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Xinjiang Police Files: Research team meets relatives to verify data


When verifying the Xinjiang Police Files, the research team located relatives of detained Uyghurs and showed them photos and documents. China correspondent Christoph Giesen describes the encounters as "shattering".

Read the expand video transcript here

What is happening behind the walls of the so-called Uyghur re-education camps in Xinjiang?

SPIEGEL has documents that prove thousands of human rights violations in China: The "Xinjiang Police Files" contain documents, training documents for police officers, speeches by high-ranking party officials and photos from inside some camps.

Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL

“It's a human rights crime if it's done in secret.

We've documented it here.

Here we really have names after names, ID numbers after ID numbers.

Everything is meticulously documented and you can also see the victims.«

Adrian Zenz, anthropologist

“It's really hard to describe, but it's like a window into a police state with so little information getting out.

We've never seen anything like it."

The documents were leaked to the anthropologist Adrian Zenz.

Zenz made the data record available to an international media association.

A research team from Bayerischer Rundfunk, the BBC and SPIEGEL verified the authenticity of the data.

Among other things, the team visited relatives of Uyghurs who were imprisoned in north-west China and compared them with the information in the lists.

Some of the families have not heard from their relatives for years.

Bumaryam Rozi, Relatives


This is my nephew.

This is my son's brother.

What is he doing there?

Why is he there?

He was just a student


Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL


There are lists of people who were sent to re-education camps or imprisoned.

They contain their names, their ID numbers and their reasons for being arrested.

This is done when they are sent to the camps, for how long they have to stay there.

And that is a unique insight.«

For a long time, satellite images were the only clues to the detention camps in Xinjiang.

From a bird's-eye view you can see how, for example, the Tekes camp was getting bigger and bigger.

Human rights activists are certain: Muslim minorities have been held here for years – without due process of law.

The pretext of the Communist Party: fighting terrorism.

Adrian Zenz, anthropologist

“It is definitely a systematic crime against humanity.

There is also talk of genocide, since there are large-scale forced sterilizations.

There are birth control measures, abortions and so on.

We have a variety of different crimes here, from detention in re-education camps, to forced labour, to demolition of mosques, to restriction of religion.

The point is to assimilate these people, these peoples, to break them internally so that they can be subservient to the party and better controlled by the state.«

Foreign journalists are also under constant scrutiny when they research the region in China's far north-west.

They cannot take a single step unobserved.

Recordings like these only succeed secretly.

Talking to people is almost impossible, the risk of security forces noticing is too great.

Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL

»People came up with this strategy of supposedly wanting to drive terrorism and separatism out of this region through brute force.

And that's how you came up with the idea of ​​re-education, that you're telling people how great China is and that the Uyghurs are part of the People's Republic.

The local people are intimidated, insanely intimidated.

You are scared.

That is what you perceive in everyday life.«

Istanbul, May 2022: Journalists from SPIEGEL and the BBC visit 81-year-old Mahmut Tohti.

There are several family members in the leaked data from China.

John Sudworth, BBC Reporter

'Here at number 10,498 we have found a match with an ID number you gave us.

And here's your son's sentence - 15 years."

The documents contain conflicting information about the prison sentence – sometimes 15, sometimes 11 years in prison.

It is the first time Mahmut Tothi has learned about the fate of his eldest son.

Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL


Above all, what we have done is that we have tried to find people who are in the data.

So, some Uyghurs are outside the country.

And the question, of course, was how do we verify this list of these people that they really are real people?

I remember an interview, yes, there is no other way to put it.

It was very, very, very sad.

It was upsetting.

We had to tell an 81-year-old man that his eldest son had been convicted.

And of course he broke down because for the first time he understood that he probably wouldn't see his son again."

John Sudworth, BBC

"It says here that he is accused of planning an act of terrorism."

Mahmut Tohti, relative

»Oh my God, my God.

He doesn't even know how to hold a knife properly.

How is he supposed to plan an act of terrorism?”

Not only is Mahmut's eldest son Polat in prison, his youngest son Ghappar is also sentenced to seven years in prison.

Mahmut Tohti, relative

»My granddaughter asked me: Why did you allow my father to study religion?

Why did you allow him to continue his education?

If he hadn't been educated, they wouldn't have arrested and locked him up.

My granddaughter keeps asking me these questions, they haunt me.«

According to information from the United Nations, around one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities have been imprisoned in so-called re-education camps in north-west China in recent years.

Beijing claims that the camps are "vocational training centers" where stay is voluntary.

Here are footage from a guided press event in January 2019 in Kashgar.

For the cameras of foreign media, the inmates sing a song in English:

»If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands.«

However, the documents and photos from the "Xinjiang Police Files" show that many thousands of people are being held captive in such camps against their will.

Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL

»This is a unique insight into this system, too, because Chinese propaganda has always said that people are totally voluntary and that there are training centers.

And you can now see from this data that that's not true, that there are suddenly people over 70 in the camp who are supposed to be getting vocational training."

A series of photos from Camp Tekes shows guards handcuffing and shackling inmates and taking them away.

A prisoner is chained in a so-called »Tiger Chair«, a torture chair.

The guards are heavily armed.

Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL


The strength of the material is that it also contains a great many photos.

So this human rights crime, what is happening there in China and there is no other way to describe it, that it is really getting a face for the first time.«

Tunisagul Nurmemet has been missing for 5 years.

Her husband was on a business trip at the time of the disappearance - he has lived in exile ever since.

In the Netherlands, the research team locates Abdurahman Hasan.

They want to know: Is the woman in the photo really his wife?

Abdurahman Hasan, relative

»This is a photo of my wife.

If you look at that compared to how she used to look, you can see how much she's changed.

I can hardly imagine how much she is suffering.

I don't see anything of what she used to be.

I can feel it being destroyed by them."

The sentence can also be found in the documents.

John Sudworth, BBC

"Here is your wife's sentence."

Abdurahman Hasan, relative


16 years...«

His wife is accused of organizing an undeclared event.

Abdurahman Hasan does not know anything about the whereabouts of his children, who are now six and eight years old.

He suspects that they are placed in an orphanage.

Abdurahman Hasan, relative

»In 2017 I left China for a business trip.

Back then I never thought I couldn't go back.

I didn't expect at all that the Communist Party would arrest so many people and detain so many people.

I never thought that they would commit genocide, that they would kill people.

I left my wife and children behind.

I didn't expect it to be the last time I see her."

It is uncertain how things will continue for his imprisoned wife and whether Abdurahman Hasan will ever see his children again.

Christoph Giesen, DER SPIEGEL

»All we really know is that these people will disappear behind bars for a very, very long time.

For alleged crimes that don't even exist in Germany, for which, in the worst case, an administrative offense might have been committed.

That's the reality there.

It's a completely out of control system that's robbing people of their lives."

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2022-05-24

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