A leaked list of thousands of detained Uyghurs has thrown a light on the miseries of the ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region.
Researchers estimate over one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in a secretive network of detention centres and prison across China.
The leaked list details each prisoner's name, birthdate, ethnicity, ID number, charge, address, sentence length, and prison. It has not been possible to independently verify the authenticity of the database.
But AFP has interviewed five Uighurs living outside China who identified detained relatives and acquaintances on the list. For some, it was the first information they have been able to access about their relatives in years.
Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC said that the leaked document is a 137-page PDF file, likely generated from an Excel spreadsheet or Word table.
“The contents of this document are really significant to all of us because it shows us the paranoid mindset of a regime that’s controlling the up-and-coming superpower of this globe,” Zenz told CNN.
Zenz pointed to the use of similar terminology and language in this document, which he refers to as the Karakax List, and other records leaked from Xinjiang.
CNN recounted that one Rozinsa Mamattohti could not sleep or eat for days after she read the detailed records the Chinese government had been keeping on her entire family.
According to the US broadcaster, Mamattohti and her relatives, most of whom live in China’s western Xinjiang region, are not dissidents or extremists or well-known.
But in the spreadsheet kept by local officials, her entire family’s lives are recorded at length along with their jobs, their religious activity, their trustworthiness and their level of cooperation with the authorities.
And this spreadsheet could determine if Mamattohti’s sister remains behind the razor wire in a government detention centre, CNN reported.
Rozinsa Mamattohti family’s records, and hundreds of government reports like them, have been leaked to journalists by a patchwork of exiled Uyghur activists.
“The document reveals for the first time the system used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to justify the indefinite detention on trivial grounds of not only Mamattohti’s family but hundreds — and possibly millions — of other citizens in heavily fortified internment centres across Xinjiang,” CNN reported.
The US State Department had said that up to 2 million mostly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups have been detained in the camps.
According to CNN, it is the third major leak of sensitive Chinese government documents in as many months, and together the information paints an increasingly alarming picture of what appears to be a strategic campaign by Beijing to strip Muslim-majority Uyghurs of their cultural and religious identity and suppress behaviour considered to be unpatriotic.
Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centres and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has violated the human rights of Muslims living in the region.
The Chinese government had publicly refuted any reports of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. However, China has been rebuked globally for the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities, and sending members of the community to undergo forced indoctrination.
Government data shows the number of people sentenced by Xinjiang courts soared from around 21,000 in 2014 to over 133,000 in 2018.
Many other Uighurs, never charged with any crimes, were sent to what activists call "re-education camps" spread across Xinjiang.
At these camps, which Beijing calls "vocational training centres", foreign governments and rights groups have found evidence of what they say are forced labour, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilisation.
The United States and lawmakers in a number of other Western countries have described Beijing's treatment of the Uighurs as genocide.
Image source: ANI