Asia - Pacific

Photos offer rare look into China's alleged abuse of Uyghurs

Media report reveals how 'arbitrary charges' are used to send Uyghurs into formal jails

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 24.05.2022
Photos offer rare look into China's alleged abuse of Uyghurs File Photo


A day after China's top diplomat said a visit of the UN's visiting human rights chief would "clarify misunderstanding" on China’s human rights record, a cache of "never-before-seen" police photos of ethnic Uyghurs have surfaced.

Over 5,000 such photos, claims a media report, "offer significant new insights into the internment" of Xinjiang's Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities.

The revelation comes after Michelle Bachelet held bilateral discussions on Monday with Wang Yi in Guangzhou, a sprawling port city northwest of Hong Kong, as part of the UN high commissioner's week-long trip to China.

Wang noted that the trip "would help enhance understanding and cooperation, and clarify misinformation."

However, the data revealed by a BBC investigation exposed China's "highly secretive system of mass incarceration in Xinjiang, as well as a shoot-to-kill policy for those who try to escape."

The cache of photos, says the report, had been gathered by hacking into the digital network of Xinjiang's police force. The images were later sent to the British public broadcaster, which took months to verify them before they were released on Tuesday.

"The cache reveals, in unprecedented detail, China's use of 're-education' camps and formal prisons as two separate but related systems of mass detention for Uyghurs -- and seriously calls into question its well-honed public narrative about both," the report said.

It contradicts Wang's statement made in 2019 when he said: "The truth is the education and training centers in Xinjiang are schools that help people free themselves from extremism."

According to the UN data, at least 1 million Uyghurs are kept against their will in places Beijing calls "vocational training centers," though many in the international community define them as "re-education camps."

The cities of Kashgar and Urumqi in the Xinjiang autonomous region are home to ethnic Uyghurs who are allegedly facing human rights abuses at the hands of Chinese authorities.

Several countries have accused China of ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs. Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations "lies and (a) political virus."

The most recent revelation, however, shows how the "widespread use of terrorism charges" by the authorities in Xinjiang have been used to send thousands of Uyghurs into formal prisons, the BBC report said. It added that the police data shows "spreadsheets full of arbitrary, draconian sentences."

Bachelet has refused to turn her trip into an investigation of such allegations. It is the first such visit to China by a sitting UN rights chief in the past 17 years.

In the past, Beijing has arranged several official trips of Beijing-based foreign diplomats to Xinjiang.

"The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith," the report claimed.

Soon after the report was released, China's envoy in the UK criticized the BBC.

"Pathetic for the media, in cahoots with the notorious rumour monger, to once again spread disinformation about Xinjiang," said Ambassador Zheng Zeguang.

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