Things That Will Get You Thrown in a Chinese Political Education Camp

“People have to tell the crowd what their families did, just like during the Cultural Revolution.”

—”Ainagul,” 52, who left Xinjiang in 2017 and whose son is in
 a political education camp (interviewed May 18, 2018).

“A wife denounces her husband, an imam who was imprisoned for extremism, … saying something about him propagating Wahhabism; and then a kid who denounces his father for having prayed and read the Quran. [There were also] people who have exceeded the birth quotas, the couple and their kids were crying as the authorities announced the huge fines against them. This is called a ‘Looking Back’ (回头看) exercise, looking back at what bad things people had done in the past 20 years.“

—”IIham,” who left Xinjiang in 2017 (interviewed June 7, 2018).

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch published a 125 page report on the crisis in Xinjiang:Eradicating Ideological Viruses: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims. It does not make pleasant reading. The report consists mostly of excerpts from interviews that Human Rights Watch researchers conducted with 58 ethnic Uyghurs or Kazakhs, living in nine countries, who have managed to flee from Xinjiang over the last two years. This is the largest interview set yet published. The accounts published by Human Rights Watch largely corroborate other evidence we have gleaned so far from the five main streams of information that we have about what is happening in Xinjiang: 1) journalist accounts from within Xinjiang itself, 2) social media posts and online job advertisements in Chinese, 3) official state media photographs, statistics, or proclamations, 4) satellite imagery, and 5) other interviews with Kazakhs or Uyghurs who have been able to escape from China after all of this began. SupChina has put together a good round-up of all of the English-language material available before September 2018.

There is a lot of material in the Human Rights Watch report. I want to focus on a tiny slice of it: the reasons Uyghur or Kazakhs report that they are being thrown into “political education camps” (that is, a gulag with Chinese characteristics).

Things which may cause you to detained without trial and locked away in an education camp indefinitely, in Xinjiang, China, 2018:

  • Owning a tent
  • Owning welding equipment
  • Owning extra food
  • Owning a compass
  • Owning multiple knives
  • Abstaining from alcohol
  • Abstaining from cigarettes
  • Wailing, publicly grieving, or otherwise acting sad when your parents die
  • Performing a traditional funeral
  • Inviting more than 5 people to your house without registering with the police department
  • Wearing a scarf in the presence of the PRC flag
  • Wearing a hijab (if you are under 45)
  • Going to a mosque
  • Praying
  • Fasting
  • Listening to a religious lecture
  • Telling others not to swear
  • Telling others not to sin
  • Eating breakfast before the sun comes up
  • Arguing with an official
  • Sending a petition that complains about local officials
  • Not allowing officials to sleep in your bed, eat your food, and live in your house
  • Not having your government ID on your person
  • Not letting officials take your DNA
  • Not letting officials scan your irises
  • Not letting officials download everything you have on your phone
  • Not making voice recordings to give to officials
  • Speaking your mother language in school
  • Speaking your mother language in government work groups
  • Speaking with someone abroad (with skype, etc.)
  • Speaking with someone who has traveled abroad
  • Having traveled abroad yourself
  • Merely knowing someone who has traveled abroad
  • Publicly stating that China is inferior to some other country
  • Having too many children
  • Having a VPN
  • Having Whatsapp
  • Watching a video filmed abroad
  • Wearing a shirt with Arabic lettered writing on it
  • Wearing a full beard
  • Wearing any clothes with religious iconography
  • Not attending mandatory propaganda classes
  • Not attending mandatory flag raising ceremonies
  • Not attending public struggle sessions (Cultural Revolution style)
  • Refusing to denounce your family members in these public struggle sessions
  • Being related to anyone who has done any of the above
  • Trying to kill yourself when detained by the police
  • Trying to kill yourself when in the education camps proper.

Something terrible is happening in Xinjiang.

NOTE: Also see my earlier post, “Moral Hazards and China.”

EDIT (13 Sep 2019):
An expanded version of this post has been published in Foreign Policy magazine. See also my follow up post here.

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You will probably block this message because it offends you and your readers delicate sensibilities but at least you will know there exists people who aren't impressed by your pitiful Liberal orthopraxy.

