Cruel Treatments

The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps

The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith - and of a chain of command running all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.

The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps

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By John Sudworth

Thousands of photographs from the heart of China’s highly secretive system of mass incarceration in Xinjiang, as well as a shoot-to-kill policy for those who try to escape, are among a huge cache of data hacked from police computer servers in the region.

The Xinjiang Police Files, as they’re being called, were passed to the BBC earlier this year. After a months-long effort to investigate and authenticate them, they can be shown to offer significant new insights into the internment of the region’s Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities.

Their publication coincides with the recent arrival in China of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, for a controversial visit to Xinjiang, with critics concerned that her itinerary will be under the tight control of the government.

The cache reveals, in unprecedented detail, China’s use of “re-education” camps and formal prisons as two separate but related systems of mass detention for Uyghurs – and seriously calls into question its well-honed public narrative about both.

The government’s claim that the re-education camps built across Xinjiang since 2017 are nothing more than “schools” is contradicted by internal police instructions, guarding rosters and the never-before-seen images of detainees.

And its widespread use of terrorism charges, under which many thousands more have been swept into formal prisons, is exposed as a pretext for a parallel method of internment, with police spreadsheets full of arbitrary, draconian sentences.

The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith – and of a chain of command running all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.

The hacked files contain more than 5,000 police photographs of Uyghurs taken between January and July 2018.

Using other accompanying data, at least 2,884 of them can be shown to have been detained.

And for those listed as being in a re-education camp, there are signs that they are not the willing “students” China has long-claimed them to be.

Some of the re-education camp photos show guards standing by, armed with batons.

Yet claims of coercion have been consistently denied by China’s most senior officials.

“The truth is the education and training centres in Xinjiang are schools that help people free themselves from extremism,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in 2019.

Many have been detained just for ordinary, outward signs of their Islamic faith or for visiting countries with majority Muslim populations.

With the threat of physical force again visible in the background, this woman’s photo highlights the widespread use of “guilt by association”.

Documents describe her son as having “strong religious leanings” because he doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke. As a result, he was jailed for 10 years on terrorism charges.

But she appears on a list of “relatives of the detained” – among the thousands placed under suspicion because of the “crimes” of their families.

This composite image contains 2,884 photographs of detainees from the cache.

The photos provide a unique visual record of the way whole swathes of Uyghur society have been swept up – into both camps and prisons – person by person.

The youngest, Rahile Omer, was only 15 at the time of her detention.

The oldest, Anihan Hamit, was 73.

The Xinjiang Police Files – the title being used for the cache by a consortium of international journalists of which the BBC is part – contain tens of thousands of images and documents.

They include classified speeches by senior officials; internal police manuals and personnel information; the internment details for more than 20,000 Uyghurs; and photographs from highly sensitive locations.

An image from inside the rarely seen confines of a detention centre, which appears to show Uyghurs being “re-educated”

The source of the files claims to have hacked, downloaded and decrypted them from a number of police computer servers in Xinjiang, before passing them to Dr Adrian Zenz, a scholar at the US-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who has previously been sanctioned by the Chinese government for his influential research on Xinjiang.

Dr Zenz then shared them with the BBC, and although we were able to contact the source directly, they were unwilling to reveal anything about their identity or whereabouts.

None of the hacked documents is dated beyond the end of 2018, possibly as the result of a directive issued in early 2019 tightening Xinjiang’s encryption standards. That may have placed any subsequent files beyond the reach of the hacker.

Dr Zenz has written a peer-reviewed paper on the Xinjiang Police Files for the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies and he has placed the full set of detainee images and some of the other evidence online.

“The material is unredacted, it’s raw, it’s unmitigated, it’s diverse. We have everything,” he told the BBC.

“We have confidential documents. We have speech transcripts where leaders freely talk about what they really think. We have spreadsheets. We have images. It’s completely unprecedented and it blows apart the Chinese propaganda veneer.”

The Xinjiang Police Files contain another set of documents that go even further than the detainee photographs in exposing the prison-like nature of the re-education camps that China insists are “vocational schools”.

Xinjiang Police Files: Inside a Chinese internment camp

A set of internal police protocols describes the routine use of armed officers in all areas of the camps, the positioning of machine guns and sniper rifles in the watchtowers, and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape.

Blindfolds, handcuffs and shackles are mandatory for any “student” being transferred between facilities or even to hospital.

For decades, Xinjiang has seen a cycle of simmering separatism, sporadic violence and tightening government control.

But in 2013 and 2014, two deadly attacks targeting pedestrians and commuters in Beijing and the southern Chinese city of Kunming – blamed by the government on Uyghur separatists and radical Islamists – prompted a dramatic shift in policy.

The state began to see Uyghur culture itself as the problem and, within a few years, hundreds of giant re-education camps began to appear on satellite photos, to which Uyghurs were sent without trial.

Xinjiang’s formal prison system has also been massively expanded as another method for controlling Uyghur identity – particularly in the face of mounting international criticism over the lack of legal process in the camps.

It is in a set of 452 spreadsheets that this dual approach is most starkly exposed, complete with the names, addresses and ID numbers of more than a quarter of a million Uyghurs – showing which of them has been detained, in which type of facility and why.

They paint a picture of relentless internment in both camps and prisons, with row upon row documenting the prejudicial prying of Chinese officials sent deep into Uyghur society – backed with big data surveillance tools – to arbitrarily detain at will.

There are countless examples of people being punished retrospectively for “crimes” that took place years or even decades ago – with one man jailed for 10 years in 2017 for having “studied Islamic scripture with his grandmother” for a few days in 2010.

Many hundreds are shown to have been targeted for their mobile phone use – mostly for listening to “illegal lectures” or having encrypted apps installed.

