China rewrote a law to force Xinjiang Muslims into “psychological correction” camps

By Tripti Lahiri
October 10, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims in China’s far west have been forced into propaganda camps for patriotic “re-education,” according to rights groups. Now the practice has the backing of local law, thanks to an Oct. 9 revision.

According to the new Article 33 of the Xinjiang region’s regulations against extremism (link in Chinese):

Educational transformation institutions such as vocational skill education and training centers shall teach the national common language, laws and regulations, and vocational skills. The centers should organize and carry out anti-extremist ideological education, psychological correction, and behavior correction to transform the thinking of the trainees so as to help them return to society, and to their family.

The wording above is significantly different from what was in the previous version of the law (link in Chinese), in effect since April last year. In the older version, a chapter called “Prevention, containment, and elimination of extremism,” advised “concentrated education” and “behavior correction” against extremism, which it defined as inciting hatred, discrimination, and violence. It also advised “humanitarian care” and did not imply separation of families, as in new article does.

In the wake of deadly ethnic clashes between Han Chinese and Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang in 2009, China clamped down on freedom of religion in the Xinjiang region. Last year’s anti-extremism rules even placed restrictions on citizens’ beard length and clothing. Uyghur Muslims are not free to leave the country or to move around the region; in a peculiarly invasive kind of surveillance, they must host also government officials for “home stays.”