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  • These are satellite images from the deserts of western China.

  • Look closely, and you'll see these huge complexes being built.

  • From the sky, they sort of look like factories or even schools.

  • But look even closer: this line is one facility's perimeter wall.

  • And these shadows?

  • They're cast by the watchtowers along the wall.

  • This compound isn't a school or a factory.

  • It's an internment camp.

  • Inside these camps, the Chinese government is detaining as many as 1 million Uighurs,

  • China's mostly Muslim minority.

  • China doesn't want the world to know any of this.

  • But the story of these camps is also the story of how we know about them - and China's efforts

  • to cover them up.

  • As soon as we began to document the re-education centers, there was

  • Chinese government officials deleting what we were finding.

  • Uighurs mainly live here, in the Xinjiang province of northwestern China.

  • That puts them closer to the capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan than to Beijing.

  • And Uighurs are also closer culturally to those Turkic groups than they are to the Han

  • Chinese, China's ethnic majority.

  • The Uighurs speak a Turkic language. Their culture is different.

  • They have particular styles of music, a whole a whole rich history

  • that is unique to them.

  • This is Sigal Samuel, a reporter at Vox.

  • I've been reporting on the Uighur crisis in China for about a year now.

  • China has been concerned for decades about the possibility of Uighur separatism.

  • Uighurs have actually had their own independent nation, two separate times in the last century.

  • In 1933, they established the Islamic Republic of East Turkistan here in Kashgar.

  • But it crumbled less than a year later when it was taken over by Chinese forces.

  • Then, in 1944, the Soviet Union backed the creation of the East Turkestan Republic, based here.

  • But when China became Communist in 1949, the Soviet Union turned on East Turkestan, and

  • helped China take it over again.

  • Part of why the Xinjiang region is so important to China is that it's rich with energy resources.

  • And as China's economy grew, so did its need for energy.

  • Today Xinjiang accounts for nearly 40% of China's coal reserves.

  • And over 20% of the country's oil and gas.

  • It also accounts for 20% of China's potential for wind energy.

  • China needs resources, it needs energy.

  • It needs the geographical location, the area on which Xinjiang sits.

  • That's where Uighurs are.

  • That's where they're living.

  • And so China really wants to have a solid sense of control over that area.

  • As far back as the 1950s, China saw an opportunity to dilute the influence of the potentially

  • rebellious Uighurs, and started encouraging the migration of Han Chinese, into Xinjiang.

  • And it worked.

  • In 1945, Uighurs made up over 80% of the population, compared to just 6% Han Chinese.

  • By 2008, Xinjiang was 46% Uighur compared to 39% Han Chinese.

  • But over the years, as Xinjiang developed economically, Uighurs were left behind,

  • working mostly low-wage jobs in agriculture while the Han held higher-paying jobs.

  • Finally, in 2009, a Uighur protest against discrimination at the hands of the Han and

  • the Chinese government erupted in violence.

  • Bloody riots broke out, pitting ethnic Uighur Muslims against the dominant Han Chinese.”

  • One of the worst riots took place in the provincial capital of Urumqi.

  • About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured during the unrest.

  • That was sort of an inflection point.

  • After that, the Chinese really started to crack down harder on the Uighurs.

  • And by 2013, Xinjiang had become even more important to China.

  • The country launched theBelt and Roadinitiative, a trillion-dollar investment in

  • things like fiber optic cables, train lines, and gas pipelines meant to boost the country's

  • economic and political influence around the world by making it easier to trade with China.

  • If you plot these projects on a map you'll see a lot of them pass through Xinjiang, making

  • the province arguably the most important corridor for the whole project.

  • China would need to ensure that Xinjiang remained securely in its hands.

  • The Uighurs came to be perceived and painted more as a threat,

  • as a separatist threat, as an extremist threat.

  • In 2016 and 2017, the country enacted a series ofde-extremificationpolicies aimed

  • at Muslims, like banning long beards.

  • And Xinjiang was effectively turned into a hi-tech police state.

  • So this kind of thing is happening all over the country, but in Xinjiang it's

  • been just increased by orders of magnitude.

  • We're talking about Uighurs having to hand over their phones at checkpoints.

  • We're even talking about QR codes being installed on the outside of their homes.

  • But the most brutal part of this crackdown was hidden to the world at first.

  • In this image you see the opening of this facility.

  • The signage, it says "De-extremification reeducation center."

  • Around 2017, China started building these internment camps,

  • these large scale places to detain Uighurs. China says that these camps are

  • necessary because the Uighurs are a terrorist threat.

  • A separatist threat.

  • People who are infected with extremist thinking.

  • But it wasn't until Uighurs who had been detained told their stories, that the picture

  • from inside the camps came into clearer focus.

  • They're forced to memorize and recite Communist Party propaganda every day.

  • They're often forced to criticize their own Islamic beliefs and to criticize the beliefs

  • of their fellow detainees.

  • We had to sing songs hailing the Communist Party.

  • We had to repeat in Chinese, 'long live [Chinese president] Xi Jinping!

  • There have been reports of death, of torture.

  • Three guards surrounded me and abused me.

  • "Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake."

  • So there's this atmosphere of just trying to uproot what you believe in.

  • At first, China denied the existence of these camps...

  • But activists and academics fought back.

  • A lot of people around the world

  • are scouring the Internet for evidence

  • of China's internment camps for Uighurs.

  • In terms of the strategies and tools that I've used and others have used to uncover

  • evidence of these camps, it's quite simply a computer and knowledge of Chinese and thinking

  • about what ways whats words, especially government websites, would use.

  • People have unearthed government documents...

  • "And then we had growing visual evidence. We're looking at satellite images."

  • We could actually trace the creation and expansion of the reeducation camp.

  • It was a matter of, I think luck or chance

  • I uncovered this image.

  • And until then, we didn't have that piece of visual evidence that said this

  • is what it is.

  • And this is what the Chinese government's calling it.

  • Tim isn't alone.

  • There's a whole network ofweb sleuthsaround the world using basic internet tools

  • to document what China doesn't

  • want the world to see.

  • And they've gotten China to change their story, at least a little.

  • China was denying that these re education centers exist, until journalists

  • and academics and others started to really amass a body of evidence that was so convincing

  • that China couldn't just deny it anymore.

  • China took a different approach and started admitting that these facilities exist, but

  • carefully painted them as training schools for potential criminals or terrorists.

  • In the meantime, the camps are still there and growing.

  • This camp, one of China's largest, was as big as the nearby city of Dabancheng in 2017.

  • But by 2018, the camp had expanded to twice the size.

  • From China's perspective they think it's worth it. They want to make sure Xinjiang is an

  • area of the country that they have total control over.

  • And if that comes with a high human cost and even a reputational blow on the international

  • stage, China so far seems willing to do that anyway.

These are satellite images from the deserts of western China.

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B1 中級

中国の秘密収容所 (China's secret internment camps)

  • 332 17
    Jade Weng に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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