Others are punished with up to a decade in prison for not using their devices enough, with well over a hundred instances of “phone has run out of credit” being listed as a sign that the user is trying to evade the constant digital surveillance.

The spreadsheets show how lives are sifted in search of the slightest of pretexts, which are turned into the broadest of charges – “picking quarrels” or “disturbing the social order” – and then punished as serious acts of terrorism; seven years, 10 years, 25 years, the columns of sentences stretch on and on.

If the terrorism label is ever justly applied, it’s impossible to discern among a sea of data pointing to the internment of a people not for what they’ve done, but for who they are.

Tursun Kadir’s spreadsheet entry lists some preaching and studying of Islamic scripture dating back to the 1980s and then, in more recent years, the offence of “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism”.

For this, the 58 year old was jailed for 16 years and 11 months. Photographs in the cache show him both before and after the Chinese state determined his expression of Uyghur identity to be illegal.

Even for those not in a camp or prison, the Xinjiang Police Files reveal the gruelling impact of such high levels of scrutiny and surveillance.

The images show that Uyghurs still living in their homes were summoned in large numbers to be photographed, with the associated image timestamps showing whole communities – from the very elderly to families with young children – called into police stations at all hours, including in the middle of the night.

A similar file-naming system as that used for the photos taken in the camps and prisons suggests a possible common purpose – a huge facial recognition database that China was building at the time.

It’s hard to tell whether their faces betray the knowledge of the camps, into which many thousands were already disappearing, but the accompanying spreadsheets make the danger all too clear.

Five months after their police photos were taken in 2018, husband and wife Tursun Memetimin and Ashigul Turghun were sent to a detention centre after being accused of having “listened to a recording of an illegal lecture” on someone else’s mobile phone six years earlier.

Two of their three daughters’ photographs are also in the hacked files – Ruzigul Turghun, who was 10 at the time of their parents’ disappearance – and Ayshem Turghun, who was six.

The spreadsheets give few details about the fate of such children whose parents have both been detained.

It’s likely a significant number have been placed into the permanent, long-term care of a system of state-run boarding schools built across Xinjiang at the same time as the camps.

In fact, the closely shaved hair visible in so many of the images of children is a sign, overseas Uyghurs have told the BBC, that many are already made to attend such schools at least during weekdays, even if still under the care of one or both parents.

The photographs give human form to a policy designed to deliberately target Uyghur families as a repository of identity and culture and – in China’s own words – to “break their roots, break their lineage, break their connections, break their origins”.

As well as exposing the inner workings of China’s system of incarceration more clearly than ever before, the Xinjiang Police Files provide fresh clues about its scale.

Most of the spreadsheets relate to a county in southern Xinjiang, known as Konasheher in Uyghur, or Shufu in Chinese.

An analysis of the data by Dr Zenz shows that in just this one county, a total of 22,762 residents – more than 12% of the adult population – were in either a camp or a prison in the years 2017 and 2018.

If applied to Xinjiang as a whole, that figure would mean the detention of more than 1.2 million Uyghur and other Turkic minority adults – well within the broad range of estimates made by Xinjiang experts, which China has always dismissed.

Working with a consortium of 14 media organisations from 11 countries, the BBC has been able to authenticate significant elements of the Xinjiang Police Files.

Uyghurs living in Europe and the US were asked for the names and ID numbers of their missing relatives back home in Xinjiang. Multiple matches in the spreadsheet data were discovered, providing firm evidence that the information contains real people.

The BBC also asked Professor Hany Farid, an image-forensics expert at the University of California at Berkeley, to examine a subset of the photographs of Uyghur detainees.

He found no evidence that the images had been fabricated, with none of the usual tell-tale signs found in computer synthesised “deep fakes” nor any other indication of malicious, digital manipulation.

A strange effect visible on the edges of some of the images – as if they’ve been copied and then rotated slightly – can be explained in a way that also lends weight to the idea that they form part of China’s huge surveillance network in Xinjiang.

The glitches, Prof Farid believes, are likely to be the result of a commonly-used standardisation process for facial recognition databases, where any portraits that are slightly offset are automatically rotated to align the eyes with the horizontal.

“This is, of course, a completely innocuous manipulation,” he concluded in a written report for the BBC.

Further authentication can be provided by arranging the images in order of their accompanying timestamps and then observing the common details visible in the background, which show them to have been taken in real time and in real places.

After approaching the Chinese government for comment about the hacked data, with detailed questions about the evidence it contains, the media consortium received a written response from the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC.

“Xinjiang related issues are in essence about countering violent terrorism, radicalisation and separatism, not about human rights or religion,” the statement said, adding that the Chinese authorities had taken “a host of decisive, robust and effective deradicalisation measures”.

“The region now enjoys social stability and harmony as well as economic development,” it went on, saying that these things offer “the most powerful response to all sorts of lies and disinformation on Xinjiang”.

But there was no response to any of the specific evidence in the cache.

The Xinjiang Police Files contain another set of unique photographs that appear to only further highlight the extreme levels of physical control that Uyghurs are subjected to in the attempt to forcibly reengineer their identity.

They show what appear to be drills for subduing inmates – using similar methods to those described in the police documents for the camps – but this time in a detention centre.

There are also what look like indoctrination sessions, again showing the overlap between camps and prisons.

The descriptions on the back of the detainees’ uniforms place them at the Tekes Detention Centre in northern Xinjiang.

Satellite images of the exterior layout of this known detention facility in the city of Tekes…

…match perfectly with some of the photographs, making clear that the images are genuine and lending further credibility to the dataset as a whole.

The hacked files contain a number of speeches from high-ranking Party officials that allow an insight into the mindset behind the policies, as well as some of the clearest evidence so far for where responsibility ultimately lies.

