According to a leaked list from China’s previously unreported database obtained by the news agency AFP, more than 10,000 Uyghurs have been imprisoned in the Xinjiang region of China. According to academics, the disputed region, which is heavily guarded by China’s Communist government, has a covert network of detention camps and prisons where over one million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities are imprisoned.
The list, which includes information on each prisoner’s name, birth date, ethnicity, ID number, charge, address, sentence length, and prison, gives insight into the location of some families’ missing members. It indicates that between 2014 and 2018, the number of persons punished by Xinjiang courts for broad offences such as ‘forming a gang to disturb social order, promoting extremism, and picking quarrels and causing trouble’ increased from roughly 21,000 to over 133,000.
Despite the fact that the West has frequently condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide, Beijing has defended itself by referring to the camps as ‘vocational training centres’. This month, UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet will visit Xinjiang to investigate China’s alleged human rights violations. China increased its ideological campaign against Islamic radicalism, dubbed ‘Strike Hard,’ in 2017.
The proportion of jail sentences of more than five years virtually quadrupled from the previous year, and the majority of cases were decided behind closed doors. ‘This is not obviously targeted anti-terrorism,’ says David Tobin, a lecturer in East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. ‘ It’s going to every door and removing a lot of people. It clearly demonstrates that they are randomly targeting a population and scattering it throughout a territory’, he added.