The best books about Xinjiang re-education camps

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Xinjiang re-education camps and why they recommend each book.

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Eurasian Crossroads

By James Millward,

Book cover of Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang

Eurasian Crossroads is an essential resource for anyone seeking to learn about the complex historical context of the genocide taking place in Xinjiang today. James Millward, who is widely regarded as the leading historian of Chinese Central Asia, provides an accessible-yet-thorough examination of the various peoples and empires that have called the region home. 

Who am I?

I traveled to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the summer of 2019, where I saw for myself many of the tools of surveillance and control that the Chinese Communist Party has used to turn the region into an open-air prison. Since returning to the United States, I have tried to draw attention to the Uyghur genocide through my published articles and through my book, Middle Country, where I tell the story of the Uyghur genocide by weaving facts, history, and analysis into a narrative account of the week I spent in Xinjiang. I hope that my book can make this profoundly complex and multifaceted issue more accessible to the average person.

I wrote...

Middle Country: An American Student Visits China's Uyghur Prison-State

By Grayson Slover,

Book cover of Middle Country: An American Student Visits China's Uyghur Prison-State

What is my book about?

In Middle Country, Grayson Slover recounts the week he spent as a "student tourist" in Xinjiang, in the summer of 2019. He describes in vivid, personal detail the pervasive surveillance state that exists in Xinjiang today, his interactions with the local people, and his close encounters with the Xinjiang police. Slover weaves in relevant history and political analysis for readers to grasp how his first-hand experiences fit within the broader context of the CCP's genocidal campaign.

Oil and Water

By Tom Cliff,

Book cover of Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang

Since 1949 the demographics of Xinjiang have been altered radically by waves of migration of Han Chinese, initially with the paramilitary bingtuan organisation, but in recent decades by economic migrants. Cliff’s book is an important reminder of how their presence functions in a neo-colonial fashion, and the influence that their needs and concerns have on official policy in the region – which to put it simplistically, is to keep them happy. Though he emphasises that Han in Xinjiang are far from a homogenous social group – something that often gets forgotten or obscured – the common viewpoints and concerns that emerge from his interviews are a sobering reminder of the difficulties in finding common ground between Han and Uyghur in the region.

Who am I?

I was living in Xinjiang on 9/11 and got to witness the swiftness with which the state imposed strict regulations that harmed the Uyghur community. For me, this was an indelible lesson in the abuses of power and authority on people who just wanted to work, raise families, and enjoy their lives. Since then I’ve tried to raise awareness, first in my memoir, The Tree That Bleeds, then in my journalism. I hope my work helps people think about how to respond as both politically engaged citizens and consumers to one of the worst human rights violations of the 21st century.

I wrote...

China's Forgotten People: Xinjiang, Terror and the Chinese State

By Nick Holdstock,

Book cover of China's Forgotten People: Xinjiang, Terror and the Chinese State

What is my book about?

My book is an introduction to the politics, history, and culture of Xinjiang, which I wrote as a corrective to the then-prevailing notion of the region as a turbulent, volatile place beset by Islamist terrorism. It argues that since 9/11 the Chinese government has been promoting an alarmist narrative for which there’s little support, an idea it has used as an excuse to inflict draconian policies on the Muslim peoples of the region.

It was also important to me to give a sense of Xinjiang as a place, and to present some of the ways in which Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples have tried to find ways to adapt to discrimination against their language, religion, culture, and right to work. Ultimately, the book’s main message is that the current policies of the Chinese government – mass internment, indoctrination, and intimidation – demonstrate that they regard the existence of Uyghur identity as an existential threat.

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