Report: China Has ‘Disappeared’ Thousands of Uyghur Children into ‘Boarding School’

This photo taken on June 4, 2019 shows the Chinese flag flying over the Juma mosque in the
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

China forced hundreds of thousands of children in Xinjiang, where the majority of the population belongs to the ethnic Uyghur minority, into “boarding schools” as they lost their parents to communist concentration camps, Bitter Winter, citing researcher Adrian Zenz, reported on Sunday.

Extensive investigations by journalists and governments in favor of human rights have concluded that the Communist Party has forced as many as 3 million people in Xinjiang, most of them Uyghurs and some Muslims of other ethnic backgrounds, into concentration camps. The few who have escaped the camps report being forced into slavery, made to worship the Communist Party, and extensively tortured. Some have accused Party officials of killing their infant children; others of forced abortions and sterilizations.

Zenz’s new report highlights what happened to the children of these victims of communism while they were languishing in concentration camps. The report, Bitter Winter noted, used procured government documents to show rapid construction of “boarding schools” for children at the same time that Party officials were hauling thousands of Uyghur adults into camps. Zenz found a 76.9-percent increase in the number of children living in boarding schools between 2017 and 2019, most of them coming from Xinjiang.

“This increase of 382,000 boarding school students occurred during the time frame of the internment campaign, and would have predominantly taken place in minority regions,” Zenz said.

The researcher reportedly confirmed that over 10,000 of these children lost one or both parents to the concentration camp system. Chinese officials had denied on the record that any children had lost more than one parent to the camps, which Beijing officially identifies as “vocational training centers.”

The Han Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly argued through its foreign ministry that Uyghurs and others living in Xinjiang are backward people incompatible with the modern Chinese economy. Putting them in “vocational training centers” turns them into reliable communists who can find work in the economy and thus become less vulnerable to jihadist ideologies, Beijing has claimed.

China also made it illegal under current dictator Xi Jinping for children to participate in any religious services. Uyghurs, unlike most of China, are majority Muslim. The ban also applies for Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and all other faithful.

The children in the “boarding schools,” according to the report, live in facilities “complete with perimeter alarms, 4-layered 10,000 volt electric fences atop high walls with police guards,” according to Bitter Winter.

Bitter Winter added to Zenz’s report conversations with anonymous people in Xinjiang who said they had seen evidence that children were indeed corralled into camps, or at least violently taken from their homes to an unknown location. One woman said she saw the construction of large orphanages in 2018; another police vehicles bringing officers to storm homes and drag screaming children away.

The reports of such sweeps to separate children from their families en masse began in 2018. At the time, the Associated Press reported the buildup of orphanages in Xinjiang.

“The government has been building thousands of so-called ‘bilingual’ schools, where minority children are taught in Mandarin and penalized for speaking in their native tongues,” the AP reported at the time. “Some of these are boarding schools, which Uighurs say can be mandatory for children and, in a Kazakh family’s case, start from the age of 5.”

Sigal Samuel, the Atlantic religion editor, similarly said at a panel discussion in 2018 that evidence existed that China was stealing children from families.

“Strikingly the children there are being taken away even when they have grandparents and other family members who are begging to be able to keep them and once they’re under state care, they’re totally isolated from their relatives, their culture, Islamic religion, the Uyghur language,” Samuel said. “They’re taught only Chinese language and culture. So some experts I’ve spoken to tell me, these are assimilation policies that China is using to actively rewire their identity of an entire generation of Uyghurs.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed Zenz’s report on Friday, calling him a “swindler” and “notorious anti-China henchman employed by the U.S. government.”

“We have said many times that Xinjiang-related issues are never about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about combating violent terrorism and secession,” spokesman Zhao Lijian, responsible for the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the U.S. Army caused the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, said. “The preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures taken in Xinjiang have effectively curbed the frequent occurrence of terrorist activities, so that the life safety of people of all ethnic groups is guaranteed, and greater progress has been made in local economy and living standards.”

Dictator Xi Jinping has personally defended the concentration camp policy against the Uyghurs of Xinjiang.

“Facts have fully proved that China’s work on ethnic affairs has been successful,” Xi said in remarks in September, addressing Communist Party policies in Xinjiang specifically. Xi applauded his officials for ensuring that Uyghurs have “the right political orientation.”

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