After years of secrecy and suspected violation of human rights, thousands of photographs and documents highlighting China’s treatment and incarceration of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, have been released after a huge cache of data was hacked from police computer servers in the region.
The data, being referred to as ‘The Xinjiang Police Files’, and published by a consortium of media outlets, including BBC, dates back to 2018 and was passed on by hackers to Dr Adrian Zenz, a US-based scholar and activist, who shared it with international media earlier this year.
The publication of the data, which disputes China’s claims of mere ‘re-education camps,’ coincides with the arrival in China of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet for a controversial visit to Xinjiang.
In March last year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said, “The PRC (People’s Republic of China) continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity,” in the backdrop of the ruling communist party being accused of having detained more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region as part of a years-long crackdown.
Researchers and campaigners, apart from the mass detentions, have also accused Chinese authorities of imposing forced labour, coerced sterilisation, and the destruction of Uighur cultural heritage in Xinjiang, The Guardian reported.
While the United States and its allies had announced sanctions against two Chinese officials in March last year, China retaliated by announcing sanctions against 10 European Union politicians and four entities, namely the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, the Mercator Institute for China Studies, and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, for allegedly spreading “lies and disinformation.”
‘New Evidence Shows China’s Targeting of Uighur Muslims’: UK
Meanwhile, reacting to the publication of the data trove, United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “Today, further shocking details of China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang have emerged, which add to the already extensive body of evidence from Chinese government documents, first-hand testimony, satellite imagery and visits by our own diplomats to the region.”
She added, “New evidence shows the extraordinary scale of China’s targeting of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities, including forced labour, severe restrictions on freedom of religion, the separation of parents from their children, forced birth control, and mass incarceration.”
Stating that the UK stands with their international partners in “calling out China’s appalling persecution of Uighur Muslims and other minorities,” Truss added, “We remain committed to holding China to account.”
Truss also demanded that China grants the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “full and unfettered access to the region so that she can conduct a thorough assessment of the facts on the ground, and we are following her visit this week closely.”
(With inputs from The Guardian and BBC.)