In a speech, stamped as “classified” and delivered by Zhao Kezhi, China’s Minister for Public Security, on a visit to Xinjiang in June 2018, he suggests that at least two million people are infected with “extremist thought” in southern Xinjiang alone.

Peppered with references to President Xi Jinping, the speech heaps praise on the Chinese leader for his “important instructions” for the construction of new facilities and an increase in funding for prisons to cope with the influx in detainees necessary to reach that two million target.

And if the mass internment of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities really does flow from orders given by the Chinese leader, then there are hints too about the kind of timeframe he has in mind.

The cache contains another secret speech, delivered in 2017 by Chen Quanguo – until recently Xinjiang’s hardline Communist Party secretary.

“For some, even five years re-education may not be enough,” he tells his audience of senior military and police cadres, a seeming admission that for as long as any Uyghur continues to feel a loyalty to identity or faith at least as strong as to the Party, there’s no end in sight.

“Once they are let out, problems will reappear, that is the reality in Xinjiang,” he says.

Mr. David Kilgour is speaking at International conference on china’s ongoing genocide against Uyghur

You are watching the short version of the conference about china's ongoing genocide against Uyghurs. We will be distributing the speeches of each speaker in a separate video soon. Because of a technical problem, we canceled the original meeting just 10 minutes before the starting. It took about an hour to create a new one and begin it.

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You are watching the short version of the conference about china’s ongoing genocide against Uyghurs. We will be distributing the speeches of each speaker in a separate video soon. Because of a technical problem, we canceled the original meeting just 10 minutes before the starting. It took about an hour to create a new one and begin it. ھۆرمەتلىك شەرقى تۇركىستانلىق قېرىنداشلار، 15-ماي ئۆتكۇزۈلگەن خەلىق ئارالىق “خىتينىڭ ئۇيغۇرلار ئۇستىدىن ئېلىپ بېرىۋاتقان ئېرىقى قىرغىنچىلىقى” تېمىسىدىكى يىغىننىڭ قىسقارتىلغان ۋىدىيو نۇسخىسىنى ھوزۇرىڭىزلارغا سۇندۇق. ئالدىمىزدىكى كۈنلەردە، ھەرقايسى سۆزلۇگۇچىلەرنىڭ سۆزىنى ئايرىم-ئايرىم ۋىدىيو قىلىپ تارقىتىمىز. 15-مايدىكى يىغىننىڭ باشلىنىشىغا ئاز قالغاندا، قانداقتۇ تېخىنىكىلىق مەسىلە كۆرۇلۇپ، يىغىننى نورمال داۋاملاشتۇرۇش مۇمكۇن بولمىدى. ئاخىرى، قايتىدىن يېڭى يىغىن ئورۇنلاشتۇرۇپ داۋاملاشتۇرۇشقا مەجبۇر بولدۇق. بۇ سەۋەپتىن، پۈتۈن يىغىن ۋاقىت جەدىۋىلى بىر سائەت ئەتىراپىدا كەينىگە سۈرۈلىپ كەتتى.

U.S. Steps Up China Pressure Over Surveillance of Uyghurs

U.S. Steps Up China Pressure Over Surveillance of Uyghurs

U.S. Steps Up China Pressure Over Surveillance of Uyghurs

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(Bloomberg) — The Biden administration ratcheted up pressure on Beijing over its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, as U.S. lawmakers passed a bill targeting companies that rely on forced labor from the Xinjiang region of China.

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The administration on Thursday added 34 entities in China, including 11 research institutes within the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, to its banned entity list, saying they are part of a network that misuses biometric surveillance technology to track and repress ethnic and religious minorities. American companies need a license to do business with those on the Commerce Department’s entity list.

Later in the day, the Treasury Department announced that U.S. investors would be prohibited from investing in eight Chinese technology companies, including DJI Technology Co. Ltd., Cloudwalk Technology Co. LT-A and Yitu Limited.

“Today’s action highlights how private firms in China’s defense and surveillance technology sectors are actively cooperating with the government’s efforts to repress members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” Brian Nelson, an undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement accompanying the Treasury list.

To see a full list of the entities impacted by the U.S. click here

A U.S. official said China had a documented history of exploiting DNA collection and biometric facial recognition for mass surveillance of all residents ages 12 to 65 of Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim region, enabling mass detention and unlawful persecution.

The wave of penalties arrived before Senate approval on Thursday of legislation that would ban goods made in Xinjiang from being shipped to the U.S. unless companies can prove that they’ve not been made with forced labor. The bill, which now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature, had broad bipartisan support in the normally polarized Congress.

Human rights has emerged as a key irritant in already tense U.S.-China relations alongside Beijing’s tightening control over Hong Kong, incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and more aggressive posture in the South China Sea. The U.S. has sought to build up its alliances in the Indo-Pacific region as a bulwark to China and recently announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

About 1.5 million Turkic Muslims, primarily ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs, have been detained in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang since 2017. Chinese officials have described the camps as “vocational educational institutions” that provide “de-extremization” programming.

Chinese officials repeatedly reject charges that forced labor is used in Xinjiang and call the U.S. legislation interference in the nation’s domestic affairs. On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused the U.S. at a regular news briefing in Beijing of “over stretching the concept of national security” to abuse its export control measures.

“We urge the U.S. to correct its wrongdoing,” he said. “And we will take all necessary measures to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese institutions and companies.”

Thursday’s actions follow the U.S. government’s action on Dec. 10 placing investment restrictions on SenseTime Group Inc., China’s largest artificial intelligence firm. SenseTime then withdrew its planned initial public offering in Hong Kong.

SenseTime is considering reopening orders for its IPO as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Commerce list didn’t include any major biotech names. Shares in some of China’s biggest health care firms, including Wuxi Biologics, rebounded in Hong Kong on Friday, recovering losses after the Financial Times reported the U.S. might sanction unidentified biotech companies.

