Introduction

This section offers chronological documentation of reports on the ongoing troubling events in China’s Xinjiang since as early as 2015. The project aims to provide a reading guide about the recent developments, experts’ explanations, as well as an understanding of what ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs are going through on a daily basis. More resources will be updated regularly. The materials listed here document the gradual escalation of state control in Xinjiang, Northwest China. From demolition of mosques and passport recall beginning in 2015 to today’s mandatory biodata collections, hi-tech surveillance, and mass re-education camps incarcerating Muslim minorities. All news articles have been thematically categorized.

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Re-EducationProductionOfficial StatementsOp-EdsSurveillance

Development of the Re-Education System

Within some ethnic minority groups in China there is a divide between those who are educated in Mandarin and those who stay with their own language. Illustration: Henry Wong
, South China Morning Post, 18 April 2021

Xinjiang’s ‘fourteenth ethnicity’ leave family language and culture for China’s opportunities

This article published in South China Morning Post draws attention to the surfacing of Xinjiang’s “fourteenth ethnicity,” a group of Uyghurs who were secularized, raised alongside Han Chinese and educated in the Mandarin “min kao han” system at school. The academic and societal merits attached to being taught in Mandarin in China are far greater than that of learning in an Indigenous language, and there are fewer economic incentives for the next generation of Uyghur peoples to distance themselves from “Hanification.”

A Uighur woman stands beside a propaganda painting showing soldiers meeting with a Uighur family, outside a military hospital near Kashgar in China's northwest Xinjiang region on July 2, 2019.
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Foreign Policy, August 2019

The World Bank Was Warned About Funding Repression in Xinjiang

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian shows that when the World Bank gave a $50 million loan to China for the purpose of education and vocational project in Xinjiang, it was warned numerous times that it was potentially funding repressive projects. The World Bank moved forward with the loan, stating that the project had been thoroughly vetted.

Production in the Region

An SCMP examination traces the supply chain for viscose rayon from Finland’s forests to state-run factories in Xinjiang – and then fanning out around the world. Illustration: Brian Wang
South China Morning Post, 28 March 2021

Beyond cotton, another thread in Xinjiang supply chain creates new snag for global textile firms

This SCMP explores the connection between viscose, the world’s third most popular clothing material, and forced labour allegations through Xinjiang. In order to produce this material, workers are exposed to extremely hazardous chemicals that can have lasting impacts on the health of individuals. Through this reporting, journalists were able to locate viscose factories within miles of reeducation centers identified by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. While cotton has been the major focus of international media outlet’s coverage on forced labour in Xinjiang, viscose has been largely ignored. According to estimates around 20% of the world’s viscose supply comes from Xinjiang raising new ethical considerations about purchasing this material from firms operating in the region.

Muslim men after prayer
Jasmin Malik Chua,  The Nation, 5 March 2020

Those Shoes Were Made by a Uighur Detainee

This 2020 article by Jasmin Malik Chua published on The Nation follows the personal tale and hardship of a native of Xinjiang and his experiences growing up in the region to eventually studying in the US. The last half of the article lays out several examples of how multinational corporations are complicit in the mass atrocities being committed against Uyghurs in Xinjiang by using forced labor. The article towards the end highlights past attempts and failures by the fashion industry to divest from countries permitting forced labor, and recent moves made by the US government to blacklist Chinese firms using forced labor traced to Xinjiang.

International Responses and Official Statements

Foreign Affairs Committee, UK Parliament, 8 July 2021

Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond

Published on 8 July 2021, the “Never Again” report lays out policy directions advised for the UK government and its international partners to take in response to the mass atrocities and human rights abuses being committed in Xinjiang against Uyghurs and other Indigenous communities. In particular, the report concentrates on leveraging the UK’s membership and position in international bodies, such as the UN and UNESCO, to establish allied positions condemning the abuses; and as well as boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The report also brings to attention of the UK’s private sector ties, such as in the technology and research sector, to Xinjiang and calls for Parliament to establish a more robust approach tailored to preventing other atrocities in the future.

