On Saturday 16 November, the New York Times revealed a collection of leaked Chinese government documents that expose details of its clampdown on Uyghurs and other Muslims in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region. The 400 pages of documents disclosed how President Xi Jinping conceived of the “re-education” campaign against the Uyghurs, which has been internationally condemned, urging the party to use the “organs of dictatorship” and show “absolutely no mercy”.
US senator and Democratic Presidential candidate hopeful Elizabeth Warren said: “The Chinese government’s cruel, bigoted treatment of Muslims and ethnic minorities is a horrifying human rights violation. We must stand up to hatred and extremism at home – and around the world.”
The documents, which the newspaper said were leaked by “a member of the Chinese political establishment”, contained directives to local officials for pressuring the local population to keep silent about the disappearance of family members into unknown camps.
They also show that the internment camps expanded quickly after Chen Quanguo was appointed in August 2016 as the party boss of the region, the report said. Chen had taken a tough line to quell restiveness against Communist Party rule during his previous posting in Tibet. Last week, East Turkestan National Awakening Movement, a Washington-based group advocating for the rights of the Uyghurs, said that China has more than 500 involuntary detention centers, prisons, and so-called “reeducation camps” in Xinjiang.
The documents revealed that President Xi Jinping himself laid the groundwork for the crackdown as he gave a series of internal speeches to officials during and after a 2014 visit to Xinjiang following a stabbing attack by Uyghur militants at a train station that killed 31 people.
In one of the speeches, Xi called for an “all-out ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism’ using the ‘organs of dictatorship,’ showing ‘absolutely no mercy’.”
China’s Foreign Ministry did not deny the authenticity of the documents but said the New York Times report was “a clumsy patchwork of selective interpretation” that was “deaf and blind to the facts.” The Communist Party has rejected international criticism of the camps and described them as job-training centers that use mild methods to fight Islamic extremism.
China has imposed a number of policies restricting the religious and cultural practices of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Province. Open displays of religion or any religious symbols such as wearing a headscarf, prayer, fasting or avoiding alcohol or pork are now considered as a ‘sign of extremism’ by the Chinese authorities.
Police presence and surveillance methods in the province have effectively made it a police state, with Uyghurs often sent to camps for making even small gestures of loyalty to the Muslim faith.
Since 2014, an estimated one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims have been interned. Camp survivors have reported torture, rape and medical experiments taking place in them.
Assistant Secretary of US Defense Randall Schriver said in May that “at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens” out of Xinjiang’s population of about 10 million have been held in these detention centers, though some groups believe that the number could be much higher due to new satellite evidence of additional prisons and labor camps.
Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at Washington’s Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation told Radio Free Asia that he thinks China has built more than 1,000 internment camps to house Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.
Following China’s Universal Periodic Review in April 2019, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon issued a statement where he said:
“I am very concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including the re-education camps and the widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at ethnic minorities, particularly the Uyghurs. The UK and many of our international partners have made clear during China’s UPR that this is a priority issue. We recommended that China should implement CERD recommendations in Xinjiang and allow the UN to monitor implementation.”
The International Observatory of Human Rights have campaigned extensively calling for the end of the unjust detention of the Uyghur people.
Watch IOHR TV “Revolt in London Against China’s Cultural Genocide of the Uyghur Community”.