(Updates with market rebound and Chinese Foreign Ministry comment.)

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Australia joins US diplomatic boycott

2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Australia joins US diplomatic boycott

2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Australia joins US diplomatic boycott

·2 min read
People protest next to 'boycott Beijing 2022' signs
Protesters have called for a boycott of the event

Australia has said it will join the US in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was in response to “human rights abuses” in China’s Xinjiang province and “many other issues that Australia has consistently raised”.

Athletes would still attend, he added.

China has condemned the US announcement and threatened to retaliate, without giving further details.

On Monday, the US said it would not send diplomats to the Games in Beijing over concerns about China’s human rights record.

Mr Morrison said it was “no surprise” that Australia had joined the boycott, given relations with China had deteriorated in recent years.

“I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s the right thing to do.”

He accused China of rejecting opportunities to improve relations, insisting Australia remained open to bilateral talks.

The Chinese embassy in Australia responded by saying: “Mountains cannot stop the river from flowing into the sea. Australia’s success at the Beijing Winter Olympics depends on the performance of Australian athletes, not on the attendance of Australian officials, and the political posturing by some Australian politicians.”

It added that the blame for the current state of China-Australia relations “lies squarely on the Australian side”.

Meanwhile at a media briefing on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the US of violating “political neutrality in sport” and said the proposed boycott was “based on lies and rumours”.

Tensions are high between the two countries. The US has accused China of genocide in its repression of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in the western region of Xinjiang – an allegation China has strongly denied.

Relations are also strained over China’s suppression of political freedoms in Hong Kong, and because of concerns for the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who was not seen for weeks after she accused a top government official of assault.

Canberra has increasingly come to view China as a security threat amid allegations that Beijing has interfered in Australian politics and society.

It has also raised concerns over two Australian citizens who remain imprisoned in China.

Pro-democracy writer Yang Hengjun has denied charges of espionage and allegedly faced torture since his arrest in January 2019. Journalist Cheng Lei has been held without charge since August last year.

Other countries – including Canada and Japan – are also said to be considering diplomatic boycotts of the Games. New Zealand has confirmed it will not send officials due to Covid concerns.

The Australian Olympic Committee said it supported its government’s move but was keen to ensure safety for its approximately 40 athletes.

More on the Australia-China row:

Opinion: Who ordered the Uyghur genocide? Look no further than China’s leader.

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Opinion: Who ordered the Uyghur genocide? Look no further than China’s leader.

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Demonstrators protest the Chinese Communist Party near the Chinese Embassy in London in October. (Matt Dunham/AP)

Evidence has grown over the past few years that China has carried out a genocide against Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslim peoples of Xinjiang region in the country’s far northwest. Eyewitnessessatellite photos and government records have contributed to a grotesque picture of a people’s identity being eradicated. We now know that China built an archipelago of concentration camps, tried to repress the Uyghur birthrate and dispatched workers into forced labor. But who should be held to account?

China’s top leadership gave the orders, according to a new analysis from Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, who has led the way in exposing the genocide. He points to comments and actions of China’s leader Xi Jinping and, secondly, his handpicked Xinjiang regional party boss, Chen Quanguo. In 2014, when the measures were first being contemplated, Mr. Xi declared, “Those who should be seized should be seized, and those who should be sentenced should be sentenced.” Mr. Chen later followed with “round up everyone who should be rounded up.”

Mr. Zenz’s conclusions are based on a cache of internal documents known as the Xinjiang Papers. They were first disclosed in the New York Times, which received 403 pages of previously secret documents from a “member of the Chinese political establishment,” and published a story Nov. 16, 2019. The Times published the full text of one document, but not the cache in its entirety, in order to protect the source from possible detection.

Then, in mid-September, digital files of the Xinjiang Papers were leaked to the Uyghur Tribunal, an independent fact-finding effort based in London, which has held three rounds of hearings this year and is planning to release a report next week. (The Times says it was not the source of this leak.) In the two years since the first disclosures, much more has become known about the nature and scope of the repression. Mr. Zenz authenticated and analyzed the documents for the tribunal and concluded the genocide was a deliberate policy choice, encouraged by Mr. Xi and others. In a Nov. 27 statement to the tribunal, Mr. Zenz said “linkages between statements and mandates made by Xi and other central government figures and policies that were implemented after 2016 are far more extensive, detailed and significant than previously understood.”

The genocide plans took shape after an outdoor market attack in southern Xinjiang in May 2014 in which 31 people were killed, which China blamed on Uyghur separatists. Mr. Xi declared that religious extremism is a “poison” and a “powerful psychedelic drug” and vowed to wipe it out. Key decisions followed: to build high-security reeducation camps in which more than 1 million Uyghurs were incarcerated; to push the Uyghur population into coerced labor; and to launch a campaign to suppress the birthrate of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. These were the pillars of the genocide.

The Uyghur genocide raises urgent questions about who must bear responsibility for potential crimes against humanity. The Xinjiang Papers show Mr. Xi and his cohorts ordered the destruction of language, culture, traditions, hopes and dreams of an entire people.

Leaked papers link Xinjiang crackdown with China leadership

Leaked papers link Xinjiang crackdown with China leadership

Leaked papers link Xinjiang crackdown with China leadership

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Secret documents urge population control, mass round-ups and punishment of Uyghurs

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a billboard in Yarkent County in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Chinese president Xi Jinping argued in a speech that ‘population proportion’ was a foundation for peace in Xinjiang, new documents have revealed. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

Excerpts from previously unpublished documents directly linking China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province to speeches by the Chinese leadership in 2014 have been put online.

The documents – including three speeches by Chinese president Xi Jinping in April 2014 – cover security, population control and the need to punish the Uyghur population. Some are marked top secret. They were leaked to the Uyghur Tribunal – an independent people’s tribunal based in the UK.


