Leak from Xinjiang shows some Uyghurs are detained for family size

Urumqi, China, Feb 17, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- A leaked document from a county in China’s northwest details the personal information of some 3,000 Uyghurs. It gives violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for their “re-education”, often alongside other reasons.

The “Karakax List” is a 137-page spreadsheet from the government in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

The document, believed to have been prepared in May or June 2019, was recently shown to several news outlets, including the BBC and the Wall Street Journal.

The Karakax List contains information regarding some 3,000 Uyghurs in Karakax County, about 800 miles southwest of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

It shows that 484 persons were interned for re-education, only 12 of whom had no recorded reason for their detention. There were eight categories of the reasons for internment.

“No single coding category was dominant, even though violations of birth control policies constituted the most commonly cited reason for re-education, often along with other (typically religion-related) reasons,” Adrian Zenz, a Xinjiang researcher and senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, wrote in a recent paper analyzing the document.

Of the 484 detained persons, 149 had violated birth control policies.

From the late 1970s until 2015, China allowed most couples to have only one child. Since 2015, most couples have been permitted two children.

The Washington Post reported in October 2019 that women in Kazakhstan who say they had been detained in Xinjiang said they were forced to have abortions, had contraceptive devices implanted involuntarily, or were raped.

Other commonly cited reasons for internment in the document were that the persons were untrustworthy (116 persons), religion-related (101), and that they had overseas links (94).

Only 24 had committed a formal crime.

According to Zenz, “based on the principles of presumed guilt (rather than innocence) and assigning guilt through association, the state has developed a highly fine-tuned yet also very labor-intensive governance system whereby entire family circles are held hostage to their behavioral performance – jointly and as individuals.”

“Ongoing mechanisms of appraisal and evaluation ensure high levels of acquiescence even when most detainees have been released from the camps,” he added.

The researcher said that “driven by a deeply religio-phobic worldview … the state has established a system of governance that fully substitutes trust with control.”

Among the data recorded in the Karakaz List are whether an individual has worn an Islamic veil; whether they have a beard; how often they pray; how their family members act; whether they have applied for a passport; and whom they contact.

The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.

The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

Government officials from the region said in July 2019 that the area’s re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

Uyghurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

The US Commerce Department in October 2019 added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uyghurs.

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