Family separation in President Donald Trump’s United States is a government policy of conscious cruelty, the pain of parents and children torn away from one another is a kind of aversion therapy to teach would-be immigrants to stay away from our borders.
Family separation in President Xi Jinping’s China is a government policy that goes beyond coercing more obedient behavior, it presses the renunciation, the effective eradication of minority identities and cultures.
Put another way, Donald Trump’s message is – “Stop trying to come to America,” which is something most people can do, not, “Stop being Honduran. Xi Jinping’s message, to people who are citizens and have lived in China for generations demands something most people cannot do, stop being Uighur, or Hui, or Muslim, Christian or Buddhist. Start being good Chinese Communists.
These harsh demands are being enforced at a large and growing network of re-education centers spread across the far-western province of Xinjiang, where the majority of the population are ethnic Uighurs and religious Muslims. Reports from graduates of these camps say the Chinese indoctrination program is meeting a lot of resistance from the adults in detention.
Re-educating children may be easier, and President Xi’s hand-picked governor Chen Quanguo, the party boss who tamed Tibet, clearly has a plan to make good Chinese Communists out of thousands of Uighur children who have parents in re-education, starting with Mandarin-only kindergartens designed to stop toddlers from speaking Uighur, and moving through boarding schools that emphasize Party doctrine and Chinese national affiliation, for kids who may see their families on weekends, or never.
Yanan Wang is an Associated Press reporter based in Beijing. Her investigative work has focused on the Uighur re-education campaign for adults and, especially, children, and on Chinese government pressure of Christian churches and believers.