This prison is called Urumqi No. 3, which is located in the western region of Xinjiang.
The majestic facility is surrounded by a 7.5 meter high concrete wall, watchtower and electric fences. At the main entrance you are greeted by gates fitted with face scanners, guarded by highly armed guards in military uniform.
The prison is 890 square meters, twice the size of the Vatican City State. It makes up China’s largest prison, probably even in the world.
Both Reuters And BBC Previously wrote about the giant company, but the news agency Associated Press It was the first media system to be allowed to enter the doors. Inside one of the hundreds of cells there are many Uyghurs. Everyone is in uniform and in numbers, watching a television broadcast of the history of the Chinese Communist Party.
– We control what they see. Prison director Ju Hongpin says we can see if they are breaking the rules, or if they are trying to do harm or trying to take their own lives.
Room for 10,000 people
The company is only used for pre-trial detention, meaning none of the inmates have been convicted.
Chinese officials did not want to comment on how many inmates are in prison, and indicated that the number would vary. Based on the number of cells, beds and satellite imagery, the Associated Press estimates that the mega company can accommodate up to 10,000 inmates. The number increases drastically if prisoners are intercepted.
The news agency writes that China still has large numbers of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities behind bars. Satellite images show that the prison was expanded in late 2019 with several prison locations. The new building on the bottom left of the picture is 343 acres.
China has taken action after a small group of militant Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region carried out knife and bomb attacks. For the past four years, there have been officers Was severely beaten against the people, They refer to it as the “war on terror.”
The so-called most controversial moves “Training Camps”, Ex-prisoners are described as barbaric labor camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
China has long denied that there were camps, but after extensive international pressure, officials said in 2019 that all prisoners in the camps were “graduates.” Images from the mega prison in Xinjiang may indicate that the “training camps” are closed, only to re-emerge as a prison.
Critics say the new plan is a way to cover up the mass imprisonment of religious minorities, and hope that the authorities will try to avoid criticism by renaming the prisons of training camps.
One of them is anthropologist Darren Byler, who researches life at the University of Colorado. He believes that many prisoners in institutions like No. 3 are innocent people who have not committed “serious crimes.”
– We are moving from a police state to a mass prison state. Byler says hundreds of thousands of people have simply disappeared from other people.
– Normal behavior is criminalized, the researcher believes.
When AB visited the mega facility, the prison administration insisted that the company was something completely different from the “training camps”.
– This prison has nothing to do with training camps. Director Zhao Zhangwei says there has never been a training camp in this area.
Officials also point out that prison is an example of how Chinese authorities follow the principle of a fair law. They point out that prisoners receive hot food, exercise and legal advice.
– BBC report Said it was a training camp. This is wrong, this is a prison, says Liu Chang at China’s Foreign Ministry. He points out that only those who have to worry about prisons are violators of the law.
However, the sources did not support the claims of the authorities. And Reuters photographers Since 2018 it has been shown that the company previously went by the name of «Urmuki Yerkesfokleej Utnings- and TrainingCenter name. General documents Shows that construction of a building of the same name began in 2017 in the area.
A construction worker who visited the company in 2018 told AB that the building was like a “melting vocational training and training center” and that it would be converted into a prison in 2019. The only thing that has changed is the identification gate of the entrance.
– All of the alumni were taken prisoner, the person says, not wanting to come forward with his full name for fear of family safety.
– Worse than hell
Former staff of the fitness center say torture and mistreatment of prisoners is widespread, although Andhra Pradesh has not seen any incidents related to this during their visit. One former teacher described the place as “worse than hell” and experienced that teaching was often hampered by the torture of prisoners.
Another employee fainted when he saw how the prisoners were being treated.
It is almost impossible for prisoners to gain insight into what crimes they are being charged with. Researcher Jean Punin has released documents showing how prisoners are being pressured to admit “terrorist activities.”
Leaked Police reports since 2017 Shows that eight prisoners in zones 3 are Uyghurs for reading religious texts, installing file sharing programs, or being an “unbelievable person”. In 2018, they were awarded two to five years of “studies” at No.3.
Statistics for 2019 show that millions of people in Xinjiang have been sentenced to five years or more in recent years. Chinese officials deny capturing innocent people, claiming mass imprisonment is a measure “in the fight against terrorism.”
– The number of prisoners will naturally increase as part of this fight. A spokesman for the authorities in Xinjiang said this was an indicator of how efficiently we were operating.