Now make a list of what gets your throat slit in a Muslim country. Fortunately for us, it is thankfully brief.

Not submitting to Sunni Islamic orthodoxy.

Islam creates para-militarized societies and generates social friction wherever it is present because of it’s inherent ingroup/outgroup aggression that is natural of clan based semitic tribal religions. The Jews of antiquity were likewise equally violent and obnoxious towards their pagan neighbors and it was only having their repeated aggression put down in extremely effective fashion by Babylonian, Greek, and finally Roman overlords that they finally gave up the ghost.

Furthermore Sunni Islam in particular is much more destructive than it’s Shia counterpart and is incompatible with non-muslim societies because of the nature of their liturgy. The fundamental point of divergence between the two may seem relatively minor and irrelevant but it has massive ramifications. Shia hold that only a lineal descendant of Mohammed via Ali is fit to rule over Muslims. The Sunni hold that “righteousness” is the only requirement. What this really means is that the Shia are in effect legitimists and beholden to natural order and hierarchy. The Supreme Ayatollah is the law of the land in Iran and you cannot exceed him theologically, and he more critically serves as a firebreak to radicalism because trying to out holy him gets you beheaded. It is also the reason why King, Church, and Pope were so necessary for the proper functioning of Europe until that devil Luther came along. It should be no surprise that the rise of Protestantism in Germany was accompanied by massive amounts of Anabaptist insanity as protestants tried to out holy each other in a massive signaling spiral that resulted in some truly crazed nonsense. I think even Luther realized it too when he had people who tried to out Holy him burned at the stake for heresy, and the eventual domination of State Churches put the kibosh on the most excessive elements Protestantism unleashed. Then again the modern perversion of the entire “Liberal” weltanschauung can be argued to trace back to it’s Protestant roots. Homosexual marriage and rapefugee invasion is simply more of the same holiness signaling that Protestantism originally unleashed.

The Sunni Muslims are the funhouse mirror dopplegangers of the Pozz that affects the West. Because they demand rule by righteousness, “righteousness” is what they get in that the Overton window naturally keeps on shifting towards the more religiously obstinate and sectarian and there is no firebreak to this phenomenon. Thus the gradual spread of more Hijabs, then Niqabs once the Hijab's have reached universality, along with beards, and more social pressure to conform to ever more radical norms. Before you know it, they are slitting infidel throats for the glory of Allah. This slippery slope can only be arrested by a powerful military strongman but it can never be truly reversed without either demographically reducing them to a small enough minority where they cant cause trouble or convert them to Shiism which makes them tolerable. Otherwise they will inevitably destroy the non-Sunni Muslim component of any society they happen to be amidst via low level sub-state aggression and violence as has tended to happen elsewhere, unless they met a force equally as clannish but with greater capacity for organized violence as has happened in Israel.

There can be no peace with Islam because Islam will not accept anything but more Islam. Thus any stability is mere illusion as what exists is not peace but rather a permanent state of tension always awaiting the next spark of rabid Islamic mob violence. The Chinese Communist Party, bless their hearts, have a profoundly deeper understanding of human psychology in many ways than liberals, in the areas that count anyways though unfortunately they are blind to others. Human socialization is driven by ritual norms that shape our subconscious behavior. The things we do by rote and habit make us what we are. Islam, like its Judaic counterpart attaches to this process and pushes this to the extremes. All the little taboos for this and that are designed to shape adherence to become more religiously aligned. It is precisely this fact that the first thing Islamists do is not to really convince anyone through arguments overs matters of faith, but to control external behavior and manifestations of Muslimness. The Communist Party recognizes how the pathology spreads and inoculates Chinese society by blasting into rubble all external signifiers of Islamic adherence and thus providing no purchase for the rolling ball of Islamicization to begin it's slippery slope. The West's utter failure to contain the radicalization with it's own Muslims is because they mistake cause and effect, assuming personal initiative will prevent Muslim radicalization while ignoring the religious policing by other Muslims to ever more overt displays of Muslimness.

