Asia-Pacific

China's Uighurs systematically tracked and detained due to religion, leaked documents show

Protesters attend a rally in Hong Kong on 22 December, 2019, to show support for the Uighur minority in China. Source: Getty

The latest leak of internal documents from the Chinese Communist Party appears to show, in extensive detail, how the government determines whether Uighur Muslims should be detained in "re-education camps".

The Chinese government is reportedly keeping track of how often members of the country's Uighur minority pray and whether they have a beard or wear a veil, according to leaked internal documents published in a number of international media outlets.

The 137-page document also appears to note whether those in detention centres should be released or remain, countering the Chinese Communist Party's claims that the camps where up to three million Uighur Muslims are believed to be detained are only voluntary "education training centres". 

The documents, published by Deutsche Welle, the BBC and CNN, list 331 Uighurs from the Karakax County of Xinjiang who were sent away to massive concentration camps for a range of reasons, including having too many children, partaking in religious practices or holding a Chinese passport.

It also shows how the government uses "guilt by association" to incriminate entire social networks, with family relationships and friendships recorded in the table alongside the detained individuals, the BBC reported.

Violating China's birth control policies was the most common reason for detention, followed by dishonesty and religion-based rationale, according to a report by US-based China expert Adrian Zenz.

"This remarkable document presents the strongest evidence to date that Beijing is actively persecuting and punishing normal practices of traditional religious beliefs, in direct violation of its own constitution," Dr Zenz said, describing the system as not "far from a medieval witch hunt".

Dr Zenz found the document included references to 2,802 adults and hundreds of related minors, with 1,432 listed with their full name and identification numbers. 

The latest leak, dubbed the Karakax List, is the third time internal government documents detailing China's treatment of Uighurs have been published.

In November last year, the New York Times published 403 pages of internal Chinese government documents illustrating the surveillance crackdown within the western Xinjiang region.

At the time, Foreign Minister Marise Payne described the leaks as "disturbing" and reinforced Australia's resolve to continue raising their human rights concerns with the Chinese government.

Later that month, another batch of classified documents was leaked to a consortium of international journalists, which appeared to lay out the Chinese government's deliberate strategy to lock up minorities, most of whom are Muslim, to rewire their thoughts and change the language they speak.

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