Documentary tells true story of Xinjiang training centers

Graduates of the vocational education and training centers in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region shared their experiences in the centers in a documentary aired on Monday. The video allows people to understand how the centers help people who were once misled by religious extremism and terrorism to change their life around.

Since their establishment in 2014, the centers, which offer de-radicalization programs to those who were influenced by religious extremism and terrorism, have been constantly portrayed as "concentration camps" by the US government and some Western media. They also have claimed that Xinjiang had launched a "large-scale detention program targeting people from minority ethnic groups".

The documentary, Lies and Truth-Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang, produced by Xinjiang Development Research Center, a Xinjiang-based think tank, premiered on CCTV-4 on Monday. It helps the public gain insight on the centers and hear the stories of the graduates.

Under the malign influences, many trainees, before they entered the training centers, had believed that killing nonbelievers would be a fast track to heaven. They also saw those who took part in terrorist attacks as heroes. Some had planned to carry out "jihad" or "holy war", the documentary said.

The trainees are victims, so the teachers all want to make their best efforts to rehabilitate them, said Zulhayat Ismail, dean of the College of Marxism of Xinjiang University.

Nijat Muhtar, a graduate from Yopurga county, in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture, told the documentary producers that his experience in the center made him realize that he was cheated.

The father of two was told at an underground Quran study class that killing a nonbeliever is better than 10 years of worshipping. He said he started to see terrorists as warriors and he refused to serve nonbelievers at his restaurant.

After he acted increasingly violent and vowed to kill nonbelievers, his family asked him to study at the center, where he could learn about law and what real Islam is about.

For a time, there were many underground Quran classes in Xinjiang. The religious extremists twisted the doctrines and brainwashed people there so they could be groomed to be killing machines, said Ma Pinyan, a researcher at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

Patigul Yusan, a graduate of the training center in Shule county, Kashgar, said in the documentary that she went to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, hoping to cross the border to participate in "jihad" abroad.

Her daughter was sent to a so-called Quran study class there. After the child was unable to recite all the scriptures, extremists punished her by refusing to give her water and beating her. The girl was eventually beaten to death, Patigul said, in tears.

The trainees at the centers have all graduated. They've found jobs and their quality of life has improved, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the region, said at a news conference in December 2019.

After graduation, Nijat Muhtar became a courier and has been working to provide for his family.

Shohrat Zakir said the centers have been effective in helping bring down terrorist incidents in Xinjiang, which has been China's main battleground against terrorism. No terrorist incident has occurred in the region for over three years.