There is one point where I do agree with you though, everything the Communist Party does is a waste of time and money. This isnt because I fear a Muslim "backlash" which for one doesn't exist because they are always on the offense or because it will somehow lead to more radicalization which it wont. Ineffective suppression leads to contempt for authority, true revolutionary terror and the threat immanent bodily harm to not only you but all your kin has a way of focusing the mind to more pro-social behavior. I disagree with the Party not because what they are doing doesn't work, it quite simply does, but rather because it isn't permanent. All the re-education now merely buys another generation of stability before we have to repeat the entire process over again with a new generation. The Cultural Revolution worked for a while, but seeing how the Party are targeting Uighur males born after the 1980's, it is obvious that the next generation had forgotten the earlier lessons their parents had learned.

The only lasting peace with Islam is the one that Islam allows others. Convert or die.

Duke, you always use big words when you comment here, but I swear its like you don't know the history of your own country. China's experience with Islam is long. The empires of days past got along fine without throwing people into prison for owning camping tents.

…Much less *killing them all.* Thankfully your leaders are not as enamored with the 三光政策 style as you are. Maybe they learned something from the fight against fascism? The CPC is bad…. but they are not genocidal maniacs. Not yet, anyway.

Someone really ought to kick the crap out of whichever bigwig China hawks decided to frame this as a Global Islam issue. Not helpful in the least.


Not letting your last comment through. Don't think I will let *any* of your comments through in the future. Go find somewhere else to leave your drivel. I don't have time to deal with historically illiterate, angry, weaboo fascists. I honestly don't even know why you read this space to start off with. I am sure there are other places on the internet where readers will be impressed you know the name Yaqub Beg.


How exactly do you think they should frame it? What is the most effective way to impose costs, in your opinion?

This sounds almost too ridiculous to be true… horrendous. You can get imprisoned for owning welding equipment and not smoking?
Could I ask if you have sources for this list? I'd like to share the post but want to be assured of the credibility of the content. Thank you.

I wonder if he is a weeb though, those aren't criticisms of Islam that I've heard in the West. Though it does sound like something someone could cobble it together with some paranoia, a poor understanding of European history, non-differentiation between the Abrahamics, and a dosage of the usual praise on China one might hear from tech mags and the occasional anti-liberal article. Chinese supporters of the CCP seem to love bragging about their parties efficiency and 'superior understanding of human psychology'(or sociology),as if the Chinese government is some all-knowing god that can perfectly control, suppress, and experiment with a society without any unintended consequences at all ever. He also demonstrates a poor understanding of Islam. He obviously has some facts he picked up here and there, but his mental image of the religion is just ISIS. Well it has the characteristics of a self-made philosophy of your average loser(its extremely flawed for one), but I wouldn't give his intelligence that credit. Maybe its something that floats around in Asian 'alt-right/lite' circles?

First, thank you for sharing this. Second, I don’t know how did you get the 45 year age limit for hijab. But,from what I heard wearing hijab is all banned no matter what age you are. In fact, wearing a headscarf is kind of a problem to some extent as far as I know, not to mention hijab. Hijab is definitely a no-zone. Again, I am not 100% sure either.

I wonder if the Duke is one person, or number of persons employed by the Party to monitor this site and comment on it in a way pleasing to the Party. There is precedent for that. It happened over at Small Wars Journal some years ago with some Russians. It was very annoying.

The breadth, depth and expense of the effort the Party is making to crush that which displeases it is chilling; all the more so because it is combined with technology applied in such a way that has never been done in human history. If they succeed in Xinjiang that will be only the first place to get it. And I believe there are many in other countries that are watching what the Party is doing malign interest, the idea that being if it worked in China, it can work here.

This is very scary. I like to think the human spirit can prevail but I am not sure. That scares me.

Thanks so much! I see some Nazi nationalist rants here in the comment section…yes, they have an army of such ppl in China. We, as Uyghurs who are suffering, not them! I have lost contact with my family and friends for a year to 8 months, we were told not to call, this is not a fucking joke. Someone who used local time was also sent… I do not want to see a fascistic, totalitarian, chauvinist China is getting powerful…

C'mon anons, lets choose slightly identifying pseudonyms so I can keep track of who is who.

@anon #1–The list is my distillation of the 125 pages worth of interviews in the Human Rights Watch report linked to at the beginning of the post. I am adapting this list for publication in an international magazine @ the moment, and one of the things I note there is that these sort of things are likely arbitrary and shifting. What gets you taken away in one place might not get you taken away in another. There is evidence that at least some local officials have quotas on the #s they need to send to reeducation, and I am sure they grasp at straws to fill them.