In the documents, the highest levels of the Chinese Communist party (CCP) leadership call for Uyghur re-education and relocation to rectify an imbalance in the Uyghur and Han population in Xinjiang.

A camera is mounted on a watchtower at a high-security facility in Xinjiang, China, believed to be a re-education camp where Uyghurs are detained.
‘There’s cameras everywhere’: testimonies detail far-reaching surveillance of Uyghurs in China
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Dr Adrian Zenz, the German academic who was asked by the tribunal to authenticate the documents, said the top secret and confidential papers are significant because they show multiple links between the demands of the Chinese leadership of 2014 and what subsequently happened in Xinjiang, including mass internment in re-education camps, coercive labour transfers and optimising the ethnic population by increasing Han population shares.

Zenz alleges that the documents show the leadership’s long-term intent to commit cultural genocide with the specific purpose of safeguarding the rule of the CCP.

The documents were handed in full in digital form to the tribunal in September, but have not been published in full in order to protect the source of the leak.

Instead transcripts from some of the documents, lengthy quotations, summary and analysis have been published. The original documents were peer reviewed by Dr James Millward, professor of inter-societal history at Georgetown University Washington, and Dr David Tobin, lecturer in east Asian studies at the University of Sheffield. Some have been redacted to remove reception stamps. The leak covers 11 documents and 300 unique pages. They range from April 2014 to May 2018.

Zenz said some of the documents were drawn upon by the New York Times in a report in 2019, but that the leak also comprises previously unseen information.

In late 2016, just before the implementation of a set of unprecedented measures in Xinjiang, the leaders’ statements were handed to Xinjiang’s cadres as crucial study material, preparing them to implement the measures.

In one 2014 speech covered by the leak, Xi argues that the belt and road initiative, his signature foreign policy project, requires a stable domestic security environment. He asserts that the entire country’s national security and the achievement of China’s major goals in the 21st century will be in jeopardy if the situation in southern Xinjiang is not brought under control.

A vendor selling naan bread waits for customers on a street under surveillance cameras in Shule county, Xinjiang
Chinese effort to gather ‘micro clues’ on Uyghurs laid bare in report
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The speech was delivered weeks after Xi called for “all-out efforts” to bring to justice assailants who murdered 31 people and wounded more than 140 with knives and machetes in a bloody killing in the south-western city of Kunming on 1 March. Beijing blamed Xinjiang separatists for the attack.

In the speech Xi demands that the region engage in an all-out battle to “prevent Xinjiang’s violent terrorist activities from spreading to the rest of China”, argues that “stability across Xinjiang and even across the whole country depends on southern Xinjiang”, and calls for “a crushing blow to buy us time”.

He notes that since violent acts had already spread to other regions of China, “therefore we propose that Xinjiang is currently in … a painful period of interventionary treatment”. Religious extremists, he says, are “devils who will kill without blinking an eye”.

He also warns religious extremism is “a powerful psychedelic drug”, and calls for reform through education, as opposed to a practice of arrest and release – a reference to re-education and detention camps.

In another document, Xinjiang’s party secretary, Chen Quanguo, personally commands officials to “round up all who should be rounded up” and says the region’s vocational re-education facilities should be “unswervingly operated for a long time”.

In one of Xi’s speeches, he argues that “population proportion and population security are important foundations for long-term peace and stability”. This statement was later quoted verbatim by a senior Xinjiang official in July 2020, who then argued that southern Xinjiang’s Han population share was “too low”.

Other classified documents lament “severe imbalances in the distribution of the ethnic population” and a “severely mono-ethnic” population structure (an over-concentration of Uyghurs) in southern Xinjiang. They mandate that by 2022, 300,000 settlers (mostly Han from eastern China) are to be moved to regions in southern Xinjiang administered by the Xinjiang Construction and Production Corps, also known as “bingtuan”, a paramilitary entity, with the explicitly stated aim of increasing Han population shares in the region.

Xi himself ordered the abolishment of preferential birth control policies for ethnic groups in southern Xinjiang that had previously allowed them to have more children than the Han. He demanded that birth control policies in the Uyghur heartland were to be made “equal for all ethnic groups”.

The fresh leak was first mentioned at a special session of the UK-based tribunal on Saturday.

Government reports indicate that in February 2017, just weeks prior to the start of an internment campaign, leading cadres in prefectures and counties were subjected to an intensified study schedule of two of Xi’s speeches for at least two hours every week.

Zenz has been denounced by defenders of Beijing as a Christian fundamentalist determined to destroy Chinese communism. The Chinese government has imposed sanctions against him. It has always maintained that political, economic and religious freedoms in the Xinjiang region are “fully guaranteed”.

Zenz claims the new material shows that top Chinese leaders viewed the achievement of “stability maintenance” and related goals such as religious “de-extremification” in Xinjiang to be a matter of China’s national security, crucial to achieving primary long-term political goals.

 This article was amended on 30 November 2021 to clarify that the documents were leaked to the Uyghur Tribunal, which asked Dr Adrian Zenz to authenticate them; also Dr James Millward and Dr David Tobin peer reviewed the original documents, not the transcripts as an earlier version said. A reference to sanctions against Zenz was clarified.

Activists and researchers are calling on 82 retailers to commit to sourcing cotton outside of China to take a stand against accusations of forced Uyghur labor

Activists and researchers are calling on 82 retailers to commit to sourcing cotton outside of China to take a stand against accusations of forced Uyghur labor

Activists and researchers are calling on 82 retailers to commit to sourcing cotton outside of China to take a stand against accusations of forced Uyghur labor

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·5 min read
Uyghur flag
Activists are calling on companies to “fully extricate their supply chains from the Uyghur Region.”Tunahan Turhan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • China has been accused of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.

