Investigating the Growth of Detention Facilities in Xinjiang Using Nighttime Lighting

Published in: Tearline website (2021)

Posted on on February 26, 2021

by Eric Robinson, Sean Mann

A growing body of research has systematically documented Chinese efforts to imprison, detain, and re-educate ethnic Uyghur and minority groups throughout its western Xinjiang province. In this three-part investigation, RAND researchers explore new data on nighttime lighting in Xinjiang to offer new, empirical insights into China's efforts to reeducate, detain, and imprison its Uyghur and ethnic minority populations across Xinjiang.

This first report introduces our methodological approach and uses nighttime lighting data to investigate the rapid, coordinated growth of detention facilities in Xinjiang over the last decade. It captures the speed and scope with which China's detention campaign escalated beginning in 2016, an inflection point after which growth in Xinjiang's detention facilities would accelerate rapidly over the course of a multi-year campaign through early 2019.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.