A panel of UK lawyers and activists has released what they describe as leaked Chinese government documents shedding additional light on the role that leader Xi Jinping played in leading the Communist Party’s forcible assimilation campaign against religious minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region of the country.
Copies of the documents, some marked top secret, describe internal speeches made by Mr. Xi and other senior party leaders about the circumstances in Xinjiang between 2014 and 2017, the period in which the assimilation campaign was conceived and launched.
The documents show Mr. Xi warning of the dangers of religious influence and unemployment among minorities, and emphasizing the importance of “population ratio,” or the balance between minorities and Han Chinese, in maintaining control. in the region.
Copies of the document were posted Tuesday on the website of the Uyghur Court, a non-governmental group that has held hearings in London on allegations of human rights abuses committed against the Uyghurs, Xinjiang’s largest minority group.
Adrian Zenz, a Minnesota-based Chinese ethnic policy researcher, said the Uyghur Court called him to authenticate the documents, which he did with the help of two reviewers.
The documents are likely among a cache reported by the New York Times in 2019, Zenz said. The New York Times published the text of about a dozen pages, but did not fully reproduce any documents. Zenz said that while the New York Times report showed Xi’s direct involvement in planning the party’s campaign in Xinjiang, the entire collection of documents presents a more complete picture.
“Xi’s personal influence on many details of this atrocity is significantly greater than we think,” he said.
China’s Foreign Ministry accused Mr. Zenz and the Uyghur Court of spreading rumors, adding that the court had no legal capacity. “No matter how these anti-China clowns act, China’s Xinjiang development will get better and better,” he said.
The source of the leak could not be determined. A spokeswoman for the New York Times confirmed that the documents published by the Uyghur Court were reported by the newspaper in 2019, adding that the newspaper did not leak them to the court.
Xinjiang, located at the gateway to Central Asia, is home to an estimated 14 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities. Human rights activists and scholars say Chinese authorities in the region have locked up a million or more Uighurs and other minorities in internment camps as part of a broad campaign of ethnic assimilation that also includes restrictions on religious practices, political indoctrination. , forced labor, family separations and strict imposition of birth control measures.
The Communist Party’s policies in Xinjiang have led to sanctions from the US and other Western countries and have helped fuel calls among human rights activists to boycott the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The Chinese authorities describe the camps as vocational training facilities and describe their campaign in the region as an innovative approach to tackle religious extremism. For decades, Beijing has fought a small and sporadically violent separatist movement in Xinjiang, which occupies a central place in Xi’s billion-dollar infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative.
Scholars attribute the party’s campaign in Xinjiang to a series of attacks by Uighur separatists, including one in Beijing and another in the southwestern city of Kunming, in 2013 and 2014. Mr. Xi visited Xinjiang shortly after the Kunming attack, giving the beginning of what he called a “people’s war against terrorism.”
Most of the documents released on Tuesday date from spring 2014. In an accompanying summary, Zenz wrote that he authenticated the documents in part by comparing their content with state media reports on the party’s campaign in Xinjiang and other government documents that then they were made public. .
The Uyghur Court decided not to publish the original documents to protect the source from the leak, according to Mr. Zenz. Instead, it published transcripts of the originals that reproduce their appearance and content, minus any markings that may reveal their origin.
In numerous cases, Zenz noted, phrases Xi first uttered in the 2014 speeches later appeared in government policy documents or were repeated and attributed to other senior officials.
A transcript of a speech Mr. Xi delivered at a meeting in Xinjiang in May 2014, for example, quotes him as saying that the Communist Party “must not waver or waver in the use of the weapons of the people’s democratic dictatorship and concentrate our energies to execute a crushing blow ”against the forces of religious extremism in Xinjiang.
The official Xinjiang Daily newspaper attributed virtually the same quote to the region’s then top official, Zhang Chunxian, the following month.
Xi’s May 2014 speech also heralded a broad labor program for Uighurs in textiles and other industries that labor activists say often involves coercion, leading to a U.S. ban on imported products made from Xinjiang cotton. .
“Xinjiang’s employment problems are significant. Large numbers of unemployed people left idle can cause problems, “Xi said, according to the document. Work in companies, on the other hand, is “conducive to ethnic interaction, exchanges and mixing.”
In another unpublished speech, Mr. Xi argued that “the proportion of the population and the security of the population are important foundations for long-term peace and stability.” The phrase was repeated word for word six years later by a senior Xinjiang official, warning that the proportion of Han Chinese in the Uighur-dominated southern Xinjiang population was “too low” at 15%.
“One phrase from Xi is enough to influence an entire policy,” Zenz said.
The documents show Mr. Xi making a distinction between “the pure spirit of religion” and religious extremism, arguing that “normal religious activities and the legal rights of the religious world must be protected.” But the Chinese leader also criticizes what he describes as religious interference in matters of “secular life” such as marriage, funerals and the finding of spouses, according to the documents.
In practice, as The Wall Street Journal reported, Uighurs in Xinjiang have been threatened with arrest or sent to camps for participating in a variety of common religious practices, such as praying daily and possessing a Koran.
“When religion affects state affairs, and of course ‘state affairs’ is everything, almost, then that is religious extremism and must be fought,” Zenz said.
The leaked documents also contain the text of a 2017 speech by Xinjiang Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, in which he directly links the internment camps to Beijing’s orders, listing them alongside the region’s mass surveillance platform as an example of efforts to “fully implement the central goal” set for Xinjiang by Mr. Xi.
The Uyghur Court received 11 files of documents totaling 300 pages, according to Mr. Zenz. They do not include a question-and-answer script prepared by Xinjiang officials outlining what to say to returning Uighurs about detained family members that was part of the 2019 New York Times report.
The court released transcripts of only three of the 11 documents on Tuesday, and other transcripts will be released in the future, Zenz said.
David Tobin, a Xinjiang scholar at the University of Sheffield in the UK, and James Millward, a historian at Georgetown University, reviewed the original documents and Mr. Zenz’s analysis. While many of the ideas about religion and the handling of ethnic minorities have appeared in China before, Tobin said, the leaked documents mark a shift because they come from the center of power.
“It is not an ideology for them to study or ponder, it is an order,” he said of the message Xi is sending to officials. “You cannot resist or object.”
Write to Josh Chin at [email protected]
Corrections and amplifications
The New York Times in 2019 published the text of about a dozen pages of leaked Chinese government documents related to Xinjiang, but did not fully reproduce any documents. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the newspaper had published the full text of some of the documents. (Corrected on November 30).
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