  • Activists are pushing companies to “fully extricate their supply chains from the Uyghur Region,” meaning Xinjiang.

  • Researchers say that cotton from that region of China is still ending up in stores.

Activists are calling on 82 major apparel and retail companies around the world to commit to sourcing cotton outside of China. In a letter to “apparel industry leaders,” the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region cited a study that ties international cotton sales to accusations of brutal treatment of China’s Muslim minority.

The Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim minority ethnic group mostly congregated in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a massive autonomous region along the northwestern border of the People’s Republic of China. Since 2014, accusations of widespread human rights abuses against the Uyghur people have been raised.

Beijing has been accused of implementing tactics like government surveillanceforced sterilization, and re-education camps, in a campaign that’s been described as “ethnic cleansing.” The Chinese government has denied these accusations.

In 2020, the United States banned the import of certain Xinjiang products, including cotton, over concerns about forced labor in the region.

China’s International Press Center did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“In the Uyghur region, the Chinese government has set up a system of hundreds of internment camps,” Laura Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at the Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University, told Insider. “Every decision any Uyghur person might make in that region is dominated by the knowledge that at any point they could be sent to one of these internment camps.”

Murphy added that “it’s also against the law for them to refuse participation in a government program.”

Under President Joe Biden’s administration, the US Treasury Department has sanctioned two high-level Chinese officials over allegations of “genocide and human rights violations” against the Uyghurs. Human Rights Watch has said that China could be detaining as many as 1 million Uyghurs. For its part, the US government has also warned that companies with supply chain ties to Xinjiang “run a high risk of violating US law.”

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

“These basic facts show that there has never been so-called genocide, forced labour, or religious oppression in Xinjiang,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN Human Rights Council in February, according to Reuters. “Such inflammatory accusations are fabricated out of ignorance and prejudice, they are simply malicious and politically driven hype and couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Murphy spearheaded the report “Laundering Cotton: How Xinjiang Cotton is Obscured in International Supply Chains.” In her research, she initially identified five Chinese companies selling cotton yarn or fabric that was sourced from the Xinjiang region. She then tracked shipments from those five companies, which largely went to apparel manufacturers in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Ethiopia, China, and Mexico. The study then looked into which global companies had ties to those intermediaries, through shipping records, finding that Xinjiang-sourced cotton “circumvents certain supply standards and import bans to end up on clothing racks around the world.”

On Tuesday, the Coalition sent an open letter to 82 top retailers and brands that have not yet signed a “call to action” demanding that companies “fully extricate their supply chains from the Uyghur Region.” Several brands, including ASOS, Eileen Fisher, the Marks and Spencer Group, and Reformation, have signed onto that pledge.

Insider reached out to all 82 companies who received the letter on November 22. The brands that received the letter included retail and e-commerce giants like Amazon, Carrefour, Costco, Home Depot, Ikea, Jo Ann Stores, Kmart, Kohl’s, L.L. Bean, Macy’s, Patagonia, Sears, Target, Walmart, and Wayfair. Most of the recipients were apparel brands, including American Eagle Outfitters, Brooks Brothers, Chico’s, Duluth Trading, Eddie Bauer, Forever 21, Gap Inc., Guess, Hanes, Hugo Boss, Land’s End, Levi Strauss, Lilly Pulitzer, Lucky Brand, Madewell, Marco Polo, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Uniqlo, and Vineyard Vines.

Most did not immediately reply. JCPenney declined to comment.

“We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR),” a Nike spokesperson said in a statement sent to Insider. “Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”

Spokespersons for C&A, Everlane, Lacoste, L.L. Bean, and Tesco said that their companies’ ethical codes for suppliers strictly prohibit the use of forced labor. The L.L. Bean spokesperson said that the company exited Xinjiang in August 2020, and that it has removed “all Chinese cotton from our assortment.”

Lacoste said that it has only used cotton originating from the US, Australia, Turkey, and Peru for its 2020 production. An Everlane spokesperson told Insider that “our analysis and records indicate that none of our raw materials, yarns, and fabrics produced in the manufacturing units called out in your report (and otherwise) originate from the XUAR.”

Timothy Voit, the vice president of strategic and international sales at textile-manufacturing company Thomaston Mills, told Insider: “We don’t source anything from China. We do specify the origin of cotton to be used in any of our products anywhere in our supply chain to exclude the possibility of forced labor from Xinjiang or Xinjiang.”

Murphy told Insider that given the sheer enormity of Xinjiang’s cotton output, the burden of keeping the fabric off clothing racks should fall on governmental bodies and international corporations, not consumers.

“It is a wake-up call that we need to be much more attentive to where our products come from,” Murphy said. “Because otherwise we’re complicit in both forced labor and a pretty radical discriminatory global system where the worst consequences fall upon the most marginalized among us.”

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China’s crimes against the Uyghurs

China's crimes against the Uyghurs

China’s crimes against the Uyghurs

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·6 min read

As the Beijing Olympics approach, all eyes are turning toward China – but something terrifying is happening there that the government does not want the world to see. We are confronted with a potentially genocidal state hosting the Olympics.

Right now, millions of people in the Xinjiang region of northwest China are being persecuted on the basis of their identity – because they are Uyghur, a Muslim minority group. The Chinese government is going to great lengths to use primarily non-lethal means to slowly destroy the Uyghur community, which totals approximately 12 million people. China’s actions are so alarming that we at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are gravely concerned that the Chinese government may be committing genocide. It is critical to underscore that genocide is a rare occurrence, and to invoke its name is to put forth an urgent, clarion call for action.


Mass atrocity perpetrators often go to great lengths to conceal and deny their crimes. The Chinese government has been exemplary at this. They have restricted independent monitors from accessing the millions of people they are persecuting and the vast network of detention centers and prisons that have held between 1 million to 3 million people. They harass and threaten Uyghurs who speak out – including those living in the United States.