But that is part of what makes it terrifying. Several interviewees commented on this. They often just did not know what would get them in trouble and what would not.

@anon #2– I'm sure he is pleased to be the topic of the comment thread. Duke has been showing up around here off and on for years now. He's not a 50 cent army man (read: zednought's fear). Clever fellow, large vocabulary. Also a genocidal maniac. People like him remind me of Hannah Arendt's description of the hard edge of the inter-war generation. But you see his type in America too: brutality and ruthlessness as an aesthetic. It is bad stuff. Fringe stuff in both America and China. That will change if there is a war.

@anon #3 — I got it from the report I got everything else from. See my reponse to anon #1.

@Zednought– This blog is *not* important enough to warrant government trolling. Not yet. But oh you should see the things I don't let through moderation.

@Anon #4–I am sorry for you loss. Hold in there.

Mr. Greer,

This report is spine chilling, but still puzzling. Just what exactly is the immediate cause for the rush to build and operate those concentration camps? It is possible the CCP planned this some time ago all along, but the speed to me implies a cause that is much more recent. To my knowledge the CCP's oppression of the Tarim Basin has been gradual but never this drastic, and never at such a velocity before. Are there perhaps some disturbances or "terror attacks" in that region that we do not know of in the past few years?

Also, I suspect Duke of Qin maybe one of these European Islamophobes in disguise. His "analysis" of radical Islamic virtue signaling actually sounds somewhat plausible in the alienated settings of St.Denis, Molenbeek, and London, but completely falls apart in context of Uighur society. Regardless, if you do think he is a genuine Chinese fascist, how prevalent are his sentiments in the higher up factions of the CCP? Could it partially be the operating ideology behind the faction that planned the camps in the first place?


I've seen enough of Duke's posts elsewhere to be convinced he's of Han descent – I think he said he lives somewhere Western. His commentary is completely standard Neoreaction (Western; don't think it'll amount to much even with a war – too nerdy) – I don't imagine he ever worked for the CCP.

The HRW report doesn't say you can be locked up for owning a tent. It doesn't say you can be locked up for not smoking. It doesn't say you can be locked up for having Arabic script on a shirt. That's just a few of the things it doesn't say.

Answering some questions above :

Now make a list of what gets your throat slit in a Muslim country. Fortunately for us, it is thankfully brief. ———- Duke of Qin .
A list of getting a throat slit in Xinjiang China. (From Stories I have heard and Things I have seen )
1. Being a gov official give ,ppl who bribe you, more and better farming land. (Story from my police friend)
2. Being a goat or sheep….
BTW. Qin you are doing exactly what china is doing. labeling every uyghur as hardcore muslims and treat them as a threat. I feel offended cuz me and most of my uyghur friends are functional alcoholics…. first sign of not being a hardcore muslims…

This sounds almost too ridiculous to be true… horrendous. You can get imprisoned for owning welding equipment and not smoking? ——–Anonymous

Look it up, I remember there was a story about how a uyghur official in Hotan got arrested cuz he doesn't smoke in front of elderly (Uyghur avoids smoking and drinking in front of senior ppl to show respect.)

And Lastly, according to recent story, you can add :
1. changing your watch to local time instead of Beijing time, despite the two hour time difference.
2. having too much money.
3. refusing a han chinese's marriage proposal (NOT very sure about this one, you might as well treat this one as a joke ).
4. Just Being a uyghur.

As a uyghur, I can say that the opinion among uyghurs differs a lot.
Stupid ppl believe that xinjiang should be independent, ppl with a little bit of objective knowledge of uyghur will agree that we need China. However, China needs us too. Treating us like shit wont bring china any good. Growing up in Xinjiang with Uyghurs and hans, I never had any hatred towards han ppl. The government is the one that spreading hatred.

