The Australian Strategic Policy Institute made the declaration after reviewing satellite images and official construction tender documents to map more than 380 suspected facilities in the far northwestern region, highlighting internment camps and other structures that have been newly built or expanded since 2017.
“Available evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang’s vast ‘re-education’ network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons, or sent to walled factory compounds for coerced labor assignments,” its researcher Nathan Ruser wrote in a report released Thursday.
Predominantly Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, like the Uighurs, have been locked in camps as part of a government assimilation campaign launched in response to decades of sometimes violent struggle against Chinese rule. Though Chinese officials have described the camps as “boarding school-like” facilities meant to provide free job training, former detainees say they were subjected to brutal conditions, political indoctrination, beatings, and sometimes psychological and physical torture.
Under the assimilation drive, the state also has forced Uighurs to undergo sterilizations and abortions, an Associated Press investigation found, and in recent months, has ordered them to drink traditional Chinese medicines to combat the coronavirus.
At least 61 of the suspected detention sites had undergone new construction and expansion work in a year leading up to July 2020, the report said. These included at least 14 facilities still under construction this year.
“Of these, about 50% are higher security facilities, which may suggest a shift in usage from the lower-security, ‘re-education centers’ toward higher-security prison-style facilities,” Ruser wrote.