But information has gotten out from whistleblowers and survivors. That information likely only scratches the surface of the true extent of the horrors.

The Chinese government has for decades tried to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur people, giving disingenuous rationales for doing so – like fighting terrorism and preventing separatism. Recently, surfaced information signals that the Chinese government’s conduct has escalated beyond a policy of forced assimilation. Since 2017, their attacks have intensified with new tactics used to repress, eradicate the Uyghur culture, and – it increasingly appears – to destroy the Uyghur people over time.

Every aspect of Uyghurs’ lives is monitored – either through surveillance (including facial recognition technology, integrated into the networks of surveillance cameras, to look exclusively for Uyghurs) that tracks their movements and communication, or through Han Chinese party officials who are physically moved into Uyghur homes to monitor them. These practices are not out of an Orwellian novel. This is the lived experience of millions of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The intrusive and omnipresent surveillance is a pipeline to mass detention. Uyghurs have been detained often without legal justification or due process for acts as mundane as donating to a mosque or having a religious marriage. In detention they face torture, sexual violence – and for many women, both in and out of detention, forced sterilization and forced IUD implantation.

We have seen a deepening assault on Uyghur female reproductive capacity through these practices as well as the separation of the sexes through mass detention and forcible transfer, and the transfer of children. China has had family planning policies across the country that have violated women’s rights for decades. Today, there are worrying allegations that an increase in these practices in Xinjiang is specifically and disproportionately impacting Uyghurs. There has already been a dramatic reduction in births (186,400 fewer births in 2019 than the year before), and when seen in the context of the broader persecution of Uyghurs and an environment where genocidal ideologies can take root, this reduction raises grave concerns for us about the potential commission of genocide.

In Xinjiang, genocide may look different from what the world has grown to expect. When most think of genocide, they think of the mass killings of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust and in more recent times of Rwanda. While outright killings are typical of genocide, the crime may be perpetrated through less obvious but no less devastating acts.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide, to which China is a signatory, recognizes this. It refers to an intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group through specific acts, most of which do not involve mass killing. These other acts include causing serious bodily or mental harm, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

We know that perpetrators of mass atrocities evolve their tactics to advance their goals, including where mass killing may not, for an array of reasons, be a useful strategy or an employable tactic. China appears to be adopting those other tactics today.

One of the many tragedies of this situation is that once a determination or expression of grave concern is made, that means that we have failed to prevent and protect. There is – and has been – ample evidence that crimes against humanity are being committed. Many of these crimes were evident long before allegations of genocide arose, and they should have been met with urgency and focus. Otherwise, how else will we prevent genocide and fulfill the 1945 promise of “never again.”

The scale of the crimes against Uyghurs is daunting, and we know that confronting the crimes of a powerful perpetrator will be difficult. That is precisely why a coordinated, global response is needed. This is all the more urgent because we are concerned that China is exporting the same tools of repression that it is using against the Uyghurs to other countries. China is essentially creating a blueprint for how to slowly destroy a people – one that if not stopped, others may try to replicate.

A recent United States Holocaust Memorial Museum report makes clear, the onus is on the Chinese government to stop these conscience-shocking crimes, and to prove that to the world by allowing independent monitors in and holding perpetrators accountable. Given the Chinese government’s refusal to date to do so, others should come together to make sure there is swift, global, coordinated action to press China to end the crimes and quash impunity.

Companies need to make sure they’re not enabling, or profiting from, genocide or crimes against humanity. And the United Nations and governments around the world – led by the United States and the European Union – should redouble their efforts to collect information about what is happening in Xinjiang, coordinate strategies regarding sanctions, and protect Uyghurs outside China.

In 1936, Nazi Germany hosted the Berlin Olympics. While Germany’s mass killing of Europe’s Jews did not begin until 1941, the regime’s systematic and comprehensive persecution of its Jewish population was well underway. A boycott was debated, but ultimately the Olympic Games went on. Germany scored a propaganda victory, giving Germans an international showcase to be proud of and convincing many foreign observers that perhaps the Nazis were not all that bad after all. This history and our knowledge of the current crimes in Xinjiang should help inform our public debate today about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Regardless of what happens, we cannot allow China to use the spectacle of the Olympic Games to obscure its ongoing persecution of the Uyghurs. The future of a people may depend on it.

Naomi Kikoler is the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, which recently released a the report ” released a report, “To Make Us Slowly Disappear”: The Chinese Government’s Assault on the Uyghurs.”

This piece has been updated.

Letter: China is persecuting Uyghurs

Letter: China is persecuting Uyghurs

Letter: China is persecuting Uyghurs

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The Herald-Times
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Do you know a Uyghur (wee-gur)? Several families who fled China live in central Indiana after requesting asylum in the United States. China is systematically eradicating anyone practicing religion or cultural practices, including Turkish ancestry, Muslim, Christian, to exploit the cotton producing and mineral rich region in northwest China.

A new report by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial highlights labor camps, rape, sterilization and removal of Uyghur children. People participating in ethnic or religious activities are sent to prison camps along with their families, where hard labor and starvation result in survival rate under 50% at one year. Over 2 million of the 12 million Uyghurs are in camps. To hide this genocide, China locked down all communications into and out of this region. 

This Chinese persecution of Uyghurs continues in the U.S., trying to trace and imprison refugees’ family members back home. What can you do? Learn about this issue. Google: “Uyghur: To make us slowly disappear.” Write your congressman, asking for stronger measures. Investigate sources for the products you buy. Most cotton used in China’s exported clothing, as well as many precious metals, come from the Uyghur region. Please pray for these people in unbelievably ugly and harsh conditions.

