Part 3: More "Boarding" Facilities Geolocated in Southern Xinjiang

In partnership with RAND and written by Ed Burke
Latest
21
facilities analyzed
Impact
geolocating human rights issues
Published
Jan 12
2021
1 year, 4 months
Overview

In this third Tearline report, RAND identified 21 facilities that could be where western researchers, press accounts and professional journals indicate preschool-aged Uyghur children are schooled and often housed in Qira (Chira) County, Hotan prefecture. Some of the newly identified facilities are on the grounds of primary schools, while others were not imaged frequently enough in the last four years to determine firm construction timelines.

This third methodology report can help other researchers identify facilities that could be used to house children of detained Muslim minority groups, through the analysis of satellite imagery correlated with other sources. Other researchers can view this analysis in 3rd-party tools such as Google Earth or ESRI systems. (See "Data Sources" section for downloads).

Activity

While some of the new suspect facilities have the same postage-stamp appearance that distinguished those in prior reports, many Qira County facilities differ in at least two ways: Some have been added to existing facilities and some lack the more apparent signatures such as controlled gate access that can be distinguished on imagery. This complicates their identification by satellite imagery alone.

Methodology

The methodology for this report is inductive and qualitative. It relies on the collection, synthesis and analysis of professional journals, visual media, western research reports and Chinese government documents, all as reported in western media. This body of information led to the thesis that preschool age children in Xinjiang, left without parental supervision in their birth homes, were being both housed and schooled in what we have termed preschools. The contextual information was then compared to a body of satellite imagery of Hotan Prefecture in order to geolocate suspected preschool facilities that were in accord with the contextual information. We also performed a comparative analysis of preschools with a limited sampling of primary schools we identified using Chinese language, internet-based maps of Qira County. We cannot confirm with satellite imagery alone that these facilities house preschool aged children.

Analysis

RAND used NGA-funded commercial imagery and public Google Earth layers to identify 21 suspect facilities in Qira County, one of seven county-level administrative entities in Hotan Prefecture. As determined in two previous reports on this subject (here and here), the facilities are similar in construction style and uniformly include a playset typical of facilities designed to accommodate small children. Determining specific construction timelines is problematic, as there are large gaps in imagery collection between 2016 and 2019 in parts of Qira County.

While some of the new suspect facilities have the same postage-stamp appearance that distinguished those in prior reports (Figure 1), many Qira County facilities differ in at least two ways: Some have been added to existing facilities and some lack the more apparent signatures such as controlled gate access that can be distinguished on imagery. This complicates their identification by satellite imagery alone.

Figure 1 - Qira County #5

Qira County #9 is a representative example of a building added to an existing compound. Imagery coverage is sporadic; the structure was not present in June 2015 (Figure 2) but was completed by November 2017 (Figure 3.) A Chinese online map suggests this compound might be the Ukhadi Village Primary School, but the scale and detail of the map are insufficient to make this assessment. The compound does include an exercise field, but it lacks the artificial surface or field lining for a soccer field found at other primary schools in Qira County.

Figure 2 - Qira County #9

Figure 3 - Qira County #9

We did confirm a facility (Figure 4) that was not present in 2015 (Figure 5) but added to a school by late 2017 (Figure 6.) Qira County #10 was added to an existing compound housing what a Chinese language map identifies as Qira County #1 Secondary School (Figure 7). The school was refurbished sometime in 2017, to include adding a soccer field, on the same timeline as the preschool and of nearby Qira County #1 Primary School (Figure 8.) Consolidating preschools that house children on other school grounds is consistent with another western researcher's reporting and analysis of Chinese government documents that Xinjiang authorities are doing so as a means of control of children whose parents have been sent to re-education centers, detention centers, or prisons.

Figure 4 - Qira County #10

Figure 5 - Qira County #10

Figure 6 - Qira County #10

Figure 7, Baidu Maps

Figure 8 - Facilities Primary School #1, Secondary School #1 and Qira County #10

One of the facilities we identified, Qira County #11, highlights the rapid and dramatic redevelopment Xinjiang authorities have undertaken in many of these towns. In this case, the structure was present by November 2017, at which time some of the homes appeared to have been abandoned as they lacked roofs (Figure 9). There were no imagery signatures that would suggest it served as a preschool at that time. Then, a large apartment complex was under construction nearby by August 2018 (Figure 10) and another in 2019. The facility itself was renovated in mid 2019, with the playset typical of preschools visible by November 2019 (Figure 11).

Figure 9 - Qira County #11

Figure 10 - Qira County #11

Figure 11 - Qira County #11

In the southern portions of the county, imagery is insufficient to determine construction timelines for structures that could meet our criteria; in addition, no playsets are distinguishable on the limited imagery available. One facility in this area that did include a playset is Qira County #16 (Figure 12). There are also several possible facilities in these areas that will require additional imagery over time to confirm or refute.

Figure 12 - Qira County #16

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    Aug. 15, 2020

    Qira County #1 Primary School, #1 Secondary School and #10

    Another school, Qira primary school #1, has been built adjacent to the Secondary school #1 compound.
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    Aug. 15, 2020

    Qira County #10

    Facility includes playset, colorful circles to support young children's recreation.
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    March 20, 2020

    Qira County #16

    One of the few examples of a preschool in remote southern towns of Qira County. Very sporadic imagery coverage precludes identifying more.
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    Feb. 23, 2020

    Qira County #11

    Two sets of apartments, dozens of multistory buildings, now surround the preschool, which can now be identified by the playset in front of the building.
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    July 15, 2019

    Qira County #5

    A Qira County facility that is typical of the postage stamp-style noted in other counties of Hotan prefecture. Many of these facilities are standalone in rural, lightly populated areas.
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    Oct. 22, 2018

    Qira County #11

    Single-story dwellings have now been leveled, apartment construction has begun.
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    Nov. 16, 2017

    Qira County #1 Secondary School and #10

    Preschool completed on the eastern half of the secondary school compound; renovations to the secondary school include a new athletic field.
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    Nov. 16, 2017

    Qira County #11

    A structure that would later be identified as a preschool was present but not identifiable as such from imagery. Modest single-story dwellings lack roofs, suggesting Uyghurs, which comprise virtually 100% of the population, have been relocated.
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    Nov. 16, 2017

    Qira County #9

    By late 2017, a preschool has been completed: playset, security at one controlled entrance, and fencing serve as identifying features.
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    June 27, 2015

    Qira County #1 Secondary School and #10

    Secondary School #1 present but no preschool yet.
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    June 27, 2015

    Qira County #9

    The facility has not yet been added to this compound, which may house a primary school but that cannot be confirmed.
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Open Data Export View

Qira County, Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang

Source: download KMZ

About The Authors

Ed Burke

Senior Advisor, RAND

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Methodologies Reviewed by NGA

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