Muslim women whose husbands have been detained in Chinese internment camps are reportedly being forced to share beds with male government officials assigned to monitor them in their homes.
Communist party workers regularly sleep alongside members of persecuted Uighur minority families during surveillance visits that last up to a week, party sources told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
The monitoring forms part of the systematic repression of Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang region, where experts and human rights groups believe more than a million Uighurs most of them men have been arbitrarily detained in secretive re-education camps.
Those who are not incarcerated face an increasingly strict security regime which includes armed checkpoints, ID cards, and streets lined with facial recognition cameras.
Since early last year, Uighur families in Xinjiang have been required to invite government officials into their homes, provide them information about their lives and political views, and comply with political indoctrination.
China has deployed more than a million spies most of them male and part of the country’s Han ethnic majority to stay in Uighur households every two months as part of what it calls the Pair Up and Become Family programme.
During their visits, the officials who the government describes as relatives of the monitored families – work, eat, and often share a bed with their hosts, one Communist party officer told RFA.
They stay with their paired relatives day and night,” said the officer, who oversees 70 to 80 families in Yengisar county and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Normally one or two people sleep in one bed, and if the weather is cold, three people sleep together, he added.
The officer described the spies as “helping the Uighur families with their ideology, bringing new ideas and talk to them about life, during which time they develop feelings for one another.
He claimed he had never heard of any official attempting to take advantage or sexually abuse someone they were staying with, and suggested it was now considered normal for females to sleep on the same platform with their paired male relatives.
The government describes the programme as voluntary, but China’s Muslims are well aware that refusing any state initiative can lead to being branded a potential extremist. Social media images show the new relatives attending Uighur weddings, funerals and other occasions once considered intimate and private.
China has said the home visits are aimed at fostering ethnic harmony, with officials tasked with teaching families Mandarin and Communist Party songs, participating in group activities, and helping out around the house.
The government depicts its wider crackdown on Xinjiang’s Muslims as a war on terror launched following a series of alleged extremist attacks in 2014.
After initially denying the existence of internment camps, the government later began referring to them as voluntary vocational training centres.
But former detainees have alleged that inmates are subjected to torture, medical experiments and gang rape.