Leslie E. Norton, Government of Canada, 22 June 2021

Joint statement on human rights situation in Xinjiang at 47th Session of UN Human Rights Council

On 22 June 2021, Leslie E. Norton, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland delivered a cross-regional joint statement on behalf of 44 countries about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The statement addresses the extent and specifics of the allegations against China and urges the country to allow immediate, meaningful, and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent United Nations observers.

Stuart Lau, Politico, 25 May 2021

China tells Europe: You know what a genocide looks like

At a webinar hosted by Munich Security Conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi disapproved of the European Unions’ sanctions over the Chinese government’s crackdown on its Muslim minority, iterating that the Indigenous peoples of Xinjiang were not subject to persecution, concentration camps or genocide. Despite his confrontation, Yi reaffirmed his hopes of cooperating with Europe, particularly on ratifying the EU-China investment agreement which had been halted for vote after the revelations about genocide in Xinjiang had surfaced.

CHINA-RIGHTS-XINJIANG
Sarah Anne Aarup, Politico, 16 March 2021

China: Xinjiang camps take similar approach to US, UK, France

During a discussion of possible sanctions against China for the treatment of Turkic Muslim groups, China’s Ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming argued that the deradicalization centers in Xinjiang were not “entirely different” from those in the UK, US, and France. Zhang noted that all three of these countries engage in counter-terrorism efforts by using detention facilitates and that these centers were necessary for fighting “terrorism, extremism and separatism, [and were] not human rights violations”.

Find the full webinar with Zhang Ming and the European Policy Center here.

Toby Sterling and Bart Meijer, Reuters, 25 February 2021

Dutch parliament: China’s treatment of Uighurs is genocide

The Netherlands becomes the first nation in the European Union to declare the treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim communities in Xinjiang as a genocide. This announcement came in the same week as the Canadian government declared a genocide as well. The non-binding motion notes that the Chinese government is engaged in “measures intended to prevent births” and “having punishment camps” which falls under the United Nations Resolution 260 or Genocide Convention.

Hayley Byrd, CNN, 14 May 2020

Senate Approves Human Rights Bill

The US Senate approves a bill, officially titled the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, to sanction the Chinese Government for detaining Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities within re-education camps and putting them in forced labour. If enacted, the White House will submit a report to Congress with individuals responsible, where sanctions will be imposed.

 

Tom Miles, Reuters, 12 July 2019

Saudi Arabia and Russia Among 37 States Backing China’s Xinjiang Policy

In response to a letter authored mostly by countries within the Transatlantic Sphere to the UN, 37 countries have written their own letter supporting China’s policy of anti-terrorism in Xinjiang. The list of countries includes Russia, Saudi Arabia, and many other majority-Muslim nations. The letter also praises China’s effort of de-radicalization while still upholding human rights. This list would later increase to 54 countries in another UN conference in October.

The gate of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in Xinjiang, in western China.
, The New York Times, 10 July 2019

China Rebuked by 22 Nations Over Xinjiang Repression

In a letter to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, a group of 22 mostly-western countries issues a joint statement condemning China for detaining up to two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. It is the first major international statement that has challenged China’s mass-detention policy.

Opinion Pieces

Chinese Troops Xinjiang
Gerald Roche, The Nation, 6 July 2021

Xinjiang Denialists Are Only Aiding Imperialism

This 2021 article by Gerald Roche published on The Nation focuses on the manifestation of denialism in America that ignores the US government’s complicity in the human rights abuses committed against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Popular among US isolationists, “Xinjiang Denialism” deny the atrocities occurring in the region, labeling US position on Xinjiang as an imperialist tendency; and that the US has had a history of justifying genocides to legitimize a “humanitarian intervention.” Roche denounces this claim, highlighting examples of US complicity in China’s settler colonialism campaign in Xinjiang.

