. 2 village in Hotan told RFA that his police force was told to detain 40 percent of the local population. He was informed of the target number during an “online conference” in June.
He said that officers are to “target people who are religious...for example, those who grow beards despite being young.” The officer spoke on the condition that he not be identified in the report.
He added that 82 people from the village have been placed in re-education camps since the order was announced. Sixty-one of them were later imprisoned. Based on the orders, however, those numbers are not nearly high enough.
The officer said No. 2 Village is home to 2,060 people. That means the officer's department had so far sent less than four percent of the population to re-education camps.
The police officer told RFA that, “...compared to other districts in the township, we have the best rate in achieving our target.”
The department had planned to send an additional 85 people for re-education by the end of September, he said.
An officer in the Shaptul township police station in Kashgar told RFA that he had not been given a target percentage of people to detain for re-education camps. However, he was informed at an online meeting in June that 80 percent of those arrested were to be “severely punished,” including those with “extreme views.”
The officer, who asked to remain unnamed, said 46 people had been detained in Shaptul since the order was given. Thirty-three of them were imprisoned. The officer said that the remaining 13 people had been placed in re-education camps. They may be sent to jail at a later date.
“If we find any evidence against them during re-education, they will be transferred to prison,” he said.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party blames some Uyghurs for violent attacks in China in recent years. Critics, however, say the government has exaggerated the threat. They also say that repressive policies are responsible for violence that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Investigations by RFA have found there is a large number of re-education camps throughout Xinjiang. Sources told RFA there are almost no majority ethnic Han Chinese held in the Xinjiang camps.
RFA and the Voice of America are each part of the U.S. government-supported Broadcasting Board of Governors..
Radio Free Asia reported on this story. It was adapted for VOA Learning English. The editor was George Grow.
Words in This Story
assimilate - v. to cause (a person or group) to become part of a different society, country, etc.
online - adj. connected to a computer, a computer network, or the Internet
beard - n. the hair that grows on a man's cheeks and chin
achieve - v. to reach a goal
view - n. an opinion or way of thinking about something
exaggerate - v. to think of or describe something as larger or greater than it really is