Newly leaked documents from the Chinese government have revealed the harrowing extent of the dictatorship’s crackdown on the nation’s Muslim Uyghur minority.
Over 403 pages were leaked to the New York Times by an anonymous official concerned with the grievous violations being inflicted on the minority. The unnamed official hoped that such documents would prevent the Chinese Ruling Communist Party from escaping culpability.
The documents reveal chilling information relating to government operations in Xinjiang to detain more than a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons.
Internal speeches made by Chinese President, Xi Jinping, feature heavily in the leaked documents, along with over 150 pages of directives and reports on the surveillance and control of the Uyghur population. There are also details of plans to restrict Islam in other parts of China.
Mr Xi is recorded as advising his officials behind closed doors to dismiss the mounting international criticism on their actions, “Don’t be afraid if hostile forces whine, or if hostile forces malign the image of Xinjiang,” he said.
Of the most telling reports within the leak, is a classified paper outlining guidelines to local officials on how to respond to family members asking about their relatives held in detention camps. Returning students visiting family were to be advised that although their family members were not permitted to leave, they were being held “for their own good”. They were also discreetly threatened that their future behaviour would determine the length of their relative’s stay.
If officials were asked whether family members had committed a crime, they were to respond “It is just that their thinking has been infected by unhealthy thoughts”. They were advised that their family members were “infected” with the “virus” of Islamic radicalism and they needed to be quarantined and cured.
The leak also shed light on how the 2016 appointment of hardline leader, Mr Chen Quanguo, led to the drastic increase of Uyghurs placed into detention camps. In the leaks he is repeatedly phrased as ordering officials to “round up everyone who should be rounded up”.
The leak also detailed the rise and fall of a regional leader in Xinjiang, Mr Wang Yongzhi, after he failed to place sufficient pressure on the region’s Uyghur population. While at first Mr Wang displayed deep commitment to the mass detention of Uyghurs, he later developed doubts within the policy after he realised it was seriously impeding economic growth in the region. A document outlining his ousting reveals that he “refused to round up everyone who should be rounded up.”