Two officials who oversee detention camps accused of committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, previously received fellowships from Harvard University, according to research by an Australian think-tank, The Financial Times reported.
Between 2010 and 2011, Yao Ning studied as an Asia fellow at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation while pursuing a doctorate degree, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the Times reported.
Yao completed his studies in 2014, and he was later “appointed (Chinese Communist Party) Secretary of Maralbeshi County, a small and predominantly Uyghur county where ASPI researchers have identified nine detention facilities built or expanded since 2017,” according to the ASPI report, the Times reported.
“Months before Yao’s arrival, authorities in Maralbeshi sought to recruit 320 new re-education camp staff members,” the ASPI report continued.
Erkin Tuniyaz also spent time at Harvard’s Ash Center and is now chairman of the Xinjiang region, the second-highest official after the party secretary, the Financial Times reported. Tuniyaz defended Uyghur internment camps in the region as “counterterrorism and deradicalization measures” in a February speech.
In 2012, the Ash Center published an article saying that Tuniyaz and a colleague “will attend classes at the Kennedy School and throughout the University (and will) explore research that promises to inform their professional careers and enrich the Center’s portfolio of scholarship on innovation and democratic governance.”
“Candidates for this programme were only accepted upon the successful completion of the vetting process by the US embassy in Beijing,” David Harsha, a spokesperson for the Ash Center, told The Financial Times. Harsha noted the school has administered a number of fellowship and training programs with participants from China.
An Associated Press investigation published in June 2020 found that the Chinese government was guilty of “demographic genocide” against the Uyghur Muslims through mass detentions and forced contraceptives, sterilization and abortion, while a report by Amnesty International conducted between 2019 and 2021 found that Uyghur camp residents suffer under “mass imprisonment, torture and persecution.”