‘Show no mercy’: leaked documents reveal details of China’s Xinjiang detentions

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Uighur detainees listening to a “deradicalization” presentation at a reeducation camp, in a photo posted to the Xinjiang Judicial Administration’s WeChat account, Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang, 2017

Over the weekend, the New York Times published more than 400 pages of leaked Chinese documents that exposed new details about the country’s mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang.

The internal files were shocking in many ways. They revealed that president Xi Jinping had demanded “absolutely no mercy” in the crackdown on ethnic minorities. They characterized the Communist Party’s campaign in the country’s far western region as “a war of offense.” And the rhetoric used to describe Uyghur minorities was chilling: they had been “infected” by the “virus” of Islamic radicalism, “unhealthy thoughts” from which they must be cured.

“No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study,” one of the documents read. Using this justification, officials in China have been forcing Muslim minorities to undergo “re-education” in camps from which they are not free to leave—researchers estimate one million people have experienced such detention since the drive started in around 2016.

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