In Brief

Leaked documents reveal brainwashing in China’s prison camps

Documents challenge Beijing’s claims that the camps provide voluntary education

Leaked documents have exposed the systematic brainwashing of Muslims in China’s network of high-security prison camps.

The Guardian says the papers reveal the “largest mass incarceration of an ethnic-religious minority since the second world war” and show China is running detention camps that are secret, involuntary and used for ideological “education transformation”.

The Chinese government has long claimed the camps, in the far-western Xinjiang region, provide voluntary education and training. China's ambassador to the UK insists that the leaked documents have been fabricated.

However, a nine-page memo by Zhu Hailun, then deputy-secretary of Xinjiang's Communist Party and the region's top security official, orders that the camps should be run as high security prisons, with strict discipline, punishments and no escapes.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that about a million people - mostly from the Muslim Uighur community - have been detained without trial.

The paperwork rules that these inmates could be held indefinitely, but must serve at least a year in the camps before they can even be considered for “completion”, or release.

Even then, captives will only be released when they can prove they have transformed their behaviour, beliefs and language.

“Promote the repentance and confession of the students for them to understand deeply the illegal, criminal and dangerous nature of their past activity,” says the document.

“For those who harbour vague understandings, negative attitudes or even feelings of resistance…carry out education transformation to ensure that results are achieved.”

Another leaked document reveals that 15,000 people from southern Xinjiang were sent to the camps over the course of just one week in 2017.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, told the BBC the leaked memo should be used by prosecutors.

“This is an actionable piece of evidence, documenting a gross human rights violation,” she said.

“I think it's fair to describe everyone being detained as being subject at least to psychological torture, because they literally don't know how long they're going to be there.” 

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