A 1952 poster of Mao Zedong
Thomas Mullaney, The Guardian, 10 June 2021

How China went from celebrating ethnic diversity to suppressing it

Thomas S. Mullaney’s 2021 piece on The Guardian illustrates the Chinese Communist Party’s stark divergence from introducing policies in the 1950s that celebrated ethnic diversity to suppressing Indigenous cultures in contemporary China, particularly in Xinjiang. Mullaney, however, points out that the party’s underlying goal was never to embrace multiculturalism, but to shepherd ethnic diversity into irrelevance, to preemptively prevent ethnic groups from aspiring to national self-determination.

The Ghulja Massacre of 1997 and the Face of Uyghur Genocide Today
Zubayra Shamseden, The Diplomat, 5 February 2021

The Ghulja Massacre of 1997 and the Face of Uyghur Genocide Today

This article published on The Diplomat by Zubayra Shamseden follows the story of a survivor of the Ghulja massacre. On 5 February 1997, Uyghurs in Ghulja, Xinjiang in China protested for two days against the execution of Uyghur Independence activists and the Chinese authorities in response took violent measures to suppress the protest. Many of the Uyghur youths that had participated in connection to the protest were detained, tortured, and even executed. Shamseden details the survivor’s account of being tortured to confess to crimes that she had not committed.

A truck full of cotton is dropped off next to a ginning depot.
A. Liu, The Nation, 28 October 2020

We Need to Think About Xinjiang in Internationalist Terms

In this 2020 article by A. Liu on The Nation, Liu recognizes the detention camps, not as an inevitable consequence of historical ethnic tension or Asian autocracy, but attributes the facilities as a product of China’s contemporary position in the global capitalist economy. Precisely, Liu explains that it was China’s pivot to a market-driven growth and the sale of cheap human labor to foreign industrialists. Multinational corporations profit from a “race-to-the-bottom globalization” that seeks the cheapest rates at any costs, which Liu explains contributes to fostering conditions for forced labor practices and mistreatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The Surveillance State in Xinjiang

Hu Liu in a street in Chongqing
Jane Wakefield, BBC, 26 May 2021

AI emotion-detection software tested on Uyghurs

This BBC article follows the testimony of a software engineer who is claiming to have installed “an emotion recognition system” in police stations across Xinjiang. Surveillance initiatives such as this is made possible through partnerships with global Chinese conglomerates like Huawei and they align with ongoing practices of Uyghurs having to routinely provide DNA samples to local officials in Xinjiang.

 Gene A. Bunin, art of life in Chinese Central Asia, 19 April 2021

The Elephant in the XUAR: III. “In accordance with the law”

This is the third and last in a series of three articles published on “art of life in Chinese Central Asia,” highlighting the expansion of the detention apparatus in Xinjiang. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the legal system minority detainees are subject to in Xinjiang, particularly the paper trail of China’s judicial process; and the lack of legal agencies the defendants have. The article also brings to attention that court verdicts on minorities in Xinjiang that were previously public have now been scrubbed off online, highlighting the lack of transparency and human decency towards affiliated family members. However, through surviving court documents, the author notes new trends in charges, including the criminalization of teaching and promoting religion. The phenomenon of Chinese authorities holding trials not in courts, but in dubious places and circumstances and inconsistencies across reasons why someone was detained and why they were sentenced are also explored in the writing towards the end.

Avi Asher-Schapiro, Reuters, 30 March 2021

China found using surveillance firms to help write ethnic-tracking specs

This article published on Reuters underlines the growing sophistication of facial recognition technology in China, presenting the highlights from a 2021 report published by video surveillance research firm IPVM. The piece in particular focuses on the technology’s capacity to segment images by dozens of facial characteristics, including race and ethnicity. The IPVM report finds that, as a result of such advancement, combing different databases for individuals belonging to a specific ethnic group can be executed more efficiently.

