In November, two documents were leaked detailing chilling evidence of the mass detention and onslaught of violence by the Chinese government against Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of China. This series of documents is the most recent evidence revealing this brutal crackdown on Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region, where the ruling Communist party has incarcerated millions under the pretext of preventing Islamic extremism in the region. Muslim Uyghurs consist of numerous ethnic minorities; collectively, they are the most persecuted minority demographic in the region.
This past July, Japan and the United Kingdom, along with another some 20 nations called out China’s inhumane detention of millions of people belonging to ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region in a joint letter addressed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The intention of the letter was to warn China of international scrutiny for its mass detention of Uyghurs, and the hope is to mount multilateral pressure against China until these abuses cease. These actions have yielded little merit — millions of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities remain unjustly and inhumanely incarcerated in Xinjiang.
China has also continually attempted to cover up the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Now, with concrete evidence leaked delineating the human rights violations these Muslim ethnic minorities in China are facing, there is absolutely no reason to ignore the injustices that the Chinese government has committed against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
The first of the leaks was a 403 page document obtained by The New York Times. This document includes investigations into local officials, internal speeches by several political leaders including President Xi Jinping, and, most notably, several directives and surveillance notes on prevention of the spread of Islam to other regions of China — one such directive which specifically outlines the control of Ugyhur populations in Xinjiang.
One of the prominent aspects of this first document obtained by the NYT are some of the ‘secret speeches’ of President Xi Jinping. The substance of these speeches establishes President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party’s motivations for the initial crackdown on Muslims Uyghurs. In these speeches, Mr. Xi demands a crackdown on Xinjiang, or what he has previously referenced as the “frontline of terror.”
Weeks preceding Xi’s visit to the area in 2014, several attackers stabbed civilians in Kunming railway station, killing 31 people and injuring 141 more. Another incident occurred as President Xi finished up his tour of the region — three people were killed and 79 more injured in a bombing in Urumqi’s south station. President Xi then, in these secret speeches, called for extreme measures to address the ongoing the violence in Xinjiang, including using “organs of dictatorship” and showing “absolutely no mercy.”
Muslim Uyghurs have been largely, and unjustly, blamed for the unrest in the area by the Chinese government. In these secret speeches, Mr. Xi called for the eradication of radical Islam by dictorial means in addition to characterizing the Muslim Uyghur community as extremist. However, most Muslim Uyghurs are simply practicing Muslims — there is nothing radical about them. The purpose of these detention centers to prevent “extremism” is clearly unfounded.
The second document, leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, brought to light more than 24 pages of government documents regarding the mechanisms of the Chinese system of mass-surveillance and predictive policing in the Xinjiang region. This document also includes the mass detention camp’s operating manual, dating to November 2017.
These documents bridge China’s mass-surveillance efforts with the incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the camps in Xinjiang. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists says that the leak elucidates “the power of technology to help drive industrial-scale human rights abuses.” The leaked document includes four secret briefings about China’s central data collection system, the Integrated Joint Operation Platform (IJOP). The leak reveals how IJOP, which is used as a policing platform, uses artificial intelligence alongside other surveillance technology to identify and flag swaths of Xinjiang residents for incarceration. Not only has the Chinese government singled out Muslim Uyghurs with this high-tech crackdown on ethnic minorities, but they have also perpetuated a constant state of terror in the Xinjiang region with this mass surveillance and predictive policing.
The other aspect of this leak, the operating manual, outlines almost two dozen guidelines for running the detention camps, including specifics on how to handle various situations within these mass detention centers, where millions of Uyghur Muslims have been inhumanely incarcerated. The manual discusses everything from establishing utter secrecy about the camp to methods of indoctrinating its inhabitants and enacting a point-based system to control behavior within the camps.
Some of the manual guidelines have been violated, like the manual’s call for the camp personnel to preserve the physical health and welfare of the incarcerated Uyghurs. Testimony of previously incarcerated Uyghurs proves the violation of this section of the guidelines, but most importantly establishes the sheer inhumane conditions of these camps — numerous Muslim Uyghurs, including infants less than a year old, have died due to the hostile condition of the camps.
This recent leak of government documents outlining the specifics surrounding Chinese persecution of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are crucial as they corroborate the testimony of numerous Uyghurs who have faced these brutal conditions within these terrible camps, and also attest to the veracity of previous journalistic research that has outlined China’s abuses of human rights in the region.
China’s Active Cover-Up
The Chinese government has tried to shield the international community from their actions in Xinjiang and has been moving to destroy any evidence of abuses. China is actively covering up its crimes, and consequently, its government has been able to continue terrorizing Uyghurs. However, with these leaks as the latest evidence, there needs to be an urgent and immediate response to the injustices and abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. Previous instances of international scrutiny into China has had a true effect. Because of international pushback, like the UN letter, China shifted its stance from previously denying the outright presence of any camps to acknowledging their existence. But it is not enough — China still maintains that these camps are simply vocational training facilities, and denies that this involuntary incarceration of millions of Muslim Uyghurs is an infringement of human rights. These leaked documents provide evidence of all the abuses and human rights violations that Muslim Uyghurs have faced at the hands of the Chinese government. International pushback to China is essential as ever, and global action now could prompt change. Muslim Uyghurs have been forced to give up their cultural and religious identities in these inhumane camps, they have been physically and mentally accosted. These documents prove their struggle and the violation of human rights in Xinjiang. China’s active cover-up of this atrocious breach of humans rights cannot stand anymore.
Image Credit: CreativeCommons/Malcsb