The Chinese government has legalised the internment of up to a million Uyghur Muslims in the province of Xinjiang by revising a law on Tuesday 9 October to “carry out anti-extremist idealogical education and psychological and behavioral correction to promote thought transformation.” 

The updated law, Article 133 now acknowledges the existence of mass detentions in re-education camps in Xinjiang, where former detainees accuse the Chinese government of suppressing the practice of Islam and stamping out Uyghur language and culture.

Under the new rules, all officials and police in the region must make a declaration that they are “loyal Communist Party members” and “don’t have any religious belief.” Their only faith is allowed to be “Marxism and Leninism,” and they must agree to “fight against ‘pan-halalisation’ thoroughly.”

Restrictions have long been placed on Muslims in Xinjiang, increasingly during the last few months for the basic Islamic practices of performing prayers, fasting during Ramadan, consumption of halal food, wearing of headscarves by women and growing of beards by men.

The law is being used to justify not only restrictions on Islam, but the massive securitization of Xinjiang, with armed police manning checkpoints across cities, surveillance cameras everywhere, and citizens unable to leave the region.

During the past year with the expanding network of “re-education camps,” where Uyghur internees are forced to attend “anti-extremist ideological” classes and their behavior, particularly religious behavior is tightly controlled.
“Detentions are extra-legal, with no legal representation allowed throughout the process of arrest and incarceration,” according to the World Uyghur Congress, a Germany-based umbrella group for the Uyghur diaspora, which recently submitted evidence to the United Nations about the camps.
The large province of Xinjiang stretches 1.6 million square kilometers from the Tibetan plateau in the southeast to Kazakhstan on its north-western border. It is China’s largest administrative region, but one of its least densely populated.
Around 22 million people, mainly Turkic-speaking Muslims known as Uyghurs reside in this region concentrated around the major cities of Urumqi, Kashgar and Yining.