Avi Asher-Schapiro, Reuters, 14 January 2021

Chinese tech patents tools that can detect, track Uighurs

This Reuters article by Avi Asher-Schapiro follows a 2021 IPVM report on Chinese tech firms’ record of registering for patents that can detect, track, and monitor ethnic Uyghurs. Schapiro also makes note of Washington’s response to Chinese firms abetting the persecution of Uyghurs, including Huawei and facial recognition start-up Megvii.

 Gene A. Bunin, art of life in Chinese Central Asia, 4 January 2021

The Elephant in the XUAR: II. Brand new prisons, expanding old prisons, & hundreds of thousands of new inmates

This is the second in a series of three articles published on “art of life in Chinese Central Asia,” highlighting the expansion of the detention apparatus in Xinjiang. This second piece uses official Chinese sources and builds on other datasets, particularly from the Xinjiang Victims’ Database, to illustrate in statistics the scale of the mass sentencing of minorities to camps, but as well as the scale and growth of the prison incarcerations in Xinjiang. The article also highlights the large gaps found between the victims’ sentence dates and the date of their actual transfer for incarceration, pointing out that the need for more space in prisons is notable. Critically, this has been readily evidenced by the expansion of prison facilities in Xinjiang. The article corroborates such allegations with satellite imagery and documents of winning construction bids.

 Gene A. Bunin, art of life in Chinese Central Asia, 9 December 2020

The Elephant in the XUAR: I. Entire families sentenced

This is the first in a series of three articles published on “art of life in Chinese Central Asia,” highlighting the expansion of the detention apparatus in Xinjiang. The article first illustrates the personal accounts of Uyghur and Turkic minorities in and outside of Xinjiang whose entire families have become extrajudicially detained by Chinese authorities. Some individuals have disappeared as well, only to have their whereabouts reach their families months or years after their initial detention. The article also addresses the alarming extent to which police custody is a prelude to a prison sentence: A quarter of the ethnic minorities detained in Xinjiang have become incarcerated.

Image for post
 Adrian Zenz, Medium, 13 October 2020

Parent-Child Separation in Yarkand County, Kashgar

This report dives into family separation policy taking place in Xinjiang, specifically Yarkand County. Utilizing government documents and internal memos, Zenz creates a picture of what happens to the children of parents who are placed in detention centers throughout Xinjiang. Coined “hardship children”, the article follows the expansion of boarding schools throughout the region and the intensive surveillance network accompanied with it in order to monitor the children.

A man walks past a screen showing images of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kashgar in China's northwest Xinjiang region on June 4, 2019.
Rayhan Asat and Yunah Diamond, Foreign Policy, 15 July 2020

The World’s Most Technologically Sophisticated Genocide Is Happening in Xinjiang

This article describes the latest reports from Xinjiang which documents that Uyghurs have been forced to be sterilized, as well as caches of products with human hair that was forcefully removed from imprisoned Uyghurs. It also points out that China is a signatory to the Genocide Convention and argues the US must take action.

Isobel Cockerell, Wired Magazine, 9 May 2019

Inside China’s Massive Surveillance Operation

Isobel Cockerell discusses both the system of surveillance in Xinjiang, as well as how escaped Xinjiang residents have been resisting digital oppression elsewhere.

A Project Beauty poster that was posted throughout the Uyghur neighborhoods of Ürümchi at the beginning of the People’s War on Terror
Darren Byler and Timothy Grose, Dissent Magazine, 31 October 2018

China’s Surveillance Laboratory

Darren Byler and Timothy Grose discuss the various features of the surveillance state that has been implemented in Xinjiang, such as security checkpoints, mosque monitoring, and tracking biometric data.

Uyghur Biodata Collection in China
Mercy A. Kuo, The Diplomat, 28 December 2017

Uyghur Biodata Collection in China

Mercy A. Kuo interviews Darren Byler for insights on the development of technology developing biometric data, the response from the Uyghur population, and policy implications for the future.