Massive Human Rights Abuses Revealed from Leaked Xinjiang Police Files
By: Ahmed Fathi
A huge data dump from Chinese police computer networks has shed new light on Beijing's extensive detention centers in Xinjiang—and the Uyghurs who have been imprisoned there.
The leaked material, dubbed the "Xinjiang police files," contains over 5,000 photographs of Uyghurs,
police spreadsheets, and classified documents from two Xinjiang counties. It adds to a growing body of data documenting Beijing's years-long onslaught on Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
Thousands of mugshot-style images, in particular, provide a disturbing peek into who the inmates are and the conditions in which they are held. According to analysts, corresponding data from the 5,000 photos gathered reveals that more than 2,800 of the people were held.
In some cases, the captives are photographed while an armed guard with a baton stands nearby. Others appear distressed, if not weeping.
As the papers show, minors are not exempt from detention. The leak revealed that fifteen of the Uyghur inmates were children, with the youngest being only 15 years old when she was detained. The elderly are not immune: the oldest person photographed was 73 years old.
"This collection of documents stands out from what we've seen so far in terms of visual evidence that generates sympathy and an emotional response," said Tim Grose, a professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. "These are truly arresting images... Nothing like that has ever happened before."
Internal police records show a ruthless regime, with a "shoot-to-kill" policy in force when Uyghurs seek to flee. According to the records, all inmates must be tied and blindfolded while being moved between buildings.
A collection of media outlets and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation validated and published these files, which date back to 2018. They draw on years of victim testimony, reporting, and satellite imagery used by experts to discover the extent and scope of Beijing's crackdown. According to the Associated Press, one Uyghur county has the highest jail rate in the world, and reports of forced sterilization and work have surfaced. In 2018, the UN reported it had credible information that up to one million Uyghurs were being held in the camps.
With the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visiting China this
week, Beijing has argued that the leak was an act of political sabotage. "The United States, Britain, and other Western countries have regularly staged political farces surrounding the arrival of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to China," said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The discoveries have prompted worldwide outrage. Germany announced changes to its foreign policy toward China, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss reaffirmed the UK's "commitment" to keeping Beijing accountable.
"We are outraged by the stories and the shocking photographs," State Department spokesman Ned Price said. "This latest research adds to a growing amount of proof of the PRC's atrocities in Xinjiang."