According to sources and estimation, at least one million Uighurs have been detained. Deleting and destroying data and documents, the local Chinese government is covering up its crimes of the mass detention camps for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. This was leaked information given by four people in contact with the government employees there. They have also reported that the regional officials there in the Xinjiang province tightened security and held meetings to deal with the leaks. People in top positions debated as how to respond at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) regional headquarters in Urumqi, which is Xinjiang’s capital. Sources spoke in anonymity because of the fear of retribution by the CCP.
The meetings began after The New York Times published speeches in Xinjiang by top leaders, including Xi Jinping, China’s President. They continued even after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, along with other news organizations, came out with information, exposing the crimes of secret guidelines for operating detention centres and instructions targeting people with technology.
The Chinese government has had struggles with the 11 million Uighurs, a Turkic minority in Xinjiang, located in the far west province. Over the past several years, the government has detained more than a million Uighurs and other minorities. Officials in Xinjiang and the foreign ministry has not denied the truth of those sources; however, the Communist Party Chief in Urumqi declared the reports to be malicious and distorted. The local government gave no reply to a fax demanding answers for arrests, more restrictions on information, and other related things to the leaks. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond.
Information seems more becoming of being tightly controlled. Several university teachers and district-level workers in Urumqi were ordered to destroy sensitive data on computers, phones, cloud storage, and social media groups, said one Uighur who had direct knowledge. In other areas, the state confiscated any evidence that shows information about detention camps. Another Uighur who was jailed in Xinjiang for years also came out and revealed that his wife had asked him to send her his release papers because eight officers had come and searched her home. If she couldn’t retrieve them, they would jail her for life. He commented, “It’s an old matter, and they’ve known I’ve been abroad for a long time. The fact that they suddenly want this now must mean the pressure on them is very high.”
Government workers were rounded up to be investigated as the source of leaks were questioned. In a singular case, a whole family in civil service was arrested. Abduweli Ayup, an exiled Uighur, revealed that his wife’s relatives in Xinjiang – including her parents, siblings and in-laws – were arrested right after the leaks. He claimed they had no association with the leaks. He also said that some people who were in touch with relatives outside China were investigated and seized. It’s not known how many people have been detained and arrested since the leaked information went public.
Just recently, a Uighur woman by the name of Asiye Abdulaheb, in the Netherlands, came forward and told the Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, that she was the source of the data published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. She said that after a post on social media in June, Chinese agents threatened her and tried to get her ex-husband to spy on her.
The leaked reports showed the process and procedures of China’s government to use strategies to lock up ethnic minorities before they do an actual crime and changing their thoughts and the language they speak. It shows that the so-called Beijing “vocational training schools” are forced ideological and behavioral re-education centers run in secrecy. It also reveals how Beijing is creating another structure of social control using data and artificial intelligence by data collected through mass surveillance to name tens of thousands of people to be interrogated or arrested in a week’s time.
And a couple weeks ago, the US House of Representatives passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which was to pressure China over the mass detention camps in Xinjiang. Beijing denounced it as foreign meddling.