Whilst parents are re-educated in "vocational training centres", children are held in boarding schools and kindergartens. The authorities are on a building drive for boarding schools. For the regime, schools are replacing parents.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - In China’s western province of Xinjiang, home to the country’s Uighur Muslim minority, Chinese authorities are deliberately separating children from their families, religion and culture.
Whilst hundreds of thousands of adults are being held in large detention centres, a rapid campaign is underway to build large-scale boarding schools, this according to research by the BBC.
Alongside efforts to transform the identity of Uighur adults, the evidence points to a parallel campaign to systematically remove children from their roots.
Chinese authorities claim that the Uighurs are being re-educated in "vocational training centres", set up to fight violent religious extremism.
Reports from international organisations show that many of the more than one million prisoners are in detention solely for expressing their faith or having contacts with abroad.
Researchers have also raised concerns about the fate of thousands of children. A report by Adrian Zenz, a German scholar, shows the unprecedented expansion of schools in Xinjiang.
In parallel to adult detention centres, Beijing has launched an unprecedented school expansion drive, including new large-scale boarding schools.
In just one year, 2017, the total number of children enrolled in kindergartens in Xinjiang increased by more than half a million. And Uighur and other Muslim minority children, made up more than 90 per cent of that increase.
As a result, Xinjiang's pre-school enrolment level has gone from below the national average to the highest in China by far.
In southern Xinjiang alone, an area with the highest concentration of Uighur populations, the authorities have spent US$ 1.2 billion on building and upgrading kindergartens.
Government propaganda extols the virtues of boarding schools as helping to "maintain social stability and peace" with the "school taking the place of the parents."
The children of detained Uighurs are enrolled in the school system in large numbers. Local authorities use detailed forms to log the situations of children with parents in vocational training or in prison, to determine whether they need centralised care.
According to state media, boarding schools – where only Chinese is spoken – allow minority children to learn "better life habits" and better personal hygiene. Some children have begun referring to their teachers as "mummy".
Back in Xinjiang, the research shows that all children now find themselves in schools that are secured with "hard isolation closed management measures”. Many schools bristle with full-coverage surveillance systems, perimeter alarms and 10,000 Volt electric fences.
"I think the evidence for systematically keeping parents and children apart is a clear indication that Xinjiang's government is attempting to raise a new generation cut off from original roots, religious beliefs and their own language," Zenz said. "I believe the evidence points to what we must call cultural genocide."