Parent-Child Separation in Yarkand County, Kashgar

  • New local government data from Yarkand (Xinjiang) shows over 10,000 mostly Uyghur children in “hardship” due to one or both parents detained.
  • About 1,000 of these children have both parents in detention. A number of them have been put into state orphanages, some of which are directly next to schools.
  • The number of students in Xinjiang who live in boarding facilities grew by over 380,000 between 2017 and 2019, from about 500,000 to just below 900,000.
  • Local government lists of households confirm that there are numerous families with both parents in detention, with children shown to be in orphanages (younger ages) or boarding schools (older ages).

1. Context: Boarding Education and Students With Detained Parents in Yarkand and Xinjiang

1.1 Xinjiang’s Boarding School Campaign

  • Left-behind children (留守儿童), typically defined in state documentation as caused by either both parents being away for work reasons, or one parent being away and the other unable to take care of the children.
  • Street children (流浪少年儿), who are without proper guardianship.
  • Children from “poor families” (贫困家庭), whose situation is impacted by difficult economic circumstances.
Figure 1: Xinjiang boarding school students.
Table 1: Yarkand (Shache) County educational expenditures. Source: Finance department final accounts.
Figure 2

2. Local Government Spreadsheets Show Children with One or Both Parents in Detention

2.1 Data Source

Figure 3: Yarkand №3 Primary School and orphanage are on the top right, the internment camp is on the left hand side. Location: 38°23'11.07"N 77°13'33.87"E.
Figure 4: Close-up of the Yarkand County Southern City District Vocational Training Internment Camp (next to primary school and orphanage), showing security features such as internal fences and surrounding walls.
Table 2. Care status of students grades 4 and above.

3. Conclusions

Increasingly, Beijing’s strategy to subdue its restive minorities in Xinjiang is shifting away from internment and towards mechanisms of long-term social control. At the forefront of this effort is a battle over the hearts and minds of the next generation. By separating children from parents and making itself the primary parent, the state is moving towards the crucial stage of its coercive project of social re-engineering in the region.



Senior Fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (Twitter: @adrianzenz)

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Adrian Zenz

Adrian Zenz

Senior Fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (Twitter: @adrianzenz)