China’s horrific treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority is far from a secret. Despite Beijing’s denial, proof has emerged of internment camps in the Xinjiang region where Uyghurs are subjected to forced labour and attempts at brainwashing. Yesterday new key information emerged about Beijing’s reckless policy of authoritarianism.
A stockpile of files were leaked to the BBC, disclosing pictures of more than 3000 people held in internment camps. The leaked police documents also prove that officials have the order to shoot anyone who tries to escape the “re-education” camps. In the documents, the camps are defined as “schools”. Yet those who have managed to escape describe an oppressive climate of random beatings, violence against women and punishment for even mentioning Islam.
The documents obtained in the leak also seem to corroborate footage emerged four years ago, showing blind-folded and hand-cuffed detainees with their heads shaved, waiting to be transferred from one camp to another.
International criticism of China’s Uyghur treatment has been strong – but it’s far from enough. Lord Alton of Liverpool, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, told City A.M. that these latest revelations demand “the most urgent investigation, accountability and response from the international community”.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations representative for human rights, will visit the region of Xinjiang this week. Given the secretive nature of the Chinese Communist Party, however, it remains unclear how much access she will have to information.
Last year, the UK imposed sanctions on Chinese businesses in retaliation for the country’s treatment of Muslim minorities. But as Matthew Henderson of the Council of Geostrategy explains, part of the campaign against the Uyghurs involves moving members of the same families to different parts of the country. “Pretending that cotton from Xinjiang is bad and silk from Shandong isn’t merely exposes to the CCP the feeble shallowness of most Western disapproval of their appalling conduct”, he says.
Time is now rife for the international community to take action against what’s been described by many as genocide. The UK could start by adopting a version of the US’ “entities list” – ensuring all Chinese companies profiting from abuse in Xinjiang are really singled out and sanctioned.