China prison camps: Leaked documents show operations of mass detention camps in Xinjiang

2019-11-25 18:58
Chinese President Xi Jinping (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

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Washington – Leaked documents released on Sunday detailed how China controls everything from the frequency of haircuts to when the doors are locked in the mass detention camps of its Xinjiang region.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and published by 17 media outlets worldwide, show the strict protocols governing life in the network of camps in the far-western region, which rights groups and outside experts say house more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities.

The leak comes one week after The New York Times reported, based on more than 400 pages of internal papers it had obtained, that Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered officials to act with "absolutely no mercy" against separatism and extremism in a 2014 speech following a Uighur militant attack on a train station.

The latest leak consists of a list of guidelines Xinjiang's security chief approved in 2017 for running the detention camps, along with intelligence briefings that show how police use data collection and artificial intelligence to select residents for detention.

Referring to detainees as "students" who must "graduate" from the camps, the guidelines lay out how staff should manage their day-to-day lives, such as by ensuring "timely haircuts and shaves", while also emphasising that detainees are barred from having cellphones, according to an English translation of the memo posted by ICIJ.

'Full video surveillance'

"Students... may not contact the outside world apart from during prescribed activities," the memo reads, adding that staff should "Strictly manage students requesting time off".

If indeed the so-called students "really need to leave the training centre due to illness or other special circumstances, they must have someone specially accompany, monitor and control them".

The memo says inmates should be judged based on a points system that measures "ideological transformation, study and training, and compliance with discipline".

"Strictly manage door locks and keys – dormitory doors, corridor doors and floor doors must be double locked, and must be locked immediately after being opened and closed," the guidelines continue.

"There must be full video surveillance coverage of dormitories and classrooms free of blind spots, ensuring that guards on duty can monitor in real time, record things in detail, and report suspicious circumstances immediately."

According to the memo, students must stay in detention for at least one year, though that is not always enforced, former inmates told ICIJ.

The Chinese embassy in London rejected the documents, telling The Guardian, one of the partners in publishing the memos, that they were "pure fabrication and fake news".

"There are no such documents or orders for the so-called 'detention camps'. Vocational education and training centres have been established for the prevention of terrorism," the statement read.

Read more on:    china  |  human rights  |  security

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