More than 100 Christians have been sent to “re-education” camps in China’s north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the past few months.
In these camps, also known as “study centers” or “mind-transformation centers,” they are taught how to be loyal to the communist ideology.
Most of those detained are from the Uyghur ethnic minority group and have a Muslim background. In recent years the Uyghurs they have been the prime targets of the government’s “anti-terror” campaign, aimed at cracking down on both separatist groups and militant Islamists. But those who have converted to Christianity have also been caught up in the crackdown.
A source told World Watch Monitor that members of his church were sent to such a camp without knowing when they would come back. Some stayed there for a month, others for half a year or even longer, the source said. Christian families were torn apart as one or both parents were taken for “re-education”.
One woman, married to a leader of a community, said that she doesn’t know where her husband is, but she believes that God is using him in the prisons or camps. “Sometimes I am worried that he doesn’t have enough clothes to keep warm in the prison,” she said.
“I am afraid it will affect my children too,” said another woman whose husband has been taken for re-education and supports other women in her situation. “The teacher in the school is paying special attention to my children after the authorities told the school about my husband,” she added.
The world’s most surveilled area
Xinjiang is now the world’s most intensely surveilled area, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
“There are armoured cars on the street, police stations on every corner and tons of surveillance cameras,” WSJ reported.
To live in this region means being checked many times every day, whether in the market, on the road, entering the cinema, or travelling by train or bus.
“Even your smartphone is checked,” WSJ reported.
Government-registered churches are also required to scan people when they come to Sunday services. As they enter, they have to show their ID cards and an alarm will be sounded if anyone works for the government or a public institution. It is for this reason that many Christians have stopped going to registered churches and now meet in smaller groups.
“I feel like I live in a big prison,” World Watch Monitor’s source said.
— World Watch Monitor