China: Close the ‘reeducation camps’ and explain forced Chinese language indoctrination

For immediate release

June 14, 2018 3:30 pm EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

-Article 27, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

On International Uyghur Language Day, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on the Chinese government to close ‘reeducation camps’ across East Turkestan and explain the forced indoctrination of Uyghur internees in Mandarin.

“The Chinese authorities are leveraging ‘reeducation camps’ to force Uyghurs and other minority groups into speaking Chinese. In the past, China used deceptively named policies, such as bilingual education, to engineer the Uyghur language into irrelevance in East Turkestan. Now, Chinese officials believe they can use fear of the state to compel Uyghurs to speak in Chinese to complete a process of assimilation and settlement of East Turkestan,” said UHRP Director Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “This year International Uyghur Language Day takes on new relevance as evidence emerges of China’s system of ‘reeducation camps’ in East Turkestan. Those who have a voice must use it to pressure China into closing the camps and ending policies aimed to marginalize the Uyghur language.”

Since the spring of 2017, China has detained possibly over a million Uyghurs in ‘reeducation camps.’ Reports have revealed the regional extent of the facilities and overcrowded conditions. Radio Free Asia has also documented a number of deaths in custody, including Muhammad Salih HajimAbdulnehed Mehsum, and Yaqupjan Naman.

Eyewitness accounts detail how internees are forced to learn Chinese in the camps. A May 18, 2018 AP report describes how:

Internees would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7:30 a.m. They gathered back inside large classrooms to learn ‘red songs’ like ‘Without the Communist Party, there is no New China,’ and study Chinese language and history.

The AP report also provides details on how internees are classified into three security levels and that one of them “consisted of illiterate minority farmers who didn’t commit any ostensible crimes other than not speaking Chinese.” Singer Ablajan Awut Ayup’s promotion of Uyghur culture and encouragement of the Uyghur language is one of the reasons he may have been interned in a ‘reeducation camp.’ Cited in a Washington Post article dated May 17, 2018, academic Adrian Zenz writes: “The state’s proclaimed ‘war on terror’ in the region is increasingly turning into a war on religion, ethnic languages and other expressions of ethnic identity.”

In 2007 UHRP detailed how the Chinese government was implementing a ‘bilingual education’ education policy that effectively marginalized the Uyghur language from the education system. At the 2014 Work Forum, Chinese officials placed ‘bilingual education’ at the center of efforts to achieve ‘ethnic mingling,’ an initiative to blur the cultural distinctiveness of the Uyghur people. In 2015, UHRP published a report describing on-going problems with the ‘bilingual education’ policy, including noticeable differences in funding and class size in Uyghur-majority schools and reports of Uyghur teachers who have lost their jobs because of unreasonable requirements for Mandarin language qualifications.

This week, UHRP published a report on Chinese state efforts to control Uyghur intangible cultural heritage (ICH). The report finds: “The numerous laws and regulations on the preservation of ICH and the system of supporting and educating heritage bearers allow micromanagement of Uyghur cultural expression down to the grassroots level.”

On International Uyghur Language Day, UHRP calls on China to meet the standards outlined in Article 27 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.