View of Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, the ‘world’s most surveilled area’. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, the world’s most surveilled area, according to the Wall Street Journal (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

“Re-education” camps in China’s far-western Xinjiang region hold hundreds of thousands of people – possibly even over a million – a new report says.

The paper, published on Tuesday (15 May) by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington DC-based think-tank, said there is a “substantial body of PRC [People’s Republic of China] governmental sources that prove the existence of the camp… While estimates of internment numbers remain speculative, the available evidence suggests that a significant percentage of Xinjiang’s Muslim minority population, likely at least several hundred thousand, and possibly just over one million, are or have been interned in political re-education facilities”.

Though the majority of those affected are Muslim, over 100 Christians have also been sent to the camps, also known as “study centres” or “mind-transformation centres”, as World Watch Monitor reported in February.

Many are arrested during surprise raids and taken to an unknown location, leaving wives and children behind in uncertainty and often without any income. Some young men have been missing now for nearly 12 months, a local source, who did not wish to be named, told World Watch Monitor.

“Travel has been tightly controlled for some time, so families cannot just up and leave,” the source said. “Christians coming from a Muslim background don’t dare meet together now, except to visit each other in small numbers at home.”


Since 2017, the Chinese government has intensified efforts to maintain stability in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and has started a campaign against what it calls the rising threat of terrorism and separatism.

It involves an increase in surveillance measures in public places and the introduction of new anti-terror policies, but also prohibiting parents to give new-born babies Islamic names.

Police have also rounded up tens of thousands of young Muslim men and taken them away to “re-education” centres, where they are reportedly taught how to be loyal to the communist ideology.

China has denied the existence of these camps. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told Reuters in April: “Everyone can see that people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang live and work in peace and contentment, and enjoy peaceful and progressing lives.”