More than a million Muslims are being detained in a network of internment camps in western China for “reeducation”, according to a report from a United Nations human rights committee. Members of the Muslim Uighur community, as well as other Muslim groups, are reportedly being targeted and detained without trial in cases that are happening outside the penal system. Courtroom testimony has corroborated the allegations against the Chinese government.

People interviewed on the matter have described how security forces interrogate those suspected of having foreign ties. Some talked about being stopped at checkpoints or detained in airports after returning from abroad. Others spoke lovingly of family members who seem to have just disappeared, suspecting that they have been interned in the camps.

Those who had been in the camps spoke of long days singing propaganda songs and long nights in crowded cells. Some were reportedly told that they would never be released unless they learned to speak, read, and/or write Chinese. The UN said it has received “many credible reports” of detention without trial and mass internment.

Xinjiang is one of China’s largest provinces. The Muslim Uighur community makes up nearly half of the population there. While the population is just 1.5 percent of the country’s total, about 21 percent of nation’s criminal arrests took place there last year, according to government data. China has blamed the disparity on Islamic extremists carrying out violent attacks to stir up tensions. However, activists and scholars have said that simply adhering to common religious practices have resulted in harsh punishment.

Gay McDougall, vice-chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said she was “deeply concerned” that “China has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.” Chinese officials have repeatedly declined to answer questions about the internment allegations. Yu Jianhua, China’s ambassador to the UN, said the nation’s policies toward minorities are aimed at promoting unity.