Chinese Muslims sent to re-education camps reminiscent of the cultural revolution

The Associated Press reports Chinese Muslims in the western part of the nation are being sent to re-education camps where people are starved and tortured until they have the approved outlook on the Chinese government.

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps. This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a U.S. commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

Chinese officials have largely avoided comment on the camps, but some are quoted in state media as saying that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese.

You don’t need to convince me that radical Muslims are a threat to civilization, but it sounds as if China is going well beyond targeting the radical minority and reliving the cultural revolution, i.e. anyone who doesn’t put the state ahead of their own family has to endure a struggle session, one which probably involves beatings:

The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation…

Rian Thum, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said China’s re-education system echoes some of the worst human rights violations in history.

“The closest analogue is maybe the Cultural Revolution in that this will leave long-term, psychological effects,” Thum said. “This will create a multigenerational trauma from which many people will never recover.”

Omir Bekali describes what happened to him when he was arrested over a decade old warrant. After three months of harsh interrogation he was transferred to a camp for political re-education:

Before meals of vegetable soup and buns, the inmates would be ordered to chant: “Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!”…

In four-hour sessions, instructors lectured about the dangers of Islam and drilled internees with quizzes that they had to answer correctly or be sent to stand near a wall for hours on end.

“Do you obey Chinese law or Sharia?” instructors asked. “Do you understand why religion is dangerous?”

One by one, internees would stand up before 60 of their classmates to present self-criticisms of their religious history, Bekali said. The detainees would also have to criticize and be criticized by their peers. Those who parroted official lines particularly well or lashed into their fellow internees viciously were awarded points and could be transferred to more comfortable surroundings in other buildings, he said.

Again, I’m not a fan of Sharia law which has its own problem of compatibility with basic freedoms, but this kind of collectivist re-education is straight out of Orwell’s 1984. Chinese communism continues to demonstrate that it is fundamentally not compatible with human rights more than 50 years after the cultural revolution.

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