Leaked Documents Expose the Machinery of China’s Prison Camps

The new materials reveal how Beijing’s internment of Uighur Muslims actually works—and who is complicit.

Foreign Policy
Date: November 27, 2019
By: James Palmer

This photo taken on June 4, 2019 shows a man walking past a screen showing images of China’s President Xi Jinping in Kashgar in China’s northwest Xinjiang region. – China has enforced a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang, where more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in a network of internment camps that Beijing describes as “vocational education centres” aimed at steering people away from religious extremism. (Photo by Greg Baker / AFP) (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s weekly China Brief. The highlights this week: Secret documents expose new details about China’s detention camps, a victory for the ongoing protest movement in Hong Kong’s elections, and China overtakes the United States in the scale of its foreign diplomatic presence.

Xinjiang Leaks

A major set of leaked documents revealing new information about China’s increasingly well-documented oppression of Muslims in Xinjiang has been translated and published, thanks to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in a project led by frequent Foreign Policy contributor Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian. These came after an earlier leak published by the New York Times.

Experts say more than 1 million Uighurs and members of other, mostly Muslim minority groups are detained in Xinjiang.

The leaks appear to stem from different sources: The New York Times documents mostly include materials about internal Chinese Communist Party speeches and rhetoric, whereas the ICIJ one concentrates on the practicalities of the crackdown. One of the most important among them is a manual that lays out the conditions for the so-called “students” in the camps, including security and the prevention of any escape.

Grim revelations. The papers confirm the size and scope of the detentions. One passage describes more than 15,000 Uighurs being swept into the camps in a single week in one region. Another document reveals that even routine Muslim worship is now enough to result in imprisonment. Algorithmic policing and surveillance through the Integrated Joint Operations Platform system, now routinely deployed throughout China, appears to play an important role.    [FULL  STORY]