BBC Report Shows Disturbing Nature of China’s ‘Thought Transformation’ Camps

Adorned
with bright smiles and clothed in colorful garb, Uighur Muslims held in
political reeducation camps flash across the screen as they sing and dance
triumphantly to the words that President Xi Jinping wrote just for them.

These sights,
captured by the BBC, are what the Chinese government
wants journalists and the outside world to see.

No amount
of colorful displays of political allegiance, however, can hide the reality: Not
one of these people is in a political reeducation facility of their own accord.

One
interchange in the video is especially telling. The BBC reporter asks one of
the men whether it was his choice to be in a political reeducation facility.
“Yes,” he replies. “A policeman at my village told me to get enrolled in the
school and transform my thoughts.”

The reporter also speaks to Chinese officials. Nearly every one alludes to the notion that the roughly 800,000 to 1 million people interned in Xinjiang are affected by religious extremism and in need of reeducation so that their thinking aligns with the Chinese Communist Party.  

The
conflation of religion with extremism took shape in new regulations instituted
in February of last year. These regulations continue the government’s practice
of “Sinicizing”—or secularizing—religion, so that it conforms to the core
tenets of the Communist Party.

In
addition to “thought transformation,” people in these facilities must undergo
Mandarin lessons, self-criticism sessions, forced labor, and even torture. Occasionally,
there are deaths.

So-called “vocational
training” is a core component of most inmates’ curriculum. One Chinese official
in the report explained that inmates spend between two to four months learning
how to do simple tasks like making a bed.

The
reality—which was not shown in the report—is that these people are subject to forced labor,
producing goods that likely make their way into U.S. supply chains.

One case reported by the Associated Press suggests that Badger Sportwear, a North Carolina-based company, had its supply chain tainted with goods produced by a Chinese business, Hetian Taida Apparel, which shares warehouses with a political reeducation facility in Xinjiang. If the allegations are true, Badger Sportwear may face repercussions for importing goods produced with forced labor into the U.S.

The BBC
reporter notes up front that the facilities they were permitted to visit were
cleaned up for journalists’ prying eyes. Satellite images showed that prior to
the BBC’s visit, watchtowers and barbed wire were removed from the premises and
barren outdoor spaces were transformed into sports facilities.

Documentaries
like this one are incredibly important to building a human rights case against
the Chinese government. They provide additional evidence, especially of what
the Chinese government wants the outside world to see. Such evidence augments
the troves of satellite imagery collected over the last several years and eye-witness
testimony of former prisoners, who can testify that these facilities are far
from benign.

The
existence of these facilities and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of
people arbitrarily detained within their walls, is now irrefutable. Which raises
the question: How will the world respond?

Earlier
this year, The Heritage Foundation, released a cutting-edge report on the crisis in Xinjiang. The
report called on the U.S. government and the international community to move
beyond mere condemnation to craft a swift response to the atrocities
transpiring in western China.

The report
notes that this is not merely an isolated human rights crisis, but a crisis with national security
implications
. China’s
rapid internment of potentially millions of Uighur Muslims is made possible by
a draconian use of surveillance technology—the kind that China is already
exporting across the globe to countries in Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

The U.S.
and the international community should unite around several key solutions,
including levying sanctions against those responsible for China’s police state
in Xinjiang and Tibet, and preventing the export of Chinese surveillance
technology to our countries.

The time
to act was yesterday, but in lieu of inaction, the U.S. should seek to build a coalition of the willing to address these blatant human
rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government.

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Source material can be found at this site.

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