A hacker has exposed a trove of police files relating to China’s “re-education camps” for Uyghur people. These files conclusively disprove China’s attempts to showcase the camps to journalists as mere “re-education camps”. The files show thousands of haunting photos of incarcerated Uyghurs, including those of elderly people and children, whose crimes include “studying Quran with grandmother”, “growing beard” and so on. The youngest prisoner is a 15-year-old girl. Children of prisoners, as young as six, are also incarcerated with parents.
A 2018 speech by a security minister, Zhao Kezhi, found in the files shows that by the late 2010s itself, between one and two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities were being kept in such camps. This speech praises Xi Jinping for giving “important instructions” for the construction of new camps to house the ever-increasing number of detainees, noting that existing camps are too crowded.
The files show that there are two separate kinds of establishment: formal prisons as well as prison-like camps. The conditions in these establishments are a far cry from what China has maintained are voluntary “vocational schools”.
The level of “Big Brother” surveillance are terrifying. The BBC report on the Xinjiang Police Files say: “Many hundreds are shown to have been targeted for their mobile phone use - mostly for listening to “illegal lectures” or having encrypted apps installed. Others are punished with up to a decade in prison for not using their devices enough, with well over a hundred instances of “phone has run out of credit” being listed as a sign that the user is trying to evade the constant digital surveillance. The spreadsheets show how lives are sifted in search of the slightest of pretexts, which are turned into the broadest of charges - “picking quarrels” or “disturbing the social order” - and then punished as serious acts of terrorism; seven years, 10 years, 25 years, the columns of sentences stretch on and on.”
Humiliating prison conditions prevail: “A set of internal police protocols describes the routine use of armed officers in all areas of the camps, the positioning of machine guns and sniper rifles in the watchtowers, and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape. Blindfolds, handcuffs and shackles are mandatory for any “student” being transferred between facilities or even to hospital.”
China’s economic clout has silenced much of the world on its mass incarceration and abuse of the colonised Uyghurs and other Turkish peoples. Currently, the concentration camps and prisons for millions of Uyghurs, based on their identity rather than their actions, is perhaps the longest-standing and worst instance of a state-sponsored Islamophobic crime. China accuses any critics of being influenced by “western media propaganda”. But as Liberation observed in its August 2020 issue, China’s own publicly available white papers justify the profiling and mass incarceration of Uyghurs using the “western” imperialist narrative of “War on Terror”.