China’s secret network of prisons for Muslims in a mountainous province may contain more than a million people, reports say.
The communist government is said to have built 347 buildings that resemble detention camps in Xinjiang in the far west of the country – with room for 1,014,883 inmates.
The staggering figure counts for one in 25 people in the region, but may be a conservative estimate due to the possibility of overcrowding.
In recent years, an estimated one million people – most of them Uyghur Muslims – have been detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang.
The Chinese communist government is said to have built 347 buildings that resemble detention camps in Xinjiang in the far west of the country – with room for 1,014,883 inmates
One of the detention centers, seen here from above, east of the old town of Korla, has expanded rapidly in recent years and now houses more than 7,000 inmates
The Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labour, systematic forced birth control, torture and separating children from their imprisoned parents.
Beijing has flatly rejected the allegations, with officials saying the camps were vocational training centers but are now closed.
The revelations come a day after Dominic Raab suggested that Muslim-majority countries should be more concerned about the abuses facing Uyghurs in China.
The Foreign Secretary told MPs it seems there is “not as much concern” from them compared to the UK and other Western non-Muslim majority countries.
The final proof, compiled by BuzzFeed, reveals the magnitude of China’s massive incarceration program in Xinjiang that has been underway since 2016.
Xinjiang, China’s westernmost state, is said to have 347 buildings resembling detention camps built by the communist government
Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labour, systematic forced birth control, torture and separating children from their imprisoned parents
The news website says connections across the region are dotted with a camp in most counties and a prison in much larger prefectures.
It reports that while the centers were established over the years, the government took over schools, hospitals and residential buildings as temporary camps.
It is believed that this meant that the authorities were able to arrest hundreds of thousands of Muslims before the new prisons were completed.
Satellite images and first-hand reports were used to track down 268 connections that were likely prisons in August last year.
But after further investigation, another 79 sites in the area were mapped.
In total, the camps covered an area of more than 206 million square feet, which is one-third the size of Manhattan.
Meanwhile, sickening documents — from China’s Ministry of Justice in 2010 — outlined the relentless planning that went into designing the connections.
They showed how the authorities looked at the size of the bars on the windows and the height of each watchtower.
Between eight and sixteen inmates are crammed into a cell, leaving them little personal space.
Construction of a center can take as little as four months and photos on the construction websites show barbed wire, interrogation seats and anti-climbing fences.
Capacity is now estimated at about 1.1 million people in Xinjiang, but it is likely to be more as this figure only looks at camps built after 2016.
Most of the Uyghurs in the region are found in southern parts, including places like Kashgar, Hotan, and Kizilsu.
These cities have a higher number of detention camps, according to the report.
It is not clear how many have been incarcerated in the past three years, but this number is believed to increase with each new centers being established.
According to reports, one is being built and four others are expanding to hold more prisoners.
When the camps started to sprout, they mostly settled in Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu, where the majority of Muslims were.
Still, the authorities seemed to act quickly and build camps throughout the region, even in areas mainly occupied by Han Chinese.
County residents are said to be shocked at the speed and scale of prison construction.
Eysa Imin, a businessman who grew up in a small village outside old Korla, was detained by the police in 2015 and taken to one of the centers. After being released, he was taken there again in 2017.
He said the prisoners were forced to sing patriotic anthems such as ‘Without the Communist Party, there is no new China’.
Cells were kept overcrowded, and the men were barely allowed to wash.
Once, he and his cellmates—some of whom he recognized from school—were allowed outside to a small balcony.
“I haven’t seen the sun,” he said, “but I felt it on my face—just that ray of sunshine that felt so good.”
He was released after a month, which he said came after he agreed to spy on fellow Uyghurs in Turkey, where he had moved. He says he never did.
Satellite images show that the small detention center where he was held was demolished the following year.
However, he says the government has continued to build new facilities at a rapid pace, with a sprawling new complex in Korla.
In April, backseat MPs approved a House of Commons motion declaring that Uyghurs and other minorities are “permitting crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang.
Mr Raab confirmed that the UK government continues to reflect on the level of representation the UK will send to the Beijing Winter Olympics next year.
Calls for a British diplomatic boycott of the event were endorsed in a non-binding vote in the House of Commons last week.