Launched in 2014, a steadily intensifying Xinjiang crackdown has included limits on Islamic dress and religious customs, and the promotion of practices forbidden in Islam. Fueled by the application of cutting edge AI technology, the campaign has since 2017 culminated in a mass detention program where an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs have been or are being held in a network of internment camps. (IPVM recently reported that Chinese firm Hikvision was marketing an AI camera that automatically identifies Uyghurs, only to remove the marketing claim days after IPVM inquired the company about it.) Chinese authorities initially denied the camps’ existence, but have since contested claims of abuse, insisting they are “vocational training” facilities.
The AP has more on the World Bank’s decision to cut back and further monitor the relevant Xinjiang project:
It said although visits to the partner schools “did not substantiate the allegations,” they were too widely dispersed to be properly monitored for adherence to bank standards.
“In addition, the project will be placed under enhanced supervision to ensure that all applicable Bank standards are adhered to,” the bank said.
[…] “The World Bank’s work is driven by core principles of inclusion, with special consideration for the protection of minorities and other vulnerable peoples,” it said. “When allegations are made, the World Bank takes them seriously and reviews them thoroughly.”
While the partner schools account for just 1% of the project’s financing, the move is politically significant because China has been criticized for confining more than 1 million members of Muslim minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
China says they are being offered training to reduce poverty and extremism. Critics say they are political reeducation camps where inmates are held indefinitely without due process, subject to abuse and forced to renounce their traditional religion and culture while pledging loyalty to Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. [Source]
Dr. Adrian Zenz, the Xinjiang expert who first provided substantive evidence of the existence of the internment camps, this week told RFA that according to his research China has likely built over 1,000 internment camps in Xinjiang. Zenz had initially estimated that just over a million people were detained in the network of camps, but in March revised that estimate to 1.5 million.
Adrian Zenz, Senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service he is reviewing official documents and other sources of information to determine a maximum estimate for those held in a network of camps that he said likely number more than 1,000 in the XUAR.
“Maximum estimates are inherently speculative and I’m trying to be quite cautious in my estimate, but I’m currently looking at the details of that,” he said.
“I’m increasingly viewing evidence that would indicate that my original estimate of at least one camp per administrative unit between township and prefecture levels, which adds up to 1,200, was accurate. I’m increasingly moving in the direction that it’s over 1,000 camps.” [Source]
At the AFP, Sharon Tandon reports that Uyghur activist researchers have documented the geographic coordinates of nearly 500 camps and prisons in Xinjiang:
The East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, a Washington-based group that seeks independence for the mostly Muslim region known to China as Xinjiang, gave the geographic coordinates of 182 suspected “concentration camps” where Uighurs are allegedly pressured to renounce their culture.
Researching imagery from Google Earth, the group said it also spotted 209 suspected prisons and 74 suspected labor camps for which it would share details later.
“In large part these have not been previously identified, so we could be talking about far greater numbers” of people detained, said Kyle Olbert, the director of operations for the movement.
“If anything, we are concerned that there may be more facilities that we have not been able to identify,” he told a news conference in suburban Washington.
Anders Corr, an analyst who formerly worked in US intelligence and who advised the group, said that around 40 percent of the sites had not been previously reported. [Source]
There has been evidence of forced labor, political indoctrination, abuse, and deaths inside the camps, which experts have characterized as part of an effort to “re-engineer” the Uyghur identity and as a form of “cultural genocide.”