Shocking footage purportedly shows cells inside prison camp where China oppresses Muslim minority

Screenshot from footage by Bitter Winter magazine purporting to show the inside of Yingye’er camp in Xinjiang, designed for China’s Uighur Muslim minority. Bitter Winter/YouTube
  • New video footage purports to show a camp in western China designed to detain the country’s Uighur minority.
  • Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, are subjected to intense surveillance and persecution in their home region, Xinjiang.
  • Bitter Winter, a magazine that reports on human rights in China, published a series of clips inside a camp in Yingye’er, Xinjiang.
  • The footage shows a series of dorm rooms fitted with double iron doors and tightly secured windows, which look like jail cells.
  • Corridors are also adorned with patriotic slogans calling on them to adhere to President Xi Jinping’s policies.
  • China characterises camps like this as “free vocational training” centres.

Shocking footage appears to show inside China’s camps for its persecuted Uighur minority, where the cells look exactly like a conventional prison.

Bitter Winter magazine, which reports on human rights in China, on Monday published a series of video clips from inside a camp in Yingye’er city in western Xinjiang. Scroll down for the full video.

Xinjiang is a Chinese region where at least 8 million Uighurs live and are subjected to incredibly intrusive surveillance. Uighurs refer to the region as East Turkestan.

The footage of Yingye’er Transformation Through Education Camp, which was taken in August, shows rows of rooms along a long corridor, with jail cell-like iron doors in front of each of them.

Some are used as dorm rooms, with up to 15 people living inside, and others are used as classrooms, Bitter Winter said.

China imprisons up to 1 million Uighurs in detention centres and re-education camps in Xinjiang, activists say. Beijing has consistently denied that accusation, referring to the camps instead as “free vocational training” that make life “colourful.”

Read more:
China claimed its re-education camps for Muslim minorities are ‘free vocational training’ that make life ‘colourful’

Xinjiang yingye'er camp iron door
Inside one of the rooms in Yingye’er camp, according to Bitter Winter’s footage. It’s not clear whether this room was designed to be a dormitory or a classroom. Bitter Winter/YouTube

According to the magazine, every room in the building has two sets of iron doors. It says the outermost one also has a guard railing and a keypad lock. Such a system would mean that the people inside the rooms can be locked in, and only authorities are allowed to get them out.

The windows at the camp also appear to be tightly secured, with iron bars outside the windows.

Bitter Winter wrote: “There is no difference between its inner constructions and those of a prison.”

Xinjiang yingye'er camp buildings
Windows at the Yingye’er camp also appear to be tightly secured. Bitter Winter/YouTube

Numerous patriotic, pro-China posters can be seen on the corridor’s walls outside classrooms.

Slogans include: “Be grateful” and “Follow the guidance of Xi Jinping’s thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, and untiringly strive to realise the Chinese dream of a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Every room and corner of the building is outfitted with a surveillance camera. Footage showed what appeared to be a control room with multiple screens that cover the whole building.

Xinjiang yingye'er camp slogan
Screenshot of Bitter Winter’s video showing a slogan adorning the wall of the Yingye’er camp, which says: ‘Be grateful.’ Bitter Winter/YouTube

Shawn Zhang, a Vancouver-based researcher, estimated that the entire facility could hold between 27,000 to 35,000 people.

Bitter Winter said the camp was still under construction when Bitter Winter collected the footage in August. One month later, an employee of the camp told the magazine that several thousand individuals were already being kept there, but declined to say who they were.

This would fit in with reports from elsewhere in Xinjiang, of so many Uighurs being detained that authorities were running low on places to keep them.

In October, Radio Free Asia reported that Xinjiang authorities were secretly transferring Uighur detainees to prisons around the Chinese mainland because existing re-education camps were too crowded to house them all.

Watch Bitter Winter’s video here:

Bitter Winter’s footage of Yingye’er camp matches the descriptions of former detainees and witnesses of other detention facilities in Xinjiang.

They have described physical and mental torture, which include being shackled to a chair, deprived of sleep, and waterboarded.

Mihrigul Tursun, a former detainee, told reporters on Monday that she was interrogated for four days in a row without sleep, and electrocuted.

She told a Washington, DC press conference, according to the Associated Press: “White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness … The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uighur is a crime.”

Read more:
What it’s like inside the internment camps China uses to oppress its Muslim minority, according to people who’ve been there

Xinjiang police streets
China subjects Xinjiang to some of the most intrusive surveillance in the world. Here, a scene in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in 2017. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Fifteen Western ambassadors in Beijing are reportedly planning a rare coordinated meeting to grill officials in Xinjiang over their crackdown on Uighurs, a plan which Beijing has called “very rude.”

Earlier this month, a group of bipartisan US lawmakers also issued a bill calling on the White House to consider banning exports of US technology that could be used to oppress the Uighurs, and to impose sanctions against human rights offenders.