Senior Chinese Leaders’ Documents Leaked to Crackdown on Uyghurs | Asia | An in-depth look at current events on the continent | DW
In an exclusive interview, German scholar Adrian Zenz provides insight into a new body of material which he says shows speeches by Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior leaders laying the groundwork for the crackdown on the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The documents, dubbed the “Xinjiang Papers,” include three speeches made by Chinese President Xi Jinping from 2014, and highlight a series of measures that have been implemented in Xinjiang, including mass internment, forced birth control and labor transfers to other regions.
Zenz, who has focused on the Chinese crackdown on ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, was tasked by the Uyghur court in the United Kingdom, which received the documents leaked in September, to review and analyze the documents. According to him, the documents provide new evidence that senior Chinese leaders have directly or indirectly mandated policies to be implemented in Xinjiang since 2014.
Zenz says the leaked documents are an identical subset of the Xinjiang documents that were first reported by The New York Times in 2019. However, the Times did not highlight key elements and disclose all transcripts, he said. Zenz believes this new evidence lays the groundwork to validate previously disclosed information about the crackdown in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has denied allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang in recent years. Earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily press briefing that the issues related to Xinjiang mainly relate to countering violent terrorism, radicalization and the separatism, not human rights or religion.
The documents include speeches by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which Zenz said validates earlier evidence of the crackdown in Xinjiang.
DW: What is the significance of the last leaked document on Xinjiang?
Adrian Zenz: First of all, it’s the connection between what Xi Jinping said and the policy making that followed. It is much stronger than what we believed in 2019 according to the revelation made by The New York Times. This is not just because our knowledge of the atrocity has increased, but also because I have made a careful comparison with the following texts.
The second biggest difference is that the file contains several documents, including documents issued by the central government, which were not mentioned by The New York Times. What we are seeing is an explosive connection with experts who understand the language and the evolution of the language and how these languages find their way into subsequent policies.
The big problem is that Xi Jinping really paved the way for the internment and re-education camps, and also focused on forced labor transfers to promote factory employment and to equalize the population in matters of labor. birth control, which seems innocuous enough on paper, but if you identify and compare the exact same sentence in the political documents in Xinjiang, you will find that the implication is much greater than that.
Do the recently leaked documents prove that key Chinese government leaders are offering instructions for the subsequent political execution that the international community has witnessed in Xinjiang in recent years?
There were significant policy changes that happened very quickly. For example, at the end of 2014, we had the construction of transformations dedicated to educational establishments. At the beginning of 2015, we have the drafting of the group of legislation on re-education, which speaks of two years, from April 2015 to March 2017, to produce the legal framework that legalizes extrajudicial internment in so-called professional centers.
At the end of 2014, there were developments that made the transfer of labor more expansive and that evolved very quickly in 2015 and 2016. It’s not just to say that in 2014 we have some thoughts, and suddenly in 2017 we have something concrete. This is a very clear evolutionary development and it can be directly related to Xi Jinping because of the way he said it.
In many cases, it did not make it optional. He poses it as a demand, as was the case with centralized boarding schools. These connections are in many cases quite straightforward, non-experts might miss the connections.
One of the most important points is that Chen Quanguo [Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region] gave a top-secret speech to officials to study in October 2016.
If you take a closer look, you will realize how intensive it was and how strong the mandates of the officials were to study them. [the speech]. It has been said to “guide them” for the work of the coming year.
The fact that this was circulated for study in 2016 really strengthens the evidence in terms of the central government’s role in the evolution of the atrocities, including after 2016. The new evidence connects absolutely every aspect of the atrocities in Xinjiang, from the internment, parent – separation of children, transfer of work and prevention of births, to central government. It is approved by Beijing and mandated by Beijing.
What actions do you think the international community should take following this latest revelation, which suggests that China’s top leaders have a direct link with the execution of policies in Xinjiang?
The international community already has a lot of evidence on its table, but it is not acting on it. Now, with this evidence, we have a much stronger argument that these policies are directly ordered by the central government with the aim of protecting China’s national security and Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative.
It makes an even stronger case if you look at determinations of mass atrocities, for example, a determination of genocide. It’s really supported by the new evidence because for that you have to look at intention. Realizing that this is very strong language linking many of China’s national security measures is actually a much stronger argument for determining genocide or crimes against humanity.
I think it actually triggers some treaty obligations. Many countries are signatories to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. They have an obligation to prevent genocide from happening. If it is determined that there is a risk of genocide, they must start to act and the risk has become much greater.
It triggers a whole bunch of obligations. It also reinforces the body of evidence we already have. It serves as a foundation. You could put all the evidence we have, from witnesses, existing documents to existing leaks, it now has a very solid foundation.
Based on Xi Jinping’s speech, to what extent do you think the measures that were carried out in Xinjiang were based on Beijing’s counterterrorism rhetoric?
The rhetoric of Xi Jinping and other leaders to justify and legitimize the measures is entirely counterterrorism. In one of the statements, Xi said the causes may be external but the fertile soil [for terrorism] is domestic. This means that these radical external extremist ideas can spread.
This is a misrepresentation of the reality that the problem is mainly caused at the national level by the failure of Chinese policy and failed Chinese actions. Uyghurs use religious language to reaffirm their ethnic identity. Or there was some radicalization but the cause was domestic. He would not have prospered without the domestic conditions.
By adopting this kind of framing, Xi Jinping tested the ground by saying “Look, the problem is the external links, so we have to close these links”, which he did. It penalized people who traveled abroad and communicated with people abroad in order to increase the immunity of the national population, which is basically the rationale for re-educating people. The language of counterterrorism has always been the justification for their policy in Xinjiang.
Edited by: Leah Carter. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.