The vocational education centres in China's far west region of Xinjiang, which officials insisted are being used for the purpose of preventing terrorism, are run more like jails than schools, official documents show.
Thousands of guards equipped with tear gas, Tasers, stun guns and spiked clubs keep tight control over Muslim 'students' in facilities ringed with razor wire and infrared cameras, according to an examination of more than 1,500 publicly available government documents.
The centres should 'teach like a school, be managed like the military, and be defended like a prison', said one document, quoting Xinjiang's party secretary Chen Quanguo.
On state television, the vocational education centre in Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture looked like a modern school where happy students studied Mandarin, brushed up their job skills, and pursued hobbies such as sports and folk dance.
But earlier this year, one of the local government departments in charge of such facilities in Hotan made several purchases that had little to do with education: 2,768 police batons, 550 electric cattle prods, 1,367 pairs of handcuffs, and 2,792 cans of pepper spray.
The shopping list was among over a thousand procurement requests made by local governments in the Xinjiang region since early 2017 related to the construction and management of a sprawling system of 'vocational education and training centres'.
The facilities have come under international scrutiny, with rights activists describing them as political re-education camps holding as many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
Beijing had previously denied their existence. But a global outcry, including from the UN and the US, sparked a PR counter-offensive. The DailyMail.