Xinjiang workers enjoy quality life with skills learnt in vocational centers
You Yang

The Chinese government has been saying it has set up a number of vocational training centers in the country's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to help local residents learn skills as part of its efforts to fight extremism. But to some in the West, those vocational training centers are "detention centers", or even "concentration camps."

Mamatniyaz Iminniyazi had been a trainee at one of such centers in Shache County in Kashgar Prefecture. "In the vocational education and training centers, we were able to choose one or two vocational skills to learn based on our own interests. I chose to learn how to cook naan," said Mamatniyaza, referring to a baked flatbread which is a popular food for locals,.

"My friends also chose their favorite skills to learn. Some of them chose e-commerce, some cooking, and some chose beauty and hair-dressing," Mamatniyaz said.

He added the skills he learned at the center have helped him to open up his own business. "After graduation, by taking advantage of the naan cooking skills I learned at the center, I opened a naan co-op with 25 employees. Within one year, I earned over 100,000 yuan ($15,430)," said Mamatniyaz.

"Early last year, I established a purified water company. At present, our company covers an area of 1,800 square meters and has 20 workers. We produced over 40,000 buckets of purified water a day and my yearly income has reached 300,000 yuan ($46,290)." he said. 

A woman works at a factory in Kashgar, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. /Xinhua

A woman works at a factory in Kashgar, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. /Xinhua

Alimjan Mamatali, 28, was also a trainee at a center in Hotan Prefecture. He said the overseas media reports of trainees being exploited for their labor are totally false.

"During my training, no one ever forced us to do anything. From Monday to Friday, we had six hours of class every day, mainly learning vocational skills as well as Mandarin, law and some other courses that help us get rid of extreme ideas," said Alimjan. 

"During the weekends and official holidays, we were able to contact our family by phone. We could also ask for leave any time, if necessary," Alimjan said. 

Alimjan currently works for a real estate company. He said the computer skills he learned at the center made it easier for him to find a job.

"I learned basic computer knowledge first, then I began to learn how to operate one. Through the training, I learned how to use Word and Excel, how to edit documents as well as other software to edit pictures, design visiting cards and advertisements, which have enabled me to earn a good living," said Alimjan. 

Speaking in fluent Mandarin, Alimjan said he's more than satisfied with his current life and work. 

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