Vocational training centers aim to promote better lifestyle
By Cui Jia in Hotan city, Xinjiang | China Daily |

Nabi Abudurext (second left), a graduate of the city's vocational education and training center, stands with his family in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Wang Jing/China Daily]
On Oct 23, Nabi Abudurext returned to his job as a driver at a telecommunications company in Kashgar city, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. He had recently graduated from the city's vocational education and training center that was established to help people to avoid religious extremism and lead better lives.
"I received my graduation certificate on Oct 10 after passing exams on the county's common language, legal knowledge and vocational skills. Because my skills have improved, my manager has promised to promote me. Soon, I will be head of the group of drivers who drive the maintenance vehicles," the 31-year-old said, sitting at home with his wife and children in Qianjin village, Naizierbage township, Kashgar.
Last year, the family's life changed dramatically after Nabi Abudurext became influenced by religious extremists. "I wouldn't allow my wife to go to work. I was told that it was prohibited to spend money earned by a woman, and I should not call myself Chinese," he said. "I didn't know the extremists' real intentions."
Initially, his father, Abudurext Abudula, was concerned about Nabi Abudurext studying at the training center. "I didn't know what the center was like until I visited. It's just a school, and the teachers were all very nice to my son," he said. "After my visit, I just wanted Nabi Abudurext to learn as many skills as possible there. "
New model
Xinjiang has established a new education model, with professional vocational training institutions as the main platform. They mainly teach Putonghua (the common form of Mandarin), basic law and vocational skills, along with information about avoiding extremists, with the key aim of promoting employment and higher living standards.
During the law classes, legal experts and judges from local courts explain about the Chinese Constitution, criminal and counterterrorism law, and the regulations regarding the region's program to eradicate extremism. Moreover, the experts discuss the articles of law trainees may have broken.
"The center is a just a school to make up for lessons the trainees have missed, such as the country's common language, legal knowledge and vocational skills so they can catch up with other people and our fast-developing society," said Adil Abudulani, deputy head of Yutian county, Hotan prefecture, who oversees the county's vocational education and training center.
"Some people claim that we will never let the trainees leave. That's just ridiculous. They can graduate as soon as they pass the exams. We will also recommend them to employers. What we want is for them to find their place in society."
A new life
After graduating from the vocational education and training center in Hotan city in August, Reyihangul Azez chose to work at a small textile factory in Gazong, her home village in the city's Xiaoerbage township.
"At the center, I mastered the skills to be a textile worker, so I started working at the factory straight away. Also, the factory is just a 15-minute walk from my house," said the 25-year-old, who used to attend illegal underground prayer sessions at a neighbor's house that were led by religious extremists.
Many residents of Gazong, including Reyihangul Azez, are classified as living in extreme poverty, but it won't be long before Reyihangul Azez's name is crossed off the list.
The mother of two will soon receive her first month's salary after completing her training. Her basic salary will be 1,500 yuan ($215) a month, which will lift her family out of poverty.
"I am a fast learner, and I believe I can make a lot more money in the future," she said.
After being influenced by religious extremists, Zulipunur Turson rejected an offer to become a civil servant in Kashgar in 2014.
Later, she began wearing clothing associated with extremist views and used social media to encourage people to follow suit.
"My mother noticed the change in me, and asked me to stop before it was too late," the 29-year-old said. "We used to be best friends who could talk about anything, but at the time I felt I could not communicate with her anymore, and we drifted apart."
"Back then, my behavior was restricted by the rules imposed by religious extremism. It was depressing because it made me stay away from the modern things in life," she added, speaking at the store where she has worked as a sales assistance since graduating from the Kashgar vocational education and training center.
"Now once again I am free to do the things I enjoy," she said, while displaying a scarf to a customer.
In an interview with Xinhua News Agency on Oct 16, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of Xinjiang, said vocational education and training has led to notable changes in the region's social environment, with a healthy atmosphere on the rise and improper practices declining.
The trainees have become more proactive about shaking off poverty and improving their lives, and have also become more confident about the future, he added.
Thorny issues
Speaking at a media briefing on Oct 24, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said combating terrorism and extremism is a thorny issue facing countries around the world. The international community generally believes that both the symptoms and root causes should be addressed, and that multipronged measures should be taken to eliminate the breeding grounds of terrorism and extremism.
Over the years, many countries have actively explored ways of fighting terrorism and extremism in accordance with conditions on the ground, Hua said.
She noted that the counterterrorism strategy announced by the British government in June this year stressed early intervention for people affected by extremism. In 2016, France announced that it would establish anti-extremism centers in all of its administrative regions to help people affected to return to leading normal lives. The United States is trying to remold young people affected by extremism via community correction programs.
The relevant practices in China are no different from those in the UK, France and the US, Hua said.