A large amount of documents on the repression in the Uyghur “educational camps” has been massively disseminated these days. The issue prompted Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, to fly to China to analyze the facts. Data obtained from police files confirmed the cruel repression of this ethnic group. They were published by 13 media from 10 different countries.
Xi Jinping criticized the “arrogance” of the former Chilean president, expressing discomfort with her presence. The dictator referred to her with contempt for assuming, according to him, attributions that do not correspond to her. He warned that no country can tell another how to defend human rights. The UN mission, which was in the Asian giant until Friday to get information, did not achieve anything. It tried to obtain testimonies on the situation in Xinjiang province, but its freedom of movement was minimal.
The discovery is mainly due to Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist, today a main target of the red defamatory propaganda. He has been living in Minnesota since 2019. Zenz is behind the “Xinjiang Police Files”, the latest published revelations about the repressive machinery in the region, where the Uyghurs live. He is a specialist in Tibet, to which he has devoted most of his work. At the time he was studying that area, the strongman was Chen Quanguo, who practiced brutal “pacification” techniques. When the official was transferred to Xinjiang (2016), Zenz decided to focus on that province.
This is the first time that authentic documents, which present the Chinese police apparatus without any filter, have been obtained privately. Thousands of reports were accessed, including speeches by Chen, CCP secretary for Xinjiang, as well as secret reports on prisoners. Xi Jinping himself wants to build new camps, as the existing ones are overcrowded. The files show that paranoia about the alleged terrorist threat is shared from the top to the grassroots. Since it is impossible to do fieldwork, online data analysis is the best way to find out what is going on.
The files contain 5,000 photos of prisoners between the ages of 3 and 90, showing children sent to the camps. This gigantic archive is the culmination of a monumental effort over a period of years. The massive leak produced thousands of data showing that the “re-education” camps are, in fact, concentration camps. A staggering amount of information surfaced: images of detainees, 300,000 personal records and 23,000 names of convicts and police instructions. The entire inner picture was exposed, revealing that Chen gave orders to shoot to kill.
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The evidence forced Beijing to react. They did not deny everything but described the camps as teaching and training centers. The information was organized and made accessible on www.xinjiangpolicefiles.org. Hours later, the website was blocked. The files were authenticated by the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies (JEACS) on May 24.
According to estimates, 12% of the adult Uyghur population was or is still in camps and prisons. Evidence shows forced labor, limits on religious freedom, separation of families, forced birth control and mass incarceration. Last March, the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada had already sanctioned Chinese officials for the crackdown, a gesture that provoked an immediate reaction from Beijing, which in turn sanctioned European lawmakers and academics. These were the first measures taken by the bloc since the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
China has been accused of committing “crimes against humanity” by the French National Assembly. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated that “further shocking details of China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang have emerged, which add to the already extensive body of evidence from Chinese government documents, first-hand testimony, satellite imagery and visits by our own diplomats to the region.”
It remains to be seen whether the information will affect China’s foreign relations. Many countries are carefully calibrating —it is inevitable— their attitude so as not to confront the Asian power. As explained in another context by the Uruguayan statesman —twice president— Julio Sanguinetti, in politics one must act “with a cold mind and a warm heart.” It seems virtually impossible for China to be held accountable. Unless the regime collapses and a democracy is installed. Too bad this ideal is not on the horizon.