Official Chinese government documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists earlier in the week has shown that an estimated one million minority Uighur Muslims are being sent to secret brainwashing detention camps in the Xinjiang region in the West of China. Inmates are being detained in these camps without trial and must change how they behave, what they believe and the language they speak. The documents instruct strict discipline, punishments and no escapees. It is revealed how detainees are being held against their will and how every minute aspect of their lives from their position in food queues to sleeping positions to going to the toilet are being controlled and monitored. Reports of torture from testimonies of former inmates are widespread. The effects of these actions are destroying the identities of Uighur Muslims. According to BBC Panorama, these documents are powerful evidence that gross crimes against humanity are being committed on a mass scale.
The Chinese government has consistently denied the existence of these camps. The Chinese Ambassador in London dismissed the documents as “fake news.” However, as reported by the BBC, these documents have been deeply scrutinized and verified as authentic by some of the worlds leading experts. Furthermore, their contents match testimonies from former inmates along with satellite imagery. During a BBC Panorama documentary, Dr Adrian Zenz, an expert of Xinjiang said, “The world should acknowledge this for what it is: the largest detainment of an ethnic minority since the holocaust.” Following the leak of these documents, the U.K. has called on China to give UN observers “immediate and unfettered access” to the detention camps and the foreign office says it has “serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang.”
This situation in Xinjiang is terrifying to its core. Firstly, it is deeply disturbing that the entire culture of a million people is being erased from the face of the earth. Equally terrifying is the fact that channels of accountability of the actions of the Chinese government are non-existent, giving them free rein to take these inhumane actions seemingly without consequence or substantial opposition. Whilst the U.K. along with other countries have taken the right actions by condemning these actions in China, they appear to have no effect. This new phenomena of ‘fake news’ have become a powerful cloak behind which governments justify continuing their actions and it has broken down an essential pillar of global accountability.
The central Chinese government has long regarded Uighur Muslims as disloyal to the community party due to longstanding tensions between the two groups. The Xinjiang region has seen multiple riots, ethnic violent clashes and attacks which has resulted in the deaths of over 200 civilians. It is following these attacks that the government has taken drastic action. Since 2017 satellite imagery has shown hundreds of new camps being built and hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims, along with a few other ethnic minorities, have been rounded up and sent to these camps. The leaked document shows how suspects are identified through a mass digital surveillance program for reasons such as being in contact with relatives from abroad or using certain messaging apps, such as WhatsApp.
The international community must come together to collectively apply all the pressure it can on the Chinese government to stop these mass human rights violations. This newly leaked document is now an actionable piece of evidence which could be used in a legal case protecting the rights of Uighurs. Taking these actions has the potential to stop the destruction of the entire culture of the Uighur ethnic minority and halt these gross crimes against humanity which are being committed.
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