Detainees Are Trickling Out of Xinjiang’s Camps

Detainees Are Trickling Out of Xinjiang’s Camps

  • House arrest or forced labor awaits most of those released so far in what may be a public relations ploy.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan—“I don’t know if they’re alive or dead.”

This has become one of the most common phrases heard among the Uighur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz communities outside China, both in private conversations and online, in video testimonies and forums. With countless Turkic minorities locked away in internment camps in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region, now loudly proclaimed by the government to be “vocational education and training programs” intended to improve lives and ensure stability, relatives outside of China have been forced to speak up. Putting aside their fears, they’ve taken to the streetsto the embassies, and to the press, putting pressure on their local governments while trying to make the world aware of the ongoing tragedy.

That pressure has finally yielded a result. The camps, until now considered a one-way street for all but a lucky few, have actually begun to let people out. This so-called “letting out” has rarely meant real freedom, however, with the ex-detainees typically being shunted into other forms of the carceral network that China has built to contain the people of Xinjiang.