How large are the “re-education” (or internment) camps China is subjecting its Muslim citizens to in the northwestern part of the country? A new report published by Australia’s ABC News exposes the location of nearly 500 acres of land where “a massive program of subjugation in the region of Xinjiang” is taking place against Uighur Muslims. Based on data provided by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the ABC News report claims that the total space occupied by these detention camps has increased by over 170 acres in just the last three months.
Part of this information was obtained through satellite imagery, which ABC News made available in its report. The images confirm previous claims, made by a number of news and media outlets, that the Chinese government is establishing a vast network of detention centers heavily fortified by razor wire fences.
One of these centers is called the Atushi City Vocational Skills Educational Training Service Center, which was established in 2016 and is located “[a]cross the mountain range from the the traditional oasis town of Kashgar.” The images published by ABC News highlight an astonishing 420% increase in the total size of this detention camp since it first emerged in 2016. What started as a “one block [facility] with little to no fencing” has turned into nearly forty acres of prison space “barricaded by at least three levels of fencing and  surrounded by watchtowers.” ASPI’s analysis points to the existence of at least twenty eight other internment camps, not unlike the one in Kashgar, spread across the Xinjiang region, seventeen of which “[it] lists as highly likely to be camps,” and eleven of which are “likely to be camps,” according to ABC News.
These camps attempt to “rehabilitate” Muslims who exhibit any of the seventy-five symptoms the Chinese government has deemed “indicators of religious extremism.” ABC News notes that “even acts such as refusing to play volleyball, owning a tent and suddenly giving up drinking and smoking have been identified as signs of radicalisation.” It is not clear just how extensive the camp system in Xinjiang is. Evidence suggests that the Chinese government has set up detention centers across the region—from the easternmost part to the westernmost part—and the total number of camps is estimated to be “anywhere between 181 to upwards of 1,200.”
To access ABC News’ report, which includes interviews with Uighur Muslims living abroad, follow this link. ASPI’s report can be accessed here, and more data on the twenty eight camps can be found here.