The New York Times’ Asia correspondents Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley dropped a bombshell last Saturday by reporting on the Xinjiang Papers, a 403-page collection of reportedly classified documents including speeches by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other Communist Party officials on plans to carry out the massive incarceration of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang and government directives instructing local officials how to coerce Uyghur students to return home with lies and threats.
The leak of such classified documents out of China is unprecedented. Ramzy said on Twitter that the person who leaked these documents was from the Chinese political establishment and “expressed hope that the disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Xi Jinping, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.” We should thank this leaker for risking his or her life to expose the true evil of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in their own words. The Xinjiang Papers confirm what the CCP is doing in Xinjiang is an ethnic cleansing, and the CCP is ruthless and untrustworthy.
State-Conducted Torture, Rape, and Imprisonment
The United Nation defines ethnic cleansing as “a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” Some of the coercive practices used to remove civilian populations include “torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, severe physical injury to civilians, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population.” These have happened and are still ongoing in Xinjiang, a supposedly “autonomous territory” in northwest China and home to many ethnic minorities in China.
There are about 14 million Uyghur Muslims living in Xinjiang. Between one to three million of them have been sent to “re-education camps” since 2014, most without any criminal charges. Inside these camps, Uyghurs are reportedly ”forced to pledge loyalty to the CCP and renounce Islam, sing praises for communism and learn Mandarin. Some reported prison-like conditions, with cameras and microphones monitoring their every move and utterance.” An international tribunal also found evidence of forced organ harvesting inside these camps.
Uyghur women probably suffer the worst: rapes, sexual assaults, forced implants of contraceptive devices, and even forced abortions inside the camps. They are not safe outside the camp either. There are reports of either forced marriages to Han Chinese men or co-sleeping arrangements against these women’s will. In these cases Chinese men who are assigned to monitor Uyghur women whose husbands were sent to camps sleep in the same bed as these women.
Besides unspeakable human suffering, Uyghurs are losing their religious sites and cultural heritage. It was reported that more than two dozen mosques and Muslim religious sites have been partly or completely demolished in Xinjiang. Researchers believe hundreds more, smaller mosques and shrines have also been bulldozed, but they lack access to records to prove it.
The magnitude of cultural destruction appears to surpass what happened under Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Uyghurs are concerned that with adults locked away and mosques razed to the ground, their children will grow up without any knowledge of their cultural and religious identify. What Beijing has done and continues to do in Xinjiang is nothing short of ethnic cleansing.
The Chinese Communists Want Ethnic Cleansing
The leaked Xinjiang Papers confirm that’s exactly what the CCP wants. In 2014, after a series of Uyghur Muslim militant attacks, including a knife attack that injured more than 100 people, Chinese leader Xi gave a series of private speeches to CCP members. According to the Xinjiang Papers, Xi complained that the tools and methods Xinjiang police used were “too primitive.” He demanded that “the weapons of the people’s democratic dictatorship must be wielded without any hesitation or wavering” to wipe out radical Islam in Xinjiang. He was also recorded saying, “We must be as harsh as them, and show absolutely no mercy.”
Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quangguo, who has carried out the ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang since 2016, is Xi’s attack dog. He carried out Xi’s directive by incarcerating millions of Uyghurs in prison-like camps, forcefully collecting Uyghurs’ DNA, blood samples, and fingerprints, and confiscating passports to prevent freedom of movement. He vowed to “round up everyone who should be rounded up,” including Han officials who refused to carry out his orders.
Even though Xi also paid lip service to religious tolerance in some of his speeches by reminding his overzealous comrades to respect Uyghurs’ right to worship, under Xi, all religious beliefs in China must be “sinicized,” meaning adjusted to serve the CCP. Government-sanctioned Christian churches in China often hang Xi’s portrait next to the cross, equalizing his status to God.
Early this year, the Chinese government published a plan to “guide Islam to be compatible with socialism.” These speeches and directives also show why the CCP’s crackdown on Muslim and ethnic minorities isn’t limited to Xinjiang and has little to do with extremism. It’s reported that the kind of repression Uyghurs experience in Xinjiang has now spread to two other ethnic groups in China, Hui Muslim and Dongxiang.
You Can’t Trust Anything They Say
The Xinjiang Papers not only show the CCP’s thinking and planning behind the Muslim crackdown, but also how it plans to lie about it. The most telling is the directive on “how to handle minority students returning home to Xinjiang in the summer of 2017.” The reason this is important is because per the directive, “Returning students from other parts of China have widespread social ties across the entire country. The moment they issue incorrect opinions on WeChat, Weibo and other social media platforms, the impact is widespread and difficult to eradicate.”
The directive instructed local officials and police to meet returning students as soon as possible and if students question where their families are, local officials and police were instructed to say “They’re in training schools set up by the government,” and “They are treated very well, with high standard of living, free room and board.”
If a student asks when he can see his family or when they will be free, the officials are instructed to say that the student’s family members “had been ‘infected’ by the ‘virus’ of Islamic radicalism and must be quarantined and cured. If they don’t undergo study and training, they’ll never thoroughly and fully understand the dangers of religious extremism.” The directive also explains the reason even family members who seem too old to carry out violence could not be spared from the camps, because “No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study.”
The directive also gives veiled threats to students, warning them that their behavior will determine how long their families will stay in the camps. Students are also told to be grateful for the CCP’s benevolence and generosity.
Bold-Faced Lies to International Audiences
According to the Xinjiang Papers, Xi also anticipated international backlash and told his comrades, “Don’t be afraid if hostile forces whine, or if hostile forces malign the image of Xinjiang.” When foreign media started reporting on the massive incarceration in Xinjiang, Beijing first denied it. Later it insisted the camps are not prisons but vocational training schools and Uyghurs chose voluntarily to take government-sponsored free training.
When asked about the destruction of mosques, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson claims “China practices freedom of religion and firmly opposes and combats religious extremist thought… There are more than 20 million Muslims and more than 35,000 mosques in China. Religious believers can freely engage in religious activities according to the law.”
The CCP has a long record of lies and more lies. Xi promised former President Obama that China wouldn’t militarize the South China Sea. Yet In 2017, CSIS, a Washington-based think tank, reported that satellite images showed China had built new military facilities on its man-made islands in the South China Sea, including missile shelters, radars, and various communications facilities.
China promised that the goal of its “One Belt One Road” infrastructure program is to help underdeveloped nations build roads and bridges and stimulate local economies out of the goodness of its heart. Now more and more of those countries that signed on to the program find themselves trapped in mountains of debt and several, including Sri Lanka, had to sign away the control of their major sea ports to China.
China promised the Hong Kong people “One Country, Two Systems” for 50 years under the joint declaration with the United Kingdom. But in 2017, only 20 years after Hong Kong’s handover, a Chinese Foreign Ministry called the joint declaration a “historical document that no longer had any practical significance.” Now central Hong Kong, including several universities, has become a battleground between freedom versus tyranny.
The Xinjiang Papers confirm what we already knew: the CCP lies; it’s cruel and can’t be trusted to uphold international norms; what the CCP is doing in Xinjiang is an ethnic cleansing. The UN says ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity and such acts could also “fall within the meaning of the Genocide Convention.”
Apparently no Muslim country is willing to call China out so far because they are a total sellout to China’s money and influence. Western democracies, especially the United States, need to do it. It appears the Trump administration, especially Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has stepped up criticism of the CCP for failing to live up to its commitments or abiding by basic morality and international law. Hopefully they will add the ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang to their long list of grievances.