China has been accused of locking away around 1,000,000 Muslim people in prison camps in its western Xinjiang region.
The government denies the claims, instead claiming people willingly attend special training centres aimed at combatting extremism.
Last week, human rights campaigners said detainees were being forced into the centres to try to bring them into line with Communist Party thinking.
Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, said the government’s statement and accompanying footage from inside the ‘schools’ was ‘ludicrous propaganda’.
‘We documented torture, we documented ill treatment,’ she said.
The BBC has today published a report on the secret mass detention of the hundreds of thousands of minority Muslims, using satellite images to expose dozens of the suspected prison camps.
Set up in former schools, the camps house accommodation blocks and watch towers. Relatives are seen queuing up to visit those inside.
China calls the old schools ‘vocational training centres’ saying they have been set up to combat the spread of extremism.
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A new camp was seen in the BBC’s satellite pictures surrounded by 16 watchtowers.
When reporters went to explore by car, they found it was being built upon on a huge scale, with a number of cranes visible. They were quickly told to leave. ‘It’s like a city,’ BBC reporter John Sudworth says.
‘If this really is all about education then why the effort to stop us getting close?’
China has characterised its mass internment of Muslims as a push to bring into the ‘modern, civilised’ world a ‘destitute people’ who are ‘easily led astray’ – a depiction that analysts said bore troubling colonial overtones.
The ruling Communist Party released a report on Tuesday last week to defend the detention of Central Asian Muslim minorities – including Uighur and Kasakh Muslims – without trial.
According to estimates made by the UN, around 1,000,000 people have been arbitrarily detained in mass internment camps.
Former detainees have described being tortured, forced to drop their Islamic beliefs and have had their children taken away and placed in orphanages.
The government says they are trying to bring ‘indigenous Central Asian ethnic minorities into Han Chinese society and in turn, a “modern” lifestyle’, the official Xinhua News Agency claimed.
Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said authorities were providing people with lessons on Mandarin, Chinese history and laws, hoping to ‘steer them away from extremism’.
China says the camps – or ‘education centres’ – are necessary for countering the threat of terrorism, despite growing alarm from the US and the United Nations.