A series of documents suggesting that the Chinese government has been treating Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities as prisoners in Xinjiang’s re-education camps surfaced in the international community this week.
The documents, described as “operating manuals” for security officials in Xinjiang, are said to be from 2017, the same year the crackdown on supposed “extremists” started to escalate in the Muslim-majority autonomous region.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which published the documents on Sunday, claimed that they received it from an anonymous source, according to the Associated Press.
The Washington, D.C.-based global network then verified the documents by cross-referencing them against state reports and notices, verifying signatures, consulting experts and confirming their contents with former re-education camp employees and detainees.
The documents revealed plans to construct facilities with tight security, where detainees are forced to learn Mandarin, “proper manners” and “ideological education,” CNN noted.
A detainee can only be released upon achievement of a standard score, which supposedly measured “the effectiveness of education and training” and determined corresponding “rewards, punishments and family visits.”
The leaked documents follow another set of internal papers released by The New York Times earlier this month — a 403-page exposé detailing how the demands of Chinese Communist Party officials, including President Xi Jinping, led to the establishment of the camps.
Xi reportedly first called for the crackdown in a series of private speeches in 2014, just weeks after Uyghur militants had attacked a train station and killed 31 people.
“We must be as harsh as them and show absolutely no mercy,” the Chinese president allegedly said.
In the papers, the government also acknowledged that its mass detentions had separated families, while the program itself had drawn unexpected resistance from some officials concerned about potential backlash and economic damage, the Times noted.
The more recent documents expose the alleged poor treatment of detainees in the camps, reportedly akin to imprisonment.
“Never allow escapes, never allow trouble, never allow attacks on staff [and] never allow abnormal deaths,” one document reads, according to CNN. “Strictly manage door locks and keys — dormitory doors, corridor doors and floor doors must be double locked, and must be locked immediately after being opened and closed.”
Zumrat Dawut, 37, recalled the horrors of her detainment in one of Xinjiang’s re-education camps.
“The guards told me that I must obey every rule at the center,” the mother-of-three from Urumqi told NBC News. “And I cannot speak to anyone. I cannot cry. There are four cameras in each room so they can see any action.”
Dawut alleged that she was beaten with “a long rubber baton” at one point after she had shared her piece of bread with an older woman suffering from diabetes.
“This was prison. That’s what it was,” Dawut told NBC News. She is now applying for political asylum in the U.S.
For its part, Beijing has repeatedly denied allegations of human rights violations in the said camps, which it insists as serving the purpose of “de-extremification.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang neither denied nor confirmed the leaked documents, but stressed out that issues in Xinjiang are “purely China’s internal affairs.”
“Some media used underhanded tricks to sensationalize the Xinjiang issue,” Geng said, according to AP News. “The plot to smear and slander China’s anti-terrorism and deradicalization efforts in Xinjiang will not prevail.”