“Shoot them dead!”
Orders to kill escapees from the camps were ringing in Zuhre’s ears as she poured through the documents and every one of the photographs for the second time. Her own relatives still unaccounted for, she almost envied those who now knew the fate of their loved ones. But she would still rather know than remain in the terrible darkness of wondering and not knowing. She vowed to keep looking and hoping.
If the world needed more definitive proof that crimes against humanity and genocide were being committed against swathes of innocent Uyghurs, the avalanche of revelations cascading out of Xinjiang should leave it in no doubt.
The cache of documents, hacked from police files in two Southern Xinjiang townships, containing CCP leaders’ speeches, police training manuals, graphic depictions of prisoner restraint, and most horrifying of all, photos of teenagers, farmers and elderly men and women languishing in indeterminate illegal detention, are horrifying in the extreme.
Known as the Xinjiang Police Files, the mountain of information sifted by Dr Adrian Zenz, a fellow of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and syndicated simultaneously by more than a dozen news outlets around the globe, has scandalized the world with faces to match the facts that have been bombarding the world’s media since the atrocities against the Turkic peoples of Northwest China were uncovered five or so years ago.
More than 2,800 police photographs of detainees stare out from the pages of the files from Kona Sheher township, whose imprisonment rate is now said to be the world’s largest, with one in twenty-five adults incarcerated on terrorism-related charges. These files are now being scoured by Uyghur exiles around the world, on one hand desperate to track down their lost relatives, but on the other dreading what they might find.
Speaking to Bitter Winter from her Istanbul exile, Zuhre, thirty-one of whose family members have been detained, is happy with the graphic nature of the headlines. “We’ve been saying this for several years now, but now no one can deny the photographs and the names,” she said.
Despite the heartbreak countless Uyghurs are now experiencing as a result of the exposé, she said she would rather know the truth than continue guessing. “So many of us feel this way,” she said, citing some who discovered relatives had been sentenced to multiple years of imprisonment, some for having consulted an Islamic app years ago, turned their telephone off, or had a relative in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. “It’s been so hard to hear the news,” she said, “but the agony of not knowing is over for them.”
The bizarre theatre of Xinjiang’s so-called “War on Terror,” was exposed in the files by reams of photos of police drills, many of whose members formed raggle taggle bands of baton-waving home guards, roaming the streets, who had “joined up” on the promise of training and a regular wage. Many wielding medieval polearms, reminiscent of Song Dynasty instruments of torture, they formed grotesque spectacles as they lunged at imaginary targets. Not isolated examples of an aberrant regime or peculiar to the hacked files in question, these activities were de rigeur during the so-called “state of emergency” and could be seen everywhere.
Observing the scene as it unfolded in 2018, Bitter Winter witnessed Urumqi police at 08.00 am every morning, standing to attention, flourishing over-sized baseball bats, and synchronizing an assault on the enemy to rapid whistle blasts, every move captured on video. Punctuated throughout the day, teams of stall holders drilled a rapid response to mythical assailants. They raised their sticks and as one pounded the ground or mounds of clothing and beat the “enemy” senseless. Tourists in Kashgar wandered through the timeless alleyways at dusk, pursued by teams of officers, oblivious of any consternation caused, who would approach loudly from behind, overtake them and proceed to garrote an imaginary interloper in a four-step maneuver.
This Bitter Winter reporter found herself encircled by six primitive-spear-brandishing local police in 2018 after inadvertently stepping out of bounds on the way to a local market in an area not far from that of the hacked files.
Those who have lived through the madness of those years, and those who have survived to tell the tale of their incarcerations have been vindicated. Their evidence proves that these files are not imaginary or fabricated as part of the “lies of the century” plot by the West to discredit China. They simply depict the daily reality of Xinjiang at the height of its “War on Terror,” now exposed for the world to see.
Responding to the revelations, Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs Rushan Abbas said, “We are heartbroken, we are appalled, but not surprised. What the world has witnessed today with these unprecedented brutalities is something we have been saying for years.” She addressed the “conscience of the world and humanity of our leaders” demanding action against the “barbaric regime.”
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, publishers of the report, urged the international community to take the findings seriously and not to delay action.
“The Xinjiang Police Files prove that China’s so-called vocational training centers are really prisons,” said Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President and CEO of the Foundation. “These documents conclusively demonstrate that Beijing has been lying about its gross human rights violations in Xinjiang. The international community must take immediate and concrete action to hold China accountable for these atrocities.”
These recommendations to sanction officials involved, pleas to release the detained, and push for resolutions to condemn China’s genocide against Uyghurs, combined with entreaties not to continue with “business as usual” with China are nothing new. Every so-called latest report or study on the region, and there have been many, implores the same.
The one difference this time are the faces staring out from the files at the decision makers. Here for the first time is evidence of thousands of real people, youngsters, elderly men and women, and youths whose future has been randomly snatched from them, who have been illegally dragooned off the streets, and incarcerated to fill quotas and to satisfy the paranoia of a regime whose sole purpose seems to have been to subdue the Turkic peoples of Northwest China, and to even make them disappear.
Perhaps their entreaties might hold sway this time as the world plots a way forward.