This is a wild story and an incredible piece of investigative journalism from the folks at BuzzFeed. The CCP reportedly operates hundreds of camps across the Xinjiang autonomous region for re-education of Uyghur muslims.
Starting with map tiles they’d noticed were blanked out on China’s Baidu Maps service, they enlisted new data resources, built analysis tools, and combed through map data manually to identify hundreds of these prisons (only several dozen are “officially” known):
We began to sort through the mask tile locations systematically using a custom web tool that we built to support our investigation and help manage the data. We analyzed the whole of Kashgar prefecture, the Uighur heartland, which is in the south of Xinjiang, as well as parts of the neighboring prefecture, Kizilsu, in this way. After looking at 10,000 mask tile locations and identifying a number of facilities bearing the hallmarks of detention centers, prisons, and camps, we had a good idea of the range of designs of these facilities and also the sorts of locations in which they were likely to be found.
They used data tasked on-demand by Planet’s satellite constellation (and granted for free for the project, so big ups to the Planet team there!) to find hundreds more of these:
In total we identified 428 locations in Xinjiang bearing the hallmarks of prisons and detention centers. Many of these locations contain two to three detention facilities — a camp, pretrial administrative detention center, or prison. We intend to analyze these locations further and make our database more granular over the next few months.
Of these locations, we believe 315 are in use as part of the current internment program — 268 new camp or prison complexes, plus 47 pretrial administrative detention centers that have not been expanded over the past four years.
This story gets more shocking every day. It’s hard to believe the resounding silence pretty much worldwide of any government response to this going on. Eric Weinstein recently had a podcast episode about Arthur Koestler’s (author of Darkness at Noon 1944 essay called “The Nightmare That is a Reality,” in which Koestler marvels at the world’s lack of belief and response to the ongoing Holocaust. It was written long before the Allies began to liberate the camps and see for themselves in person what was going on.
Today we have cameras in the sky capable of bypassing lying, twisted regimes of secrecy, but don’t seem to want to believe the truth any more now than we did in 1944.