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.
GEOINT analysis of nighttime lighting and satellite imagery data over known detention and reeducation facilities in Xinjiang reveals the explosive growth of these facilities over time, and reveals a coordinated campaign beginning in 2016 to construct the vast majority of Xinjiang’s detention facilities over a multi-year period through mid-2019.