Maps on its Baidu search engine no longer show the locations of these harrowing death camps. Since 2016 China has been detaining the Uighur Muslim minority in a self-titled counter-terrorism initiative. The initiative, that many see as demographic genocide and state terrorism, has resulted in the incarceration of an estimated 1.5 million Uighur men, women, and children.
However, China has launched a crude attempt to disguise the camps and their aims on the country’s online map programme.
Plain light gray tiles have been placed over the locations of death camps in the vast region of Xinjiang, BuzzFeed News has reported.
They found “at zoom level 18” on the Baidu maps blank grey tiles appeared over the locations that were known to have concentration camps for the Uighur Muslim minority.
The researchers concluded every time a blank grey tile appeared on the online maps, it most likely covered up one of the networks of concentration camps in the western region of China.
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After running an algorithm that was purpose-built to search the Baidu maps and compare with Planet Lab satellite data, the team identified 428 locations in Xinjiang that have the hallmarks of concentration camps.
The Muslim minority in Xinjiang number 25 million.
The area is among the most heavily securitized on earth, with the population constantly observed under a massive network of surveillance devices.
Many observers have concluded Beijing is breaching fundamental human rights by committing “demographic genocide” by detaining and sterilising the a whole ethnic group.
Sterilisation, forced abortions and forced use of contraceptives are used at the camps.
Since 2017 the birth rate amongst Uighur people has fallen dramatically.
Birth rates in the majority Uighur regions of Xinjiang Hotan have declined by 60 percent from 2015 to 2018.
Counter to this, Chinese authorities are encouraging the Han majority to immigrate and settle in the region, with incentives for them to have more children.