Satellite imagery reveals mosques are being destroyed in China’s Xinjiang region with “clear evidence of the suppression of Islamic customs and beliefs,” according to a BBC report.
Journalists were invited to tour China’s Xinjiang region to visit religious sites and what China likes to call “thought-transforming camps.”
China defends that those jailed in these so-called re-education camps are not prisoners but “students”, justifying the compulsory stay at the facilities as in response to decades of “sporadic separatist violence.”
Government minders were present at every interview and satellite imagery shows security fencing and watchtowers were taken down before tours for journalists began in a bid to conceal the truth of what goes inside these “reeducation camps.”
Some admitted they were sent to the camp despite not having committed any crimes, or as Chinese camp officials explained: it was a way of “preventing crimes before they occur.”
“Some people, before they commit murder, already show they’re capable of killing. Should we wait for them to commit the crime?” says Zhang Zhisheng of Xinjiang’s Foreign Affairs Office.
A notice banning certain religious practices in the village states, “The wearing of long beards for men is not to be allowed.”
Aitika mosque was still standing in late 2017, but has disappeared with traditional Uyghur neighborhoods being demolished nearby.
Many refer to China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region -- home to many ethnic minorities, including the Turkic Uyghur people -- as East Turkestan.
Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group that make up 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, accuse China of carrying out repressive policies that restrain their religious, commercial and cultural activities.
Established under the pretext of “political reeducation” for China’s Muslim population, Beijing has amped up its construction of detention camps in the past three months, expanding them by an additional 700,000 square meters, according to satellite imagery.
China’s Muslim incarceration camps have attracted heavy criticism from the international community as Beijing continually denied their existence and repeatedly rejected allegations of abuses against the country’s Uyghur minority for years, opting to call them “vocational camps” instead.
Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group which makes up around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, has long accused China’s authorities for cultural, religious and economic discrimination.