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  • Ex-inmate Omir Bekali said he spent weeks in a camp in Karamay, Xinjiang
  • The camp was meant to strip detainees of their religious belief, he reveals
  • Inmates are asked to sing patriotic songs and conduct self-criticism, Bekali said 
  • He has been telling his story as one of the few survivors able to speak out 

A former detainee has told of the horror at China’s re-education camps for Muslims.

Indoctrination starts with early morning patriotic songs and sessions of self-criticism, and often ends with a meal of only pork, according to Omir Bekali, an ethnic Kazakh who said he spent several weeks in a camp in Karamay in Xinjiang before fleeing to Turkey a year ago.

UN experts say China holds one million Muslims in camps in the heavily policed far-west region where most of the country’s ethnic Uyghur, the largest Muslim minority, live.

But Beijing has denied the accusations, saying people are attending ‘vocational education centres’ to rid them of any extremist thoughts in a region that was hit by deadly riots and attacks in recent years.

The sites are a kind of ‘campus’, according to China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng speaking last week.

‘Our education and training centres have been set up according to our needs. The students that come in to learn, it’s a dynamic number that changes,’ Shohrat Zakir, the chairman of Xinjiang’s government, told journalists on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary meeting last week.

‘As a whole, the number of people in the education centres should be less and less, and if one day society no longer needs it, these education centres can gradually disappear,’ he said, without providing the number of people at the facilities.

For Bekali, the exiled former detainee, the camp was more about trauma than education. Read more

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