China's reeducation camps are big enough to hold a million Uighurs at one time (Update: Kodak Kowtows)

China's reeducation camps are big enough to hold a million Uighurs at one time (Update: Kodak Kowtows)
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Last year Buzzfeed reported that the CCP had build 268 new reeducation camps in Xinjiang, with some large enough to hold 10,000 people. Today the site published a revised estimate based on an examination of 347 camps in the region. Comparing the total floor space in the camps to the standards for individual space in Chinese prisons, they were able to come up with a surprisingly large number for how many people the camps could potentially hold:


Earlier estimates, including one extrapolated from three-year-old leaked government data, have suggested that a total of more than a million Muslims have been detained or imprisoned over the last five years, with an unknown number released during that time. Our unprecedented analysis goes further, showing that China has built space to lock up at least 1.01 million people in Xinjiang at the same time.

That’s enough space to detain or incarcerate more than 1 in every 25 residents of Xinjiang simultaneously…

The findings reflect what researchers, UN officials, and Western governments have long held: that China’s detention campaign in Xinjiang is the largest targeting a religious minority since the Nazi camps during World War II.

The authors point out that these estimates are likely to be underestimates because reports from those who have been inside the camps routinely say people are often packed together so tightly together that they could not all sleep at the same time because there wasn’t enough floor space.

Last year, a BuzzFeed News investigation of an internment camp in the mountain town of Mongolküre found cells that by Chinese prison standards should only hold up to four people actually held as many as 10. Some remembered being forced to sleep in shifts because of a lack of beds, or even to sleep side by side on single cots. Whether overcrowding continues to occur is less clear, because most of the former detainees who have been able to escape China and describe their experiences were locked up and released early on in the anti-Muslim crackdown.


The remainder of the story is about a man named Eysa Imin who grew up in the city of Korla. Imin was detained in 2015 as the crackdown in Uighurs began. He was released 43 days later with a document that said he’d been arrested for national security reasons but that all charges against him had been dropped. He later moved to Turkey with his wife. When he returned to Korla to visit his family in 2017 he found the area had changed dramatically:

Arriving back in town, he was stunned to see dozens of new checkpoints and mobile police units dotting the streets. He contacted a police officer he knew, who informed him his name was on a government blacklist because he had lived in Turkey. He tried to lie low at his in-laws’ home.

But almost overnight, it had become impossible to avoid the authorities. “I realized that whether you’re in a bus or a car, when you pass through checkpoints, they only ask Uyghurs to get out of the vehicles so they can check their IDs and search them,” he said. “Han Chinese people stayed in their cars.”

“I couldn’t even go out to buy a bottle of milk without needing my ID to scan everywhere,” he added. “It was a big change.”

Imin was detained a second time. After confinement in an overcrowded cell, he was released after 30 days when he agreed to spy on other ethnic minorities living in Turkey. He never and is now living in Germany. He describes being haunted by thoughts about what has happened to the rest of his family. He has no idea where his five brothers and sisters are but assumes they have all been forced into camps. Given that he can’t return home without risking a third imprisonment himself, he’s not sure if he’ll ever see his family again.


China denies all of this of course. They have spent millions pushing out propaganda on western social media sites, which Chinese people can’t access, claiming none of this is happening. And, even more incredibly, some people on this side of the great firewall of China who know what is happening (Amnesty called it a dystopian hellscape) think we should turn a blind eye for the sake of peace in our time.

Update: Right on cue, the NY Times has a story up about another major company complying with Chinese complaints to wipe out criticism of their behavior in Xinjiang. This one involves Kodak.

The American company Eastman Kodak has deleted an Instagram post featuring images of Xinjiang, a western Chinese region where the government is accused of grave human rights violations, after an online backlash from Beijing’s supporters.

The post was promoting the work of the French photographer Patrick Wack, who made several trips to Xinjiang in recent years and has collected his images into a book. The project received a lift last week when Kodak shared 10 of his images — all shot on Kodak film — with its 839,000 Instagram followers.

In the Kodak post and on his own Instagram account, Mr. Wack described his images as a visual narrative of Xinjiang’s “abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia” over the past five years. That did not sit well with Chinese social media users…


Instead of telling Chinese critics to pound sand, Kodak Kowtowed and put out this craven apology.

Content from the photographer Patrick Wack was recently posted on this Instagram page. The content of the post was provided by the photographer and was not authored by Kodak. Kodak’s Instagram page is intended to enable creativity by providing a platform for promoting the medium of film. It is not intended to be a platform for political commentary. The views expressed by Mr. Wack do not represent those of Kodak and are not endorsed by Kodak. We apologize for any misunderstanding or offense the post may have caused.

According to the Global Times which is state media, Kodak also issued a statement on their Chinese social media account:

“For a long time, Kodak has maintained a good relationship with the Chinese government and has been in close cooperation with various government departments. We will continue to respect the Chinese government and the Chinese law,” said another statement issued by Kodak on its Chinese WeChat account at 8 pm.

The Global Times piece ends with a not-so-subtle threat:

Greater China is a very important part of Kodak’s seven regions around the world. It has two factories in China, located in Shanghai and Xiamen in East China’s Fujian, and more than 70 percent of the products made in those factories are exported.


It would sure be a shame is something happened to your factories, Kodak. Keep your mouth shut about the cultural genocide in Xinjiang or else.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on September 22, 2023