Xinjiang, China—A play from the Nazi playbook or an honest effort to deal with extremism?

The Chinese government has just legalized the use of concentration camps for Uighur Muslims. The camps have been erected in Xinjiang, a western region in China. Human rights organizations report that detainees are forced to renounce their faith and swear loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party.

A state-owned newspaper defended the camps by writing that “Peace and stability must come above all else. With this as the goal, all measures can be tried.”

Chinese officials from the Xinjiang province assert that the camps are intended to combat extremism. They describe them as “vocation training centres” where inmates go through “thought transformation” to ensure they avoid becoming radical Islamists. More specifically, inmates are taught Mandarin Chinese, Chinese legislation, and also receive vocational training. They claimed, moreover, that Uighur Muslims were going through a resettlement and re-education programs because they were “deceived by religious extremism.”

But what acts could land a person in one of these camps?

Refusing to listen to government radio or watch government TV, or preventing one’s children from receiving state education.

Although Beijing denies it, it is estimated that more than a million people are being detained in the camps.  Most are there without being charged with a crime and with no hope of legal representation.

This hasn’t been the first authoritarian action to take place in Xinjiang province. The Muslim dominated region has faced numerous government crackdowns in the past decades over separatism and terrorism allegations. In a previous wave of censure, the Chinese government banned the growth of beards and the wear of veils by women. Further, parents were ordered to give their children common Chinese names.