Fearing international inspectors seeking human rights abuses in Xinjiang, authorities adopt strict methods to conceal activities and to intimidate families into silence.
Chinese transformation through education camps, targeting the Uyghur Muslim ethnic minority, have recently attracted international attention and condemnation, drawing calls for inspection teams to investigate the situation on the ground. To prepare for the possible arrival of inspectors, Xinjiang authorities are stepping up efforts to hide the truth about the camps.
According to a source in Xinjiang’s Ili prefecture, local officials have ordered personnel to collect key information on each detainee and to compile the information into a secret card file. Those detainees whose “crimes” are judged to be relatively minor could be transferred, for continued detention, to facilities that are less obviously prison-like, appearing more like low-cost housing.
Our sources report that senior officials have emphasized to personnel working on the project that their work must remain secret. One source reports being told, “Don’t reveal even one word of what you are doing, because foreign media could exploit it.” The information collection is closely monitored, and communication with the outside world during work is prohibited. When a task has been completed, all waste paper is shredded and personnel “are prohibited from taking out even half a piece of paper.”
The effort to conceal details about the oppression of Uyghurs is being extended to the families of detainees as well. New documents reveal the extreme pressure being placed on families to keep silent.
Bitter Winter obtained a copy of a Notice to the Relatives of Detainees being sent to families in Xinjiang. The Notice informs relatives that, “Students’ [a euphemism referring to prisoners] families must comply with confidentiality requirements. They are not allowed to report, in person or online, any information that contradicts the policies of the Party and the government.” The Notice also stipulates that “students’ families must comply with national laws and regulations; must not believe or spread rumors; and must participate in group activities, obey the Party, be grateful to the Party, and follow the Party.”
Families are made responsible for the fate of their loved ones. A comprehensive score is assigned to each family, based on the family’s compliance with the Notice. That score is then used to determine when the student-prisoner “graduates.” In order to protect the prisoners and secure their release, relatives of detainees must actively support the government, in word and in deed.
As Bitter Winter has previously reported, the CCP authorities are transferring hundreds of thousands of detained Uyghurs to prisons in other provinces, in order to make the mass detention and re-education program less visible. According to sources, as many as 500,000 Uyghur prisoners serving long sentences may be transferred.
Foreign media has reported that Xinjiang authorities are removing evidence from “transformation through education” camps in anticipation of international inspectors’ arrival. Officials are also said to be forcing local residents to “memorize and write, from memory, government-provided answers to possible questions that an inspection team could ask.” Some residents have been forced to practice Uyghur songs and dances, and to feign a joyous atmosphere to give the impression that “no activity contrary to human rights exists at the camps,” and that “local residents are living and working in peace and contentment.”
Reported by Li Zaili