Xinjiang: The Largest Outdoor Prison in the World

Under the pretext of “de-radicalization,” CCP has extended its control of the population in Xinjiang to every aspect of daily life.

The authorities’ persecution of Uyghur, ethnic Kazakh, and other Muslims in Xinjiang affects all aspects of their lives, causing Islamic traditions to face the threat of extinction.

Several Han Chinese who live and work in Xinjiang have described to Bitter Winter how they perceive the situation in Xinjiang.

Fighting Century-Old Traditions

One shop owner in Xinjiang’s Korla city told Bitter Winter that he recently invited a few Hui friends to share a meal, and made special arrangements to serve halal food. He said, “You don’t eat pork. All of this food is halal.” One Hui friend, with a terrified look on his face, hurriedly interjected: “You mustn’t say such things in the future. We can eat anything now. You saw that, as soon as we came, we put our cellphones in another room. All of our cellphones have been specially processed by the police. If these remarks are monitored, we will be locked up in a study class.”

A shopkeeper who sells clothes said that a Uyghur girl came to her shop to buy clothes, and she really liked the style of one skirt. However, her mother pointed to the Islamic pattern at the bottom of the skirt and said firmly that they could not buy the garment. The mother also said that the government had stipulated that any clothing item with an Islamic pattern cannot be worn. Even home decorations that contain such patterns must be taken down.

In February 2015, Xinjiang authorities enacted the Regulations Regarding the Prohibition of Wearing Face Veils and Burqas in Public Places of Urumqi. The regulations do not deal with burqas only, they prohibit the wearing of robes or of clothing that depicts Islamic symbols or patterns. Uyghur women are prohibited from covering their face, and men are prohibited from growing a long beard. In addition, Hui Muslims are not allowed to wear white skullcaps.

The shopkeeper also revealed that, if a Muslim keeps a long beard and is discovered by community officials, the beard will be forcibly shaved off immediately, and the person will also be required to write a statement declaring, “I shaved off my beard voluntarily.”

Uyghurs are usually accustomed to lay a blanket on the floor and sit on top of it, but the CCP is now demanding that Uyghurs buy sofas and coffee tables, and sit on the sofa. One school principal said helplessly, “I have to take the lead in buying a sofa. The government demanded that I buy it within one month. They will come and check my home out.”

One Han resident told Bitter Winter that she asked a nine-year-old Uyghur girl, “Do you learn the Uyghur language at school?” The young girl replied, “We don’t learn the Uyghur language. My teacher said that not even a single Uyghur-language book can be kept at home. I threw out all of those books. Now, I can’t speak the Uyghur language anymore. When communicating with my younger brother, we may have to use hand gestures but never Uyghur. I’m also afraid of seeing my grandmother, because she can’t speak Mandarin. When I see my grandmother, I’m unable to communicate with her.”

In 2019, the CCP ordered Uyghurs to celebrate the Spring Festival, despite the fact that Uyghurs have never celebrated such ethnic Han festivals in the past. Prior to the Spring Festival, Hotan municipal authorities recruited ethnic Hans to go door to door and forcibly post couplets and hang lanterns typical of this Han celebration at the homes of Uyghurs. The authorities paid 20 RMB (about $3) for each couplet posted on a Uyghur home, and claimed that the purpose of this move was to transform the thinking of Uyghurs, so that they may learn from the Hans and unite with them to make the country stronger and more prosperous.

ID Cards Checked Everywhere

One teacher in Xinjiang told me that citizens now have to bring their ID card wherever they go. Whether going to a school, residential neighborhood, hospital, bank, restaurant, or retail store, they must always present their ID card. Without an ID card, they cannot even eat at restaurants. When entering a mall to buy things, they have to undergo a full-body search, just like when boarding an airplane. If there is even a slight discrepancy between the photo on the person’s ID card and their actual appearance, they will be required to go to another place to continue being screened. Some wanted to go to a mall but didn’t have their ID card with them; when they were prevented from entering the mall, they uttered some complaints. Inspection personnel immediately called the police station and asked the police to come.

The teacher added, “Through the school principal, I managed with great effort to buy a vegetable knife. I was required to bring it to the community office to have my ID card number engraved on it. It also had to be registered on the computer. The vegetable knife can only be used in the kitchen and must be secured to an iron chain.” He explained that this move by the authorities is intended to prevent people from using kitchen knives as weapons.

Spying Becomes Mandatory


One prison warden who wished to remain anonymous revealed that Uyghurs are locked up in transformation through education camps even for getting into a fight, or failing to stop at a red traffic light. Those who have been locked up must provide the names of two to four people who have committed offenses, such as carrying regulated knives or other cutting tools out of home without authorization. “If you provide this information, you won’t be tortured. If you refuse to do so, you will be subjected to torture. This has forced people to report each other. Even some people who got into a fight more than a decade ago have been reported and arrested.”


As for how long these Uyghurs will be detained, he said, “The government doesn’t plan to release them at all. The government never explained what crimes these Uyghurs committed. The CCP just wants to sinicize Uyghurs. Now, when walking along the street, Uyghurs keep their heads down when they see Han people passing by. If they accidentally bump into a Han person, they’re so scared that they hurriedly apologize. When crossing an intersection, they worry that someone will report them and claim they burned a red light.”