Information regarding China’s internment camps has begun leaking out of the country in recent months. From rape and torture to imprisonment for criticism, stories of the horrors of the communist nation’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities has made international headlines.
The latest report, from The Globe And Mail, shows that the Chinese government stages towns in its Xinjiang region whenever journalists or diplomats visit for an inspection. The Mail reported the story of Zumuret Dawut, whose elderly father was approached by “eight local officials” and told he would be paid to pray in the local mosque the next day. Dawut told the Mail the men said, “We will give you 20 renminbi for each time you pray,” and asked her father to pray five times the next day, for a total of 100 renminbi or $18.50.
As the Mail reported, Dawut’s 79-year-old father “had long since stopped attending the local mosque out of fear the authorities would see his religious observance as a sign of radicalization and place him in an indoctrination centre, as the government has done with hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the region.”
But her father was told that an inspection tour was happening the next day, so they wanted the visitors to see people praying.
The outlet reported that this is a carefully crafted government production with “intricately managed scenes filled with pedestrians, street vendors and drivers played by people — police officers, teachers, retirees — who have been screened by the authorities and assigned roles.”
The officials, according to Dawut, told her father how to respond to questions from the visitors, including telling them: “We are not prohibited from praying” and “We are not prohibited from entering the mosque.”
Another Uyghur woman said these visits seem “like a movie” because of the lengths to which the government stages the towns. This woman told the Mail that she watched her friend memorize 50 questions and responses so she could “perform as a civilian walking in the street” for an upcoming inspection. The friend was taught to say she did “not know the location” of any local political indoctrination camps. She was also taught so “say there are no camps and only one school where they provide vocational skills and training,” the Uyghur woman told the Mail.
The responses the friend was forced to memorize were not accurate.
China for years denied the existence of its concentration camps, but late last year admitted there were camps, but claimed they were educational facilities designed to train people to live better lives and reduce terrorism. An October 16, 2018 report from one of China’s state run news agencies claimed the camps were “vocational education and training program[s].”
Ever since, the nation has done what it could to counter the claim that these centers were prisons. But those who have spoken out about the camps tell a different story. Last month, Sayragul Sauytbay told Haaretz that prisoners were routinely tortured and sexually assaulted. She said inmates were crammed into small rooms and only given a single bucket to use as a bathroom. Further, she said they were given pills allegedly to combat disease, but said one nurse told her not to take the pills because they were dangerous. Rumors around the camp suggested the inmates were part of human medical experiments.