Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs are said to be imprisoned in camps in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Now “shocking details” about the human rights violations have become known.
Munich / Beijing – Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is in China these days. During his six-day visit – the first by a human rights commissioner in the country since 2005 – Bachelet will also travel to Xinjiang. The vast region of northwestern China has been under particular scrutiny from the world public for years: Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly members of the Uighur ethnic minority, are said to be imprisoned in re-education camps here. Now a data leak has revealed new, gruesome details from the Xinjiang camp system.
Under the name “Xinjiang Police Files”, media from several countries, including The mirrorBR, Le Monde and the BBC, analyzed and verified information from the massive data leak. The data had been leaked to German sinologist Adrian Zenz, who has been researching the camp system from the United States for years and has previously published leaked information about the camp system. According to mirror the data leak apparently came from a hacker who infiltrated the computer systems of the Chinese security authorities.
“It’s like a window into a police state where so little information comes out. We’ve never seen anything like it,” Zenz reports. The camps are high-security prisons. Secret speeches, photos of prisoners, detention lists and training documents from the security authorities make the scope clear. Information on about 300,000 Chinese registered by the authorities, primarily Uighurs, is therefore among the data.
China: Xinjiang’s party leader apparently ordered to shoot himself
According to the media involved, the dataset includes an unprecedented speech by former Xinjiang party leader Chen Quanguo from 2017. It states that any prisoner who even tries to escape a few steps is “shooting”. In another speech, Chen aired the motto “Kill first, then report”. Leaked photos are said to show security forces with combat rifles. Another photo shows a detainee in a so-called tiger chair – a torture device where the legs are stretched. Chen was considered a hardliner and was only recently replaced as part of a staff exchange. His successor, Ma Xingrui, a former governor of the prosperous province of Guangdong, is considered a pragmatist. It is still unclear to what extent this will affect the situation.
The government in Beijing initially denied the existence of the re-education camps. When the evidence became unavoidable, she described the camps as “professional training facilities” that were attended voluntarily. According to the new data, there may be less talk about this than ever before. Massive human rights violations are systematically committed in the province, primarily against the Muslim Uighurs, but also against members of other minorities such as the Kazakhs.
Xinjiang: Leaked police data gives prisoners a face
Xinjiang police archives put faces on many of the detainees. About a man named Adiljan T. who is said to have been sentenced to twelve years in prison – just because he had been training in a gym for two weeks. Authorities’ accusation: “preparation for an act of terrorism”.
“It’s a systematic crime against humanity,” Zenz said mirror. “We have a variety of crimes here – from detention in rehab camps to forced labor, to the demolition of mosques, to the restriction of religion. The point is to assimilate these people, these people, to break them internally so that they become subordinate to the party and can better controlled by the State. “
In Xinjiang, anyone who uses a VPN network to access foreign sites is liable to prosecution; writes the report. It is also forbidden to teach Islamic content or watch “forbidden” videos. It has also been known for some time that wearing a beard is considered a reason for imprisonment. For the investigation, the journalists also spoke to relatives of detainees, who confirmed the information. In an initial reaction to the publications, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke of “shocking details about China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang”.
China: Criticism of Michelle Bachelet’s Visit
According to mirror Some of the camps identified in the “Xinjiang Police Files” have since been disbanded. Instead, new prison camps have been set up elsewhere in the province. It is unlikely that UN Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet will see these often very remote facilities during his visit. Bachelet’s visit to China was therefore strongly criticized in advance by, among others, human rights groups. They fear that the UN official will “step into a minefield of propaganda laid out by the Chinese Communist Party”.
The United States also expressed concern that Beijing could restrict Bachelet’s access, which would be necessary for a “comprehensive and unmanipulated assessment of the human rights situation”. Bachelet staff, on the other hand, stressed that China had promised that the UN commissioner could speak freely and unattended with whomever she wanted.
China: Foreign Minister Wang Yi talks about “false information”
Bachelet met on Monday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Guangzhou. According to the Xinhua State News Agency, Wang spoke of “false information” about his country, which was spread by “some countries and anti-Chinese forces”. China claims that its actions in Xinjiang are aimed only at potential terrorists, citing terrorist attacks in recent years.
Also on Monday, Bachelet spoke with about 100 Western diplomats in a video call, according to Bloomberg News. The former Chilean president is said to have said her visit to China was not an “investigation” – an indication that Bachelet already wants to dampen expectations from the international community.
Back in 2018, Bachelet spoke of “deeply disturbing allegations of arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities” that took place “in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang.” A report on the situation in Xinjiang, which Bachelet wanted to present months ago, has not yet been published. She has announced a press conference about her trip to China next Saturday. (sh)