Have Xinjiang’s camps been closed?

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A few months ago, an intriguing article in the Washington Post shed light on the latest situation Xinjiang, the western region of China where the Uighur minority live. The two journalists, Eva Dou and Cate Cadell, saw on their travels around the region last summer that many of the infamous re-education camps had been shut down, or turned into quarantine centres. A new phase of Beijing’s campaign in Xinjiang seems to have started. So what’s really going on there now, and what does this mean for the lives of the Uyghur people? I’m joined by Professor James Millward from Georgetown University, author of Eurasian crossroads: a history of Xinjiang, to find out. Jim had

We love you, Uncle Xi!

In 2015, I had lunch with an old chum of Xi Jinping. He described how China’s most powerful leader since Chairman Mao was born into the Communist party’s ‘red aristocracy’ but had to toughen up fast when his father was jailed in the Cultural Revolution. The young Xi briefly became a street hoodlum who swore like a trooper, smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. He survived by turning ‘redder than red’, climbing the party ladder from a branch secretary in a lowly village all the way up to the top job in Beijing. ‘I am fond of Xi, but he is isolated from his old friends and

An outcast in Xinjiang: The Backstreets, by Perhat Tursun, reviewed

Like Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, Perhat Tursun’s unnamed protagonist is an outcast. A young Uighur in an increasingly Han city (Urumchi, the capital of Xinjiang), he is alone, angry, unstable and homeless. The events of The Backstreets take place over one long night, as he looks for somewhere to stay (‘I just wanted a small space – the space a person would need in a graveyard’) or, more accurately, somewhere to belong. In this poignant and disturbing short novel, the influence of Dostoevsky and Camus, among others, is clear. It’s not meant to be comfortable reading. Identity permeates the book in the same way that a fog forever buries Urumchi. Almost

The hypocrisy of Elon Musk

Tesla’s sleek, if expensive, electric cars are leading the battle against climate change. Its batteries are moving renewable energy into the mainstream, while its founder Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, likes to present himself as a free-thinking radical. It is hard to think of a company more right on than Tesla — well, okay, perhaps Unilever — or one that depends more on its politically correct credentials. But hold on. There turns out to be one opposed minority that Tesla couldn’t care less about: China’s Uighurs. Most of the corporate world will sooner or later have to make a tough decision: do they care about human rights? The company has landed