Reports of concentration camps built by China for the "re-education" of religious minorities forcing inmates to renounce their faith has been confirmed in a new report from an escaped Kazakh inmate.
In the report detailed to Christian ministry Barnabas Fund, an ethnic Kazakh ex-detainee described his time in a camp in the western Chinese city of Xinjiang. Previous reports have extensively corroborated claims of forced labor, organ harvesting, sexual assault, and squalid living conditions in nearly 400 camps built over the past few years.
According to the escaped inmate, the day began at 6 a.m. with a communist anthem blared in cells over loudspeakers.
"The Communist Party is like the sun; Brings light wherever she shines. Mao is our star, saving the people," said the anthem.
A leaked video in August showed how Chinese authorities play propaganda at the camps to promote communist ideals.
The ex-inmate reported being kept in a packed cell with up to 10 prisoners at a time and fed expired foods that many suspected was laced with medicine meant to sterilize prisoners. Female prisoners have testified to similar injections meant to stop ovulations. Experts have called the Communist Party's sterilization and abortion efforts "demographic genocide."
"There were not enough beds for everyone, so they slept like this: on the upper shelves, one person at a time – because the beds were fragile, and the shelf could fall, on the lower shelves, two, the rest on the floor," said the ex-inmate.
The ex-inmate reported that prisoners were sent to "school" each day and taught "there is no God" as they learned about the "strength of the Communist Party." They also learned the Chinese language and customs in an effort to erase their cultural and religious identity.
"They taught pronouns, the most elementary: what I went through in school 30 years ago. The teachers walked around and checked us, and we, like children, nodded in response that we had learned everything and knew everything," said the ex-detainee.
The source also said that the facility and individual cells were monitored by electronic surveillance 24 hours a day, preventing inmates from speaking or interacting with each other. A Christian leader from Russia told Barnabas Fund that in some ways, this constant surveillance makes the facilities worse than the persecution he and others faced in the prisons of the former Soviet Union.
"While the Soviet gulags were similar to the current indoctrination-style camps in China, he suggests they are, in fact, much worse due to the constant and all-pervasive electronic surveillance which prevents even basic communication between cellmates," said the report.
While many of the hundreds of thousands of detainees are Muslims, Barnabas Fund notes that little is known about Christians and other minorities being held in the camps. Most of those who have escaped are those who hold Kazakh citizenship, along with a few who have managed to cross the border illegally.