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Xinjiang means beautiful scenery for tourists and concentration camps for local minorities

Armed police and frequent checkpoints have not dampened the flow of holidaymakers visiting the region, which in 2018 saw a

40 percent increase in visits year-on-year

– mainly from domestic tourists – outstripping the national average by 25 percent, according to official figures.

The business has grown steadily over the years mainly because “Xinjiang is very stable”, explains Wu Yali, who runs a travel agency in the region. Though tourists are not used to the high level of security at first, “they adapt after a few days”, she says.

Travelers are barred from witnessing the most controversial part of Xinjiang’s security apparatus: the network of internment camps spread across the vast region.

Many of these facilities are outside main tourist hubs and are fenced off with razor-wired walls. China describes the facilities as “vocational education centers” where Turkic-speaking “trainees” learn Chinese and job skills.

“The violence that is being inflicted on the bodies of Uygur and other Muslim people … has been rendered invisible,” says Rachel Harris, who studies Uygur culture and music at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London.

“For a tourist who goes and travels around a designated route, it all looks nice,” she says. “It’s all very quiet and that is because there’s a regime of terror being imposed on the local people.”

According to People’s Daily, the regional government offered travelers subsidies worth 500 yuan (US$73) each in 2014, after tourism plunged following a deadly knife attack blamed on Xinjiang separatists in southwest China.

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