I don't see this as primarily anti-Muslim
This is just a learning experience on how to control your population. They just picked the Muslims as they were a small minority and easily separated from the herd and controlled. Being a different race also sure helped to demonize them and besides the Han just wanted their land and resources anyway and the locals were in the way, kind of like what happened with the Native Americans in the 1800's .
In the name of national security they could justify this to the main population because who cares about some troublesome fringe group of Islamists 100's of miles away. Like who cares or did anything about what happened in Tibet or Tiananmen Square ?
China has a billion people. It is possible that they will soon if not now be part of this great "experiment" of thought and behavior control with super computer A.I. , facial recognition , labor and re-education camps,killer swarm drones to keep the rebels in place and how about this idea ……
Chips in your head that monitor everything you do with a speaker that never shuts up with the propaganda and you can't turn them off. Ever
They can build these in all those nice Apple factories …. no problem
They will export this all over the globe
Dictators all over the world will drop to their knees and thank god

Silva's correct. He's a Chinese who likes to read on the NRx boards. But far more vicious than most of 'em. Met a few NrX in person and none are as extreme or violent as him.

Rob– Dunno about that. Each of those things are described as something that gets you at least on a watch list for reducation, or something Uyghurs admitted they were afraid to do lest they be picked up. Whether their fears are justifiable or not is fair game. In many places, probably not. But as noted upthread and in the follow up post, ther arbitrary and changing nature of it all is half the point, isn't?

@David Patey–Agree, there si more to it than Islam. A lot of the conflict Uyghur peasants ahve had w/ the Party actually parallel things you see with the Han peasontdom. The problem in Xinjiang of course is that things often take on an ethnic or religious tint that would not have it if they occurred in inner China.

P.S. Folks, sometimes it takes me a day or two to go through comments. No need to send the same comment fifteen times! Commenting more than once does not make me moderate any faster!

@David Patey:

while there might be a degree of "experimentation" going on for repressive measures that can then be expanded to the rest of China, there is no way that anything this scale could be done throughout China, even if things get really, really bad… But you are correct that this campaign is not exactly "anti-Muslim". It's simply the only way that the current government can imagine of dealing with a minority that generally isn't convinced by government propaganda and ideology. Respect for diversity and dissent just isn't even imaginable in their books.

rob said…
The HRW report doesn't say you can be locked up for owning a tent. It doesn't say you can be locked up for not smoking. It doesn't say you can be locked up for having Arabic script on a shirt. That's just a few of the things it doesn't say.

Technically true (author should perhaps be more careful with wording/interpretation)…On Page 23… buying a tent may be one of " a list of “75 behavioural indicators of religious extremism". But the report (which I have skimmed) says a lot of very very scary things, and in this context, having some of those behavioural indicators connected with you could be pretty serious.

My point is don't exaggerate and don't distort. If the report says buying a whole load of different equipment can be considered reason for *suspicion* you shouldn't list each of these things individually and say you can be locked up indefinitely for buying them.

Likewise, a whole collection of sudden changes in behaviour. (again: suspicion, not detention)

Likewise flags and headscarves.

Likewise Arabic script.

Etc. etc.

People actually read this stuff in Foreign Policy and a whole load of them presumably believed it.

I am with Fergus. No way if you go buy a tent and a compass while wearing Arabic scripted shirts you are not going to be taken. That list of behavioral indicators decides who get's locked up indefinitely and who does not. Owning a tent or not owning the tent can very well be the difference between getting taken away and not being taken away–and in the broader context of the report this is very clear. I see no problem here.

P.S. It might be useful to define the word "Indefinite" as some people have interpreted that to mean "forever." It simply means "having no exact limits; not certain in time or length." Worth remembering.

The PRC is a totalitarian, communist state. What is being done is the classic, quite standard socialist-totalitarian response to a perceived threat. This is only their actions at an early stage of dealing with that perceived threat.

I am somewhat surprised that the Chinese Communist party has not already simply exterminated this (in their eyes) 'problematic' ethnic-religious group.


Note that word 'yet'. Because totalitarian regimes second response to an intractable perceived internal threat is to open the death and slave labour camps.

The Chinese Communist party had not a single problem with killing something like 45,000,000 Han Chinese during the 'Great leap Forward'. That was the approximate corpse-mountain in just four years. Given that history, why should exterminating the Uighar worry them? Who's going to stop them?

So it's early days. Expect the Chinese Communists to do what socialist regimes always do; expect this to become an effective genocide at any time.