Faces of Chinese Uyghur detainees revealed in unprecedented police leak

A hacker has published thousands of images of Uyghur Muslims detained in China's Xinjiang region, reports Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

We have heard witness testimony, seen leaked state documents and spoken to dozens of relatives of detainees.

But the cache of documents dubbed the Xinjiang Police Files gives unprecedented detail on the number of people being detained and the orders coming directly from President Xi Jinping himself to continue, and expand, the country’s ‘’anti-extremism’’ campaign in the Xinjiang region. What strikes you as open the files are the faces - thousands of men, women and children; teenagers of just 15; elderly women of 73-years-old who all appeared on police records as having been detained in Xinjiang.

In many cases their crimes are unspecified, but we know their biggest offence was their ethnicity.

The Chinese government has been accused of arbitrarily detaining Uyghur people and other Muslim-majority ethnic groups in Xinjiang province Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP

The files were hacked, downloaded, and released by an anonymous source, who will now be forced into hiding.

They reveal that an estimated 10% of the Uyghur population, that’s around two million people, have or still are being detained in the Xinjiang region. With many sentences upwards of ten years, that is essentially a life sentence for the many elderly people among those detained. There are specific references made in speeches detailed in the files that give some clarity on existing figures, which have been mostly estimates based on victim testimony and the missing person reports filed by Uyghurs in exile. In the transcript of an internal June 15, 2018 speech by Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi he states: “Southern Xinjiang has more than two million people who have been severely influenced by the infiltration of extremist religious thought.”

Zhao is also shown to have credited Xi Jinping with delivering a successful plan to bring “stability” to the region.

In a 2018 speech, he states General Secretary Xi has given important instructions for "increasing the number of staff positions", "enlarging the capacity" and "increasing investment" in detention facilities.

It is rare confirmation that the president was not only aware but directing the campaign.

The leak provides further proof that the Chinese Communist Party has not only imprisoned but used suppressive measures to limit the cultural and religious practices of the Uyghur population in China.

We have interviewed those now living in exile who can testify to the fact measures were introduced to limit childbearing.

These latest files also give details on "transformation through education", where Uyghurs are made to denounce their Muslim religion and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and China instead.

From children of nursery school age to adults, millions have been forced into compulsory education to master the national language, both spoken and written. They are no longer allowed to speak in their Uyghur language. Images hacked from the police computers show security drills conducted by officers stationed at "re-education" camps.

Inmates are shown shackled and hooded as they undergo their so-called education. There are also orders given that anyone caught trying to escape should be shot dead if a warning shot is ignored.

President Xi Jinping has been implicated by the leaked files.

The revelations were timed to coincide with the arrival of the UN High Commissioner in China for her long-awaited and much criticised visit to Xinjiang. Michelle Bachelet was greeted in Guangzhou, Southern China by the foreign minister Wang Yi and gifted with a book title 'Xi Jinping on Respecting and Protecting Human Rights' - no joke. She told the minister that she hoped the visit would enable them to "work together in advancing, promotion and cooperation on human rights in China, also the whole world." But the High Commissioner will be chaperoned throughout the time she is here, and unable to conduct a truly independent investigation. She will be presented with people to speak to and not be free to conduct her own interviews or surveys on the ground in Xinjiang - just as the police have tried to prevent us doing when we have visited the region. The Chinese government continues to reject all claims of genocide. It has attacked those behind today’s revelations for conducting an anti-China smear campaign of lies and rumours. The denials will continue to come, but so too, does the evidence.