Leaked photos from Xinjiang include mugshots of Uyghurs detained for expressing faith

Documents show records of arbitrary detention for as long as a decade for trivial acts, as well as shoot-to-kill policy for those who try to escape

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 25 May 2022 04:20
Comments

Uyghur Muslim woman tells a US Congressional committee in 2018 she asked Chinese to kill her whilst in detention camp

Thousands of leaked photographs from Xinjiang in northwestern China have reportedly provided fresh evidence of involuntary mass incarceration of Uyghurs in the region, according to reports published on Tuesday by a group of media outlets.

Data hacked from police computer servers in the region contained over 5,000 police photographs of the minority community taken between January and July 2018. The files don’t extend beyond 2018 as the Chinese government tightened Xinjiang’s encryption standards.

Human rights groups have for years been accusing China of systemically oppressing Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in the region. Concerns have been raised about widespread abuses, including mass incarceration, forced labour, torture and sexual assault of more than a million Uyghurs in detention centres in the region.

Detainee Aynur Tursun, aged 28

China has denied these allegations of abuse, and after initially denying the existence of a network of camps in the region now describes them as voluntary reeducation centres.

Among these documents, a spreadsheet titled “persons subjected to strike hard because of religion” lists 330 people who were sentenced because of “illegal” religious activities such as studying the Quran.

The “Xinjiang Police Files”, published by the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, has provided new details on how the communist government mistreated minorities even though Beijing continues to deny the allegations.

The huge cache of data contains thousands of mugshots of detainees, some as young as 15. It also sheds light on the use of police officers armed with machine guns and images of police drills.

Documents show records of arbitrary detention for as long as a decade for trivial acts such as not using the phone in an alleged effort to evade digital surveillance. They also include a shoot-to-kill policy for those who try to escape.

The Chinese government has detained between one to two million Uyghurs muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang region, the files showed.

A United Nations assessment in 2019 had said that an estimated one million people had been detained in the region. Beijing has denied allegations of rights abuses, saying its policies in the region are aimed at fighting terrorism.

The files also revealed a classified speech by China’s minister of public security confirming that Mr Xi personally gave orders to provide Xinjiang’s overcrowded detention facilities with more security guards and funding, and to “expand the region’s prison and internment system”.

The documents detail the impassioned demands from Chen Quanguo, the former party secretary in Xinjiang, to treat minorities like “dangerous criminals” to prevent camp escapes, and to readily open fire to stop those fleeing.

“These findings are significant because they provide us with frank policy implementation directives along with the thought processes and intentions that made them a reality,” said Adrian Zenz, director and senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Inmate Ilham Ismayil, 27 - the files state that the reason for his detention is unknown. This image is one of several in which guards armed with batons are seen in the background

“This gives an unprecedented look into the personal attitudes of Chinese authorities and the personal involvement of Xi Jinping. Documents with this kind of insight have never before been published and their revelations are very disturbing,” he added.

Mr Zenz said the files were provided to him by an unidentified hacker who claimed to have downloaded them from police servers. He then passed on the data to more than a dozen media organisations.

The US State Department and the parliaments of Canada and the Netherlands have determined that China’s conduct against Uyghurs constitutes genocide under international law.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday called the data leak “the latest example of anti-China forces trying to smear China”.

“It is just a repetition of their old tricks. Spreading rumours and lies won’t cloud the judgment of the world and cannot cover up the fact that Xinjiang enjoys stability and prosperity, and residents there are living happy and fulfilling lives,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

The release appears to have been timed to coincide with United Nations high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet’s arrival in Guangzhou this week for the first UN visit of its kind in 17 years.

The visit is due to focus on allegations of human rights abuses against Muslims in Xinjiang. However, critics have raised concerns that the visit would be used as propaganda by the Chinese government and may not yield any significant gains.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in