Secret files leaked to The New York Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last week provided disturbing evidence of the mass detentions of Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minority members in Xinjiang. Human rights organizations and legal experts have characterized the measures taken by the Chinese government as a crime against humanity under international law. Meanwhile, the UK and Germany have repeated their calls for UN access to the camps and US lawmakers have again called for sanctions.
While China's Foreign Ministry did not initially deny the documents' authenticity, saying only that the content had been distorted, later, Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming derided them as “pure fabrication and fake news”. To the outside world, the Chinese government has always maintained the facilities in Xinjiang are “vocational training centers”. However, the documents reveal a very different story, detailing measures to prevent escape, prohibition of contact with the outside world, extensive surveillance, and punishments meted out to those who disobey. There are details of the scoring system used to track the ideological reeducation of detainees and recommendations on how officials should tell students returning home for the holidays that their parents have been taken interned.
The documents also deal with “the need to prevent irregular death” and “outbreak of epidemics”. These facts alone speak to the scope of the detention and the lack of procedural protections. Above all, the documents show that the campaign is being carried out in a systematic way, with the blessing of the top leadership.
“These leaked documents show the willingness of the Chinese government to disregard both domestic as well as international legal standards in matters of national security. As such, they call into question the trustworthiness of a key economic and strategic partner of many Western nations.” MERICS expert Katja Drinhausen.