Chinese Muslim students returned home for university holidays to find members of their families had been taken away for unhealthy thoughts, leaked government documents show.
Young people from the minority ethnic Uighur community in the Xinjiang province were told their loved ones were undergoing training, which is why they were not at home, The New York Times revealed after receiving 400 pages of internal documents.
Local officials were instructed to meet students on arrival to explain their relatives were susceptible to Islamic extremism and had been detained for their own good, according to the papers.
No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study, read one of the responses in a scripted Q&A-style guide for officials in Turpan, southern Xinjiang, on how to respond to worried students’ questions.
It is estimated around one million people from ethnic minorities in China have been detained in camps typically shrouded in secrecy Recent research, however, suggests the total figure could be far more.
Many Uighurs from Xinjiang go to university outside the region, where the clampdown on the minority Muslim community has been focused.
In the leaked guide, officials were told to inform students their families are in a training school set up by the government to undergo collective systematic training.
They are advised to placate any worries by insisting the disappeared are in good hands, even though they cannot leave their “schools” and cannot be visited. You have absolutely no need to worry about how they are doing, the document told officials to say.
Tuition for their period of study is free and so are food and living costs. It advised informing the students that the government spends $3 (£2.30) per day for each person’s daily meals.
However, if a student is agitated or continues asking pressing questions, the set answers become less reassuring and more assertive, The New York Times explained.