Hong Kong (CNN)Spending on prisons and security-related construction in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang doubled between 2016 and 2017 new research has revealed, undermining China's denial of the existence of mass internment camps.
Uyghur crackdown in Xinjiang doubles security spending in one year
Up to a million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have reportedly been detained in the past year inside enormous "re-education camps" in the tightly-controlled province, where former detainees say they were forced to endure intensive "brainwashing" sessions.
The claims, which have been made by activists for months, were confirmed as "broadly accurate" by the UK government in October.
After initially denying the reports vehemently at the United Nations, China later changed its story without explanation to claim the camps were "vocational training centers", and the "students" were happy to be there and free to leave on completing their courses.
But the report released by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based research and analysis institute on Monday, revealed that spending on security-related construction in Xinjiang rose by nearly 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion), or 213%, between 2016 and 2017.
According to local budget documents analyzed by the report, expenditure on total domestic security surged by 92% in the one year period, which included a 239% increase in spending for "detention center management" and 118% increase in spending for the "justice system."
In fact the report found that vocational spending in Xinjiang dropped by 2017, falling 7% in total.
The largest jump was categorized under the vague definition of "other domestic security expenditure," which skyrocketed between 2016 and 2017 by 351%.
"These facts do not support the notion of a large campaign to improve vocational skills," report author Adrian Zenz wrote in his conclusion.
"Rather, the mass disappearances of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, beginning in early 2017, almost certainly resulted in their imprisonment in de facto political re-education institutions administered by public security or justice system authorities."