This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A trove of highly classified documents released on November 24 spell out how China controls the minutiae of life for up to 3 million people who are interned in the mass detention camps of the far-western region of Xinjiang.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained the documents and 17 media outlets worldwide have published stories based on the data that was released, including an operations manual for running the camps.
Calling the trove of documents “China Cables,” the ICIJ said it exposes “the mechanics” of the predominantly Muslim region’s “Orwellian system of mass surveillance and ‘predictive policing’.”
The manual, approved for use in 2017 by Xinjiang’s security chief, strictly regulates everything from the frequency of haircuts to when the doors are locked and opened at the camps where rights groups say torture is used to forcibly assimilate Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
Exhaustive use of police data collection and artificial intelligence is applied to meticulously selecting residents for detention.
Beijing has justified its policy for the internments as providing valuable vocational training and veering Muslims away from extremism.
The East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM), a Washington-based nonprofit group that seeks independence for the mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang, earlier this month released an analysis that it says geolocates nearly 500 camps and prisons run by China in the region.
While the UN says that more than 1 million people are in the camps, ETNAM says three times as many people have been interned, or roughly a third of the region’s population.
ETNAM has equated China’s “mass internment” campaign to the Holocaust.
China has dismissed the documents that the ICIJ released as “pure fabrication and fake news.”