n the wake of reports that up to 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims are being detained in secretive “re-education camps” in the far-western region of Xinjiang, China has made some significant additions to its anti-extremism regulations, apparently aimed at giving the camps a basis under the law.
Amid international condemnation and concern, China has repeatedly denied the existence of these camps, at least semantically, declaring that there are no “re-education camps” or “counter-terrorism camps” in Xinjiang, only “vocational education and employment training centers” which help those individuals charged with criminal misdemeanors acquire “employment skills and legal knowledge” and assist in their “rehabilitation and reintegration” back into society.
China’s anti-extremism law first went into effect last April. On Tuesday, a newly revised edition was released with passages referring for the first time to “vocational training centers,” casting them as part of the government’s efforts to counter extremism.
“People’s governments at the county level and above may establish education and transformation organizations and management departments such as vocational training centers to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism,” reads one of the new clauses.
According to the document, along with skill training, the centers are charged with transforming the thoughts of “trainees” through law study, ideological education, psychological counseling, behavioral correction, and classes on China’s national language.
In recent years, China has launched a sweeping security and religious crackdown in Xinjiang, claiming that such measures are necessary because of the threat that terrorist groups pose in the region. Xinjiang’s anti-extremism law lists a number of different actions and behaviors which are banned as being too extreme, including having “abnormal” beards, wearing veils, choosing “extreme” baby names, not allowing children to receive national public education, and refusing to listen to the radio or watch the TV.
This crackdown was turned up another notch this week with officials in the regional capital of Urumqi announcing the beginning of an “anti-halal” campaign which aims to prevent the labeling of non-food items as halal in order to stop Islamic rituals from penetrating into secular life in China and extremism from spreading in the region.