Majority of people from the southeastern prefecture of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) who will be hired to do construction work in the coming years are currently detained in internment camps, revealed a source from the job centre that would place the workers.
RFA’s Uyghur Service recently obtained a copy of a document circulated by the government of Bayin’ghol in Mongol Autonomous Prefecture on July 13, stating that it plans to put 19,000 people in construction jobs over the next three years.
The Chinese government document says the plan was prepared by the XUAR government under the “guiding light” of China’s President Xi Jinping as part of a strategy to bring stability and peace to the region.
Certain details in the document suggest that the plan is a way of dealing with detainees from the XUAR’s vast network of internment camps, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017.
RFA called several government offices in Bayin’gholin and was able to speak with a Han Chinese representative with the prefectural Party Committee, who refused to comment on the work program unless it was in person.
“If you need help with anything, bring your work authorization card to come see us,” the representative said, adding, “Let’s not talk about this on the phone!”
However, a Han Chinese staffer from the job centre listed on the July 13 document confirmed the existence of the program and said that most of the 19,000 would comprise camp detainees, in addition to workers from several different fields and institutions.
“Yes, there are people from the internment camps—of course there would be people from the camps,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
“[But] there are also people from all kinds of institutions and schools.”
When asked what percentage of workers will be from the camps and which ones, the staffer said he was unsure.
But asked whether the majority will be from camps, and if the plan was designed with the goal of relocating detainees from camps into the workplace, he answered, “Yes, that’s correct.”
“This program has not been officially launched on a large scale,” he told RFA, adding that further details should be available by the end of the year.
Beijing describes its three-year-old network of camps as voluntary “vocational centres,” but reporting by RFA and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.
Amid pressure from the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, the European Union and the United Nations, experts believe that China has begun sentencing Uyghurs held in internment camps to prison, providing legal cover to the detentions.
However, growing evidence suggests some Uyghurs and other detainees are being relocated to factories inside and outside of the XUAR as forced labour, under the guise of gaining employment connected to their purported vocational training. (Source: RFA)