A tranche of Chinese Communist Party documents leaked to the New York Times reveal inside information about Beijing’s crackdown on ethnic minorities, including how Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, told officials to show “absolutely no mercy”, the newspaper says.
The cache of 403 documents was leaked by a person the newspaper described as a “member of the Chinese political establishment”.
Reporter Austin Ramzy said that they provided the information in an attempt to “prevent party leaders, including Xi Jinping, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.”
The leak provided further evidence that the brutal crackdown against Uighur Muslims is happening Xinjiang, a vast province in west China, despite the Chinese government’s denials.
Many human rights groups consider it to be the most widespread and brutal human rights abuse campaign in the world today.
Over one million members of ethnic minorities, primarily Muslim Uighurs, have been detained in prisons or internment camps in Xinjiang in the past three years, which is officially referred to as a crackdown on terrorism by Beijing.
In the camps, which Beijing calls education centres, detainees are indoctrinated to denounce Islam and pledge allegiance to the Communist party.
The crackdown intensified in 2014 after a separatist attack in May that year on a market in Urumqi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang, killed 31 people.
In July 2009, rioting in the city led to over 140 deaths. The documents, which include many pages of internal speeches by Mr Xi, showed that when the president visited Xinjiang in April 2014 he ordered officials to use the “organs of dictatorship” in a “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism”.
He said they should show “absolutely no mercy”. Mr Xi became China’s President in 2013. In August 2016 senior party official Chen Quanguo, who had previously worked in Tibet, was installed as Xinjiang’s party secretary.
In October 2017 Mr Chen said in a speech recorded in the documents: “The struggle against terror and to safeguard stability is a protracted war, and also a war of offence.”
In February that year he told police to ready themselves for a “smashing, obliterating offensive” and gave orders to “round up everyone who should be rounded up.”
Xinjiang camp survivors have reported torture, rape and medical experiments taking place in them.
Police presence and surveillance methods in the province have effectively made it a police state, with Uighurs often sent to camps for making even small gestures of loyalty to the Muslim faith.
The documents feature a script for officials telling students returning home for holidays that their family members had been detained.
It suggests giving veiled threats about students’ behaviour affecting loved ones’ chances of being freed, and using language such as “infectious” and “illness” to describe anti-Party sentiment.
The script reads: “Freedom is only possible when this ‘virus’ in their thinking is eradicated and they are in good health.”
The papers describe how officials who attempted to resist strongly implementing the crackdown have been crushed.
A confession by Wang Yongzhi, who oversaw an area in Xinjiang called Yarkand, shows how he defied the party by releasing 7,000 inmates.
In 2018 Mr Wang, who is likely to have given the confession under duress, was investigated by the CCP for “gravely disobeying the party central leadership’s strategy for governing Xinjiang.”
The documents state that over 12,000 officials have been investigated for not complying with the crackdown to satisfactory standards.
The information sparked hope among some human rights advocates for sterner condemnation of the CCP’s behaviour in Xinjiang from the international community.
US senator and Democratic Presidential candidate hopeful Elizabeth Warren said: “The Chinese government’s cruel, bigoted treatment of Muslims and ethnic minorities is a horrifying human rights violation. We must stand up to hatred and extremism at home – and around the world.”