Geolocating Explosive Growth in Preschools in Western China Due to 'Re-Education' Policies

Published in: Tearline (2020)

Posted on RAND.org on May 01, 2020

by Edmund J. Burke, Katherine Pfrommer

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China's relocation of perhaps a million Muslim adults in Xinjiang has been widely reported, but the fate of the children separated from their parents as a result of these policies has received less coverage. Some accounts, including from official press outlets in China, term the facilities housing the relocated adults as re-education camps to institutionalize Chinese values, while others call them prisons. Regardless, removing parents and other adult extended family members from their homes results in a need to house children. Satellite imagery-based research conducted by RAND confirms the construction of suspected preschool facilities, which appear to serve the dual purpose of providing housing and re-education programs for children, is increasing dramatically throughout Western China to meet these needs. One reported area of concentration for new preschool facilities is around the city of Hotan, where some children are said to have been transferred from their home villages hundreds of miles away. So far, we have identified 20 suspect facilities near Hotan that meet our imagery-based identification criteria. Most of the buildings we identified are approximately 35 meters long by 20 meters wide and are typically either two or three stories tall. Some of the other features that serve as imagery signatures for these facilities include colorful circles and playground equipment used by small children and high walls with only a single, security-controlled entry point. This report and its accompanying structured data were completed to help other researchers identify these facilities using satellite imagery.

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