The recently disclosed files by academic Andrian Zenz consisting of thousands of
photos and official documents from China’s Xinjiang confirm unscrupulous, harsh and
violent treatment of Uyghur minorities in the country. Although China has denied violation
of human rights of the minorities in the country, the leaked photographs and internal
documents sent to Zenz by an anonymous source who hacked into official data base in
Xinjiang point to the contrary.
For quite some time it was suspected that China has forced Uyghurs into mass
internments notwithstanding its claim that the interments were voluntary. The leaked data,
however, vindicates allegations of Chinese authorities allegedly detaining over one million
Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention centres and prisons in the
region. Beijing has time and again defended these detention centres as training centres.
The files include a 2017 internal speech by Chen Ouranguo, a former Communist
Party Secretary in Xinjiang, in which he is reportedly orders guards in internment camps to
shoot and kill anyone who tries to escape and directs officials in the region to “exercise firm
control over religious believers.”
Earlier, it was alleged that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs as well as Kazakhs,
Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were forcibly held in camps for communist indoctrination
and training. The ghetoisation and forceful detentions were started somewhere in the year
2015 when a senior Chinese communist official apparently noted that “a third” of Xinjiang’s
Uyghurs were “polluted by religious extremist forces”, and needed to be “educated and
reformed through concentrated force”.
Xinjiang, inhabited by ethnic, linguistic and religions minorities never seemed fully
within the communist Party’s grasp, according to many analysts. Since July 2009 and till
2016 there had been several instances of violent disputes between Uyghur and Han
Chinese including the August 2009 syringe attacks, the 2011 bomb-and knife attack in
Hotan, 2014 knife attack in the Kunming railway station, the April 2014 bomb- and knife
attack in the Urumqi railway station and the May 2014 car –and-bomb attack in an Urumqi
street market. These violent reactions from Xinjiang Muslims were sparked by Chinese
government’s diktats coercing them to give up their ethnic identity to follow Chinese type
communism, efforts to change the demography of the region encroaching on living space
as well as employment opportunities of Uyghurs. However, the unrest was attributed by
Chinese authorities to Turkistan Islamic Party, a designated terrorist organisation.
Instead of meeting the aspirations of the ethnic minorities and ensuring their human
rights, Beijing maintained that its actions in Xinjiang were justified responses to the threats
of extremism and terrorism. It did not address the reasons for the agitation among Muslim
ethnic minorities. On the contrary, it tried to promote their assimilation into the Han culture,
often by force.
The latest documents reveal a 2018 internal speech apparently by Public security
Minister Zhao Kezhi citing direct orders from President Xi Jingping to increase the capacity
of detention facilities. According to the documents, Chinese officials believed that two
million people in Xinjiang alone had been “severely influenced by the infiltration of
extremist religious thought”.
Although the recent reports bring the truth before the world about Chinese excesses
against its ethnic minorities, China’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed them as “cobbled –
together material” by “anti-China forces smearing Xinjiang”.
However, the Chinese policy of forced assimilation of Uyghur ethnic minority by
constraining their culture and religion, eg, replacing Uyghur language with standard
Mandarin as the medium of education in primary schools, denying large scale employment
to Uyghurs in any government firm or institution and banning wearing of beards and head
scarves, religious fasting and praying while at work would continue to torment the ethnic
minorities. The purported mission of forcing “modern culture” on Uyghurs and hounding
them in the name of “de-extremification” may be counter-productive and further alienate