Rukiya Maimaiti, a local propaganda officer, warned her colleagues a few years ago about the threat of the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority in western China. The purpose of the Chinese government? Xinjiang province of “extremist ideas” purify and that for the well-being of “own people”. The Chinese government introduced re-education camps for Muslims that they described as ‘training centres’.
“It is your job to protect your family,” said the communist Maimaiti. She wrote this in an online article in which she recommends re-education camps for Muslims: “A special kind of education for a special time.” Gradually it becomes clear why and how the so-called training centres in China were founded. Obscure government sites Messages such as Rukiya Maimaiti’s are still circulating on – often somewhat obscure – government sites. The campaign talks up the detention of Muslims in “re-education camps” and gives them a legal basis by claiming that they are a good preparation for the labour market. In reality, Muslims are brutally interrogated, they have to sing Communist songs and they undergo a kind of military education.
Involvement of Xi Jinping
The so-called re-education camps raise a lot of questions and resistance worldwide. But the Chinese government in Beijing still denies the existence of the camps and describes them as training centres that offer job training, among other things. There would be no question of compulsory imprisonment. Also, Chinese president Xi Jinping would not know about the camps, let alone be involved in the imprisonment of Muslim minorities.
Yet there is sufficient evidence that shows how much the indoctrination campaign escalated. Speeches, reports and other online documents illuminate the veil and make it clear that the Chinese government is longing for the disappearance of the Uyghurs. And Chinese President Xi did not openly support the re-education camps of the Muslims, in 2014 he ordered his government to weaken the separate identity of the Uighurs.
“What is happening in Xinjiang is the more compelling ethnic policy that introduces a new era of Chinese power,” said James Leibold, China expert at La Trobe University (LTU) in Australia. He followed the Chinese indoctrination campaign and explains where the fear of Muslim extremism comes from: “In 2014, the security forces wrestled with a series of violent anti-government attacks. The debt was invariably passed on to the Muslim minority.”
Fear of extremism
President Xi made his first and only visit to Xinjiang as national leader in April 2014. A few hours after he ended his four-day visit, attackers used bombs and knives to kill three people and injured nearly 80 others. The attack was seen as a rejection of the Chinese president who had just left the city. He swore to rule with an “iron fist” and react against the Uyghurs who oppose Chinese rule. A year after President Xi’s visit, the first documents began to circulate encouraging “the reform of the Muslim minority through education”. Shortly after, the first camps were built.