During the Cultural Revolution, millions of dissidents (and those suspected of dissidence) were sent to "re-education camps" where torture and slave labor were augmented by marathon "self-criticism" sessions where prisoners would have to engage in prolonged recitations and disavowals of their heresies.
The practice has been revived for China's predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities like the Uighurs, who are sent to indoctrination camps where they face physical torture and brainwashing, and are forced to spend hours praising the Communist Party and disavowing Islam.
Tens of thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of people have been arrested by police in the province of Xinjiang (ground zero for China's most aggressive surveillance tactics) and sent to camps, including many citizens of countries other than China. The AP obtained eyewitness reports from four of these detainees, affording the first public glimpse into life inside China's new anti-Islam torture camps — a scaled-up version of Gitmo, complete with bizarre fears over "sharia law."
Internees would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7:30 a.m. They gathered back inside large classrooms to learn "red songs" like "Without the Communist Party, there is no New China," and study Chinese language and history. They were told that the indigenous sheep-herding Central Asian people of Xinjiang were backward and yoked by slavery before they were "liberated" by the Communist Party in the 1950s.
Before meals of vegetable soup and buns, the inmates would be ordered to chant: "Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!"
Discipline was strictly enforced and punishment could be harsh. Bekali was kept in a locked room almost around the clock with eight other internees, who shared beds and a wretched toilet. Cameras were installed in toilets and even outhouses. Baths were rare, as was washing of hands and feet, which internees were told was equated with Islamic ablution.
Bekali and other former internees say the worst parts of the indoctrination program were forced repetition and self-criticism. Although students didn't understand much of what was taught and the material bordered on the nonsensical to them, they were made to internalize it by repetition in sessions lasting two hours or longer.
"We will oppose extremism, we will oppose separatism, we will oppose terrorism," they chanted again and again. Almost every day, the students received guest lecturers from the local police, judiciary and other branches of government warning about the dangers of separatism and extremism.
"Do you obey Chinese law or Sharia?" instructors asked. "Do you understand why religion is dangerous?"
China's mass indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution [Gerry Shih/AP]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: IA Walsh, CC-BY)