'Cultural genocide': The 'dark secret’ uncovered on Chinese border

·Assistant News Editor
·5-min read

China’s shadowy regime of detention camps along the country’s western border appears to be ratcheting up.

As the country admonishes Australia over war crimes committed in Afghanistan, China’s own human rights abuses along its border with nearby Kazakhstan are reportedly escalating.

In an extensive report by Buzzfeed News, journalists uncovered a growing internment camp quietly nestled in the mountainside which has reportedly ballooned in size by ten-fold in a year and a half.

“Mongolküre, or Zhaosu in Chinese, is an idyllic mountain county with a dark secret,” Buzzfeed journalist Megha Rajagopalan said on Twitter, sharing reconstructed images of the camp.

China has come under increased international pressure over it camps. Source: Twitter/Getty
China has come under increased international pressure over it camps. Source: Twitter/Getty

“This internment camp grew to 10 times its original size within just a year and a half after beginning as a pre-trial detention complex. It now includes dorms, admin buildings and factories.”

Buzzfeed spoke with former detainees about the conditions of the facility and the harsh treatment of those detained.

“Those who had spent time inside spoke of being beaten with the butt of a gun, being forced to sign ‘self criticism’ documents, and of the routine humiliation of being imprisoned without cause. None of them ever saw charges, much less the inside of a courthouse,” Ms Rajagopalan said.

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Camps ‘designed for cultural genocide’

The camp is one of many in the region of Xinjiang in western China where the country detains Uyghur, Kazakhs and other muslim minorities, often targeting religious and intellectual leaders.

In this particular camp, a majority of detainees would be locals who have lived in the Xinjiang region, within China's borders.

“But there has been cases of Kazakhstani citizens being interned in such camps over the past couple of years,” says Dr Michael Clarke from the Australian National University, a leading expert on the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

“China's goal – in my view – is that of cultural genocide,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

In a soon to be published article in the journal Global Responsibility to Protect, Dr Clarke will make a case for the “fundamentally colonial nature” of the CCP’s actions in the Xinjiang region.

“These individuals are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices,” he writes.

This Jun 2019 photo shows a facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Akto in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. Source: Getty
This June, 2019 photo shows a facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Akto in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. Source: Getty

According to Amnesty International, as many as one million people are detained in the Chinese camps, while other estimates put the number higher.

Forced labour in the camps has been linked to some of the world’s largest companies while former prisoners have detailed horrific treatment and human experiments conducted by Chinese guards inside the detention centres.

While much of it is still shrouded in mystery, the Chinese government says the camps provide free education to “eradicate ideological viruses” but human rights groups say the system amounts to the biggest genocide since the Holocaust during World War II.

The family member of one Uyghur man believed to be inside one of the camps spoke to Yahoo News Australia in July of his increasingly desperate fight to find and free his brother. But strict security means it is tough to know how many people are detained and where those who have gone missing ended up.

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The Buzzfeed report comes just months after the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said it had identified more than 380 “suspected detention facilities” in Xinjiang province, despite China's claims that many Uyghur prisoners had been released.

The number of facilities found, by mainly relying on satellite imagery and analysis, is around 40 per cent greater than previous estimates.

Former CCP official speaks out

China has been increasingly bold and confrontational during its economic ascendancy, clashing with contiguous countries and western nations alike.

In a rare case of public defection, a former senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member has spoken out about the increasing brutality of the Chinese regime under president Xi Jinping, penning a damning article in the latest addition of Foreign Affairs magazine.

A Kazakh family in their home in the village of Akshi.
A Kazakh family in their home in the village of Akshi near the border with China. At the time of the photo in August 2019, the woman's husband is still being held in a camp in Xinjiang. His father holds up a photo of him. Source: Getty

Cai Xia once worked at the Central Party School in Beijing where she was responsible for indoctrinating elite officials in CCP ideology but has since fled to the US and even condemned the party.

“Once a proud defender of official policy, I had begun to make the case for liberalisation. Once a loyal member of the CCP, I was secretly harbouring doubts about the sincerity of its beliefs and its concern for the Chinese people,” she wrote

“People who haven’t lived in mainland China for the past eight years can hardly understand how brutal the regime has become, how many quiet tragedies it has authored.”

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