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Adrian Zenz

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Adrian Zenz
Adrian Zenz VOA 2020-02-19.png
Adrian Nikolaus Zenz

1974 (age 46–47)
Known forResearch on Xinjiang re-education camps
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Auckland
University of Cambridge
Academic work
InstitutionsVictims of Communism Memorial Foundation
European School of Culture and Theology (Akademie für Weltmission [de] and Columbia International University)

Adrian Nikolaus Zenz[2] (born 1974)[3] is a German anthropologist known for his studies of the Xinjiang internment camps (also known as "re-education" camps) and Uyghur genocide.[4] He is a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an anti-communist think tank based in Washington DC.[5][6][7]


Zenz received a Master's degree in development studies from the University of Auckland, followed by a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, with a doctoral thesis on minority education, job opportunities, and the ethnic identity of young Tibetans in western China.[8][9] He is a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese.[9]

He was a lecturer in social research methodology at the European School of Culture and Theology,[5][10] a joint venture between the Evangelical theological institution Akademie für Weltmission [de] and Columbia International University,[11][12] where he advised doctoral students.[13] In the summer of 2018, he moved from Europe to the United States. [14] As of 2021, he is a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.[5][7]

Zenz also serves as an advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.[7][13]



Zenz's most influential work has been his research on the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities within China's Xinjiang internment camps.[1] Zenz was one of the first researchers to have revealed the existence, size, and scope of these camps.[1][15][16]

Since February 2018,[1] Zenz has studied the mass detention of Uyghurs in internment camps in Xinjiang. His work has been based on Chinese government budget plans, bidding papers, leaked documents, spreadsheets, and other official documents.[1][17][18][19] Initially, in a May 2018 report published by the Jamestown Foundation, Zenz estimated that between 100,000 to just over 1 million Muslims had been subject to detention in the camps.[1] Zenz based his estimate on documents that had been leaked by anonymous Chinese public security officials to Istiqlal, a Turkey-based Uyghur exile media organization.[20][21] He then extrapolated from the leaked figures and incorporated information from former detainees and public Chinese government documents that gave indications of the sizes and locations of the camps.[1]

Since then, his estimate has been cited widely, with many sources, including United Nations experts, preferring to use the higher end of the estimate's range.[1] Later, in March 2019, Zenz told the United Nations that 1.5 million Uyghurs had been detained in camps, saying that his number accounted for both the increases in the size and scope of detention in the region and public reporting on the stories of Uyghur exiles with family in internment camps.[1] In July 2019, Zenz wrote in the Journal of Political Risk that he speculated that 1.5 million Uyghurs had been extrajudicially detained, which he described as being "an equivalent to just under one in six adult members of a Turkic and predominantly Muslim minority group in Xinjiang."[22] In November 2019, Zenz estimated that the number of internment camps in Xinjiang had surpassed 1,000.[23] In July 2020, Zenz wrote in Foreign Policy that his estimate had increased since November 2019, estimating that a total of 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities had been extrajudicially detained in what he described as "the largest incarceration of an ethnoreligious minority since the Holocaust," arguing that the Chinese Government was engaging in policies in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[24]

Zenz has also researched publicly available Chinese government documents that showed that the Chinese government has spent tens of millions of dollars since 2016 on a birth control surgery program that includes cash incentives for sterilization procedures