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Leaked Documents Reveal Machinery of Chinese Uighur Detention Camps

Outside a “vocational skills education center” in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, September 4, 2018 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A trove of documents dubbed the “China Cables” has revealed the inner workings of detention camps built to imprison Muslim minorities, especially Uighurs, in China’s Xinjiang region.

The documents were leaked to an international consortium of journalists, and show how the Chinese government implements social control and ideological brainwashing on the Uighur population on a massive scale.

“They confirm that this is a form of cultural genocide,” said Adrian Zenz, an expert of Xinjiang at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., in comments to the Associated Press. “It really shows that from the onset, the Chinese government had a plan.”

“It’s the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, except now it’s powered by high-tech,” Zenz added.

Among the findings in the documents is the pioneering use by the Chinese government of artificial intelligence to drive the detention campaign. A centralized computer system identifies tens of thousands of targets for interrogation and detention, and the detention camps are integrated into a mass surveillance apparatus in which prisoners are monitored 24/7. One document states the surveillance is meant “to prevent problems before they happen,” showing that many if not most of the detainees haven’t committed a crime.

“There’s no other place in the world where a computer can send you to an internment camp,” Rian Thum, a Xinjiang expert at the University of Nottingham, told the AP. “This is absolutely unprecedented.”

While China has asserted prisoners are given “vocational training” in the camps, the documents show that detainees are only given such training once they are released from the facilities. Prisoners are kept in detention for at least a year before “vocational training,” a practice that violates China’s own detention laws which prohibit authorities from holding suspects for that amount of time without charging the suspects with a crime.

China’s government asserts its detention campaign works and is necessary to prevent “terrorism.”

“Since the measures have been taken, there’s no single terrorist incident in the past three years,” Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom wrote in a response to the document leak. “Xinjiang is much safer . . . The so-called leaked documents are fabrication and fake news.”

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