The United Nations Is Giving the Names of Uyghur Dissidents to China | Opinion

The United Nations Is Giving the Names of Uyghur Dissidents to China | Opinion

The United Nations Is Giving the Names of Uyghur Dissidents to China | Opinion

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What Is The ‘One China’ Policy? U.S.-Taiwan Relations Explained

The Chinese government’s violent oppression of the primarily Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang is no longer a secret. From forced sterilization of Uyghur women to the internment of millions in prison camps to the eradication and destruction of religious institutions, the Chinese Communist Party’s actions against the Uyghurs have been deemed worthy of the name genocide to many in the human rights community.

Many—but not all. The United Nations, the very institution created to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,” is assisting China in its violent efforts to wipe out the Uyghurs by helping the CCP cover its tracks. These were the findings of a recent report in Le Monde about the efforts of UN human rights officer-turned whistleblower Emma Reilly. Reilly claims that prior to every UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in recent years, China has requested the names of Uyghur and other Chinese dissidents who were scheduled to speak. And despite this being explicitly forbidden by the UN’s own rules, the UN, according to Reilly, has made it a practice to share this information with Chinese authorities, who use it to harass the dissidents’ families who are still based in China.

It’s one thing for China to try to cover up its genocide; China boasts a long history of reprisals against human rights activists, Uyghurs included. But it’s quite another thing for the body charged with protecting human rights to lend them a hand.


Reilly says she first discovered the practice in 2013, when China’s Geneva delegation requested confirmation that certain “anti-government Chinese separatists” were set to speak at the Human Rights Council. Listed individuals included, among others, Dolkun Isa, current president of the World Uyghur Congress.

Le Monde reports that Reilly suggested that the request be rejected, just as the UN had rejected Turkish demands regarding Kurdish activists. But leaked emails appear to show Reilly’s superior, Eric Tistounet, head of the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), advising staffers that the names be shared with China because the meeting was public, and delaying sharing the names would merely “exacerbate the Chinese mistrust against us.”

The UN in fact confirmed Reilly’s allegations in 2017, when the OHCHR acknowledged that it confirms attendees’ names with Chinese authorities who “regularly ask the UN Human Rights Office… whether particular NGO delegates are attending the forthcoming session.” So too, did a 2019 UN tribunal confirm “the practice of providing names of human rights defenders to the Chinese delegation.”

But while the UN has at times acknowledged this indefensible practice, it has simultaneously provided contradictory statements denying it. When asked about the allegations in March 2017, Tistounet dismissed them as “extreme right-wing” propaganda—a mere month after the OHCHR’s admission that it did currently confirm Uyghur activists’ names with China. Two months later, in a letter sent to UN Watch, the OHCHR asserted that it “does not confirm the names of individual activists accredited to attend UN Human Rights Council sessions to any State, and has not done so since at least 2015.”

Uyghur protest
Members of the Muslim Uighur minority hold placards as they demonstrate to ask for news of their relatives and to express their concern about the ratification of an extradition treaty between China and Turkey at Uskudar square in Istanbul on February 26, 2021. – Chinese parliament ratified on December 26, 2020 an extradition treaty signed in 2017 with Ankara, a text that Beijing wants to use in particular to speed up the return of certain Muslim Uighurs suspected of “terrorism” and who are refugees in Turkey.YASIN AKGUL / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Then, in an August 2017 letter to Human Rights Watch, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein acknowledged that the UN “often receives communications from… China” with a list of individuals who the Chinese claim “represent possible threats to the United Nations.” Once UN security services determine the allegations are baseless, wrote Al Hussein, China is informed that its concerns are unfounded, and “no other information is transmitted to the State.” A UN judge, however, rejected Al Hussein’s assertions in 2020, stating that in 2017, the “OHCHR misrepresented the practice of giving names to a Member State’s delegation to ‘Human Rights Watch.'”

Alarmingly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is aware of the allegations; in 2018, his office ordered Al Hussein to “resolve” the dispute with Reilly, Le Monde revealed. And yet, since objecting to the practice in 2013, Reilly says she has been ostracized and “publicly defamed,” her career “left in tatters.” And despite being recognized as a whistleblower in 2020, she was fired the day after the Le Monde story’s publication.

What Reilly’s reports reveal is that the UN is more concerned with appeasing China than with combatting the Chinese-led Uyghur genocide. China, meanwhile, continues to retaliate against Uyghur activists. In a 2019 witness statement regarding the OHCHR sharing his name with China, a Uyghur dissident, Dolkun Isa, revealed that he didn’t know where his 90-year-old father was, or if he was even alive. His mother died in a Chinese detention center in 2018, aged 78.

Shockingly, world leaders are also aware of the practice. In 2019, UN Watch Executive Director, Hillel Neuer, sent letters to the Geneva delegations of the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Sweden, detailing instances of Chinese dissidents’ names (some of whom are citizens of Western nations) being shared by the UN. Citing China’s history of retaliating against human rights activists, Neuer explained that “providing China or any other government with names of dissidents accredited to attend UN sessions in advance of the sessions is harmful and potentially life-threatening to dissidents and their families, particularly family members still in China.”

Not one country responded to Neuer.

Dutch parliament too, is well-aware. In a January 2019 letter to Dutch lawmakers, Foreign Minister Stef Blok noted both the OHCHR and UN Ethics Office’s admissions that the UN hands Chinese authorities “lists of names” of Chinese dissidents set to speak at the UNHRC. World leaders, however, have refused to confront this abomination.

For years and with total impunity, UN officials have aided China in covering up one of the greatest human rights atrocities of our generation. It’s high time for world leaders to press the UN for answers and bring those responsible for such an abject betrayal of the UN’s guiding principles to justice. History won’t judge them kindly for turning a blind eye.