Recently, an official notice circulated by the government education authority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), stating that all preschools in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Qaraqash (Moyu) county are to be converted into boarding schools, has spread widely on WeChat and other social media platforms in China. According to the directive, guardians are required to drop children off at the schools on Monday morning and are not permitted to pick them up until Saturday. The notice has prompted concerned discussion among Uyghur-language accounts and groups on social media, including Uyghurs in the diaspora. While RFA’s Uyghur Service was able to confirm the authenticity of the order with a government employee in Qaraqash, it was not immediately clear whether the new policy is effective across the XUAR or only within the county.
In recent years, experts have presented convincing evidence that Chinese authorities are placing the children of what they call “double-detained” parents into various forms of state care in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” views in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017. In mid-2018, RFA’s Uyghur Service cited local authorities at a village in Qaraqash as saying that dozens of Uyghur children whose guardians had been detained had been sent to live in orphanages—claims that have been echoed in reports from many mostly Uyghur-populated areas around the region. RFA recently spoke with Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and one of the world’s foremost experts on mass incarcerations in the XUAR, who said converting preschools into boarding schools is a natural extension of existing policies of assimilation in the region.
This fits into the government strategy of increasing control over the young generation and assimilating them, because they can. That means they put them into a highly immersive Chinese language and culture environment, which allows greater assimilation and more control over their culture, language, and traditions.
The effect on Uyghur society is very major because it increases state control over very young children, and the government considers young children to be very strategic, because they’re more easily influenced, and language-learning takes place at a time of worldview formation ... Even in class, they need the care of the family, right? So even if they stay at the preschool all the time, that means that requires more government resources. So that’s not really from a real need. That’s not a social need, but it’s very clearly a step towards a policy of assimilation. Right? It’s artificial. It’s an artificial creation, because society doesn’t need it. The parents want to see their children ... It’s a government intrusion. It’s an intrusion of the government in family life in order to increase control, even over family units, especially with the young generation.
Intergenerational separation is a targeted strategy of the government, and it is going to be even greater with an expansion of the amount of time the children spend in the government setting. And of course, especially like evening and overnight, the whole time they don’t see their parents for six days. They’re such small children.
Reported by Erkin for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Elise Anderson. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.