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Chilling Video: Inside China's Re-Education Prisons

A leftover from last week, but it absolutely merits flagging -- especially as Americans gear up to celebrate the founding of our nation.  We have our flaws, no doubt, but living in this great, free country is an irreplaceable gift.  It's something we should treasure, particularly when we encounter reminders of what it's like to live under repressive regimes.  With all the casual, hyperbolic talk about 'fascism' and 'concentration camps' embedded in our domestic political rhetoric, a recent BBC investigative report into China's massive "thought transformation" prison system should help focus our minds on what those concepts actually look like in practice.  Allahpundit gives us the backdrop:

This is more accurately regarded as an internment or reeducation camp, I suppose, since the goal is brainwashing, not hard labor unto death. But the scale of the concentration is vast: Last August the Journal that upwards of one million Muslim Uighurs, roughly seven percent of the population of China’s Xinjiang region, had been packed off to 1,300+ camps for “reeducation.” A more recent estimate by CFRsays the number may run as high as two million. It’s a modern-day gulag, being operated on an industrial scale, and you scarcely hear about it. Including and especially from Muslim governments abroad, which are more interested in preserving their economic relationships with China than in human rights for members of their faith.

These Muslims are rounded up without charges, en masse, under the pretext of "de-radicalizing" them. But many are detained based on zero evidence of radicalization: "Most people in the camps have never been charged with crimes and have no legal avenues to challenge their detentions. The detainees seem to have been targeted for a variety of reasons, according to media reports, including traveling to or contacting people from any of the twenty-six countries China considers sensitive, such as Turkey and Afghanistan; attending services at mosques; and sending texts containing Quranic verses. Often, their only crime is being Muslim..." Details from the Wall Street Journal piece AP mentions in his post are as creepy as one might imagine. This is like something out of a dystopian Statist fever dream:

The prisoners were awakened at 5 a.m. each morning and after a 45-minute run, shouting “The Communist Party is good!” were fed thin soup and steamed bread, he said. Next came political classes, which included reading Communist Party documents, watching videos about President Xi Jinping and singing patriotic songs such as “Without the Communist Party, there wouldn’t be a new China!” for up to four hours daily“..."They said we should give thanks not to Allah, but to Xi Jinping,” said one Uighur former inmate, who declined to be identified.

In order to "prove" that these re-education camps are, in fact, voluntary "schools," in which the inmates -- er, students -- are happy and thriving, the Chinese government arranged a highly-choreographed tour for a small group of Western journalists, including a reporter at the BBC. They hoped their facade of deceit would help convince foreigners that everything is just fine, deflecting attention away from the mass-scale human rights abuses taking place. To their credit, the BBC crew refused to perform their duties as useful idiots, led around by the nose by Communist apparatchiks. This skin-crawling report exposes the gap between what Beijing wants Western viewers to see, and what's really going on. The clip is a bit long but well worth your time:

The rote singing and chanting, the plastered-on smiles while performing for the cameras, the rehearsed answers with minders lurking over shoulders -- it's all viscerally frightening. The exchange between the reporter and a government official about the characteristics of a "school" versus a prison around the three-minute mark shows how risible the Party Line can become, and how quickly it withers under even mild scrutiny. Also chilling is the satellite imagery showing the government's cosmetic transformation of the detention facility to which journalists were given access; mobile guard towers removed, interior fencing packed away, basketball courts painted on concrete slabs. All for propaganda purposes. The Communist officials defending the government's ability to determine pre-guilt (around the 8:00 mark) is also quite disturbing. Their words crush the concept of due process into dust. 

Later, after a "school principal" gives some shaky answers during an unexpected interview, cameras capture Community Party watchers berating him for his responses. The closing image, of forced chanting in "classrooms" late into the night, is haunting. It's horrible to imagine what must take place at more secret and inaccessible prisons.  This investigative segment is outstanding work, shining a fleeting spotlight on widespread abuses that receive scant attention around the world.  Many people are unaware of China's systematic oppression.  Others turn a blind eye out of self-interest.  And others would rather quench their endless thirst for outrage by blasting more parochial targets.  This is a tough point, but it's true (content warning):

It's unclear what average Americans can do about persecution and subjugation occurring deep within China.  One thing we ought to do, at the very least, is put our own national warts and shortcomings into proper perspective, and express gratitude that we are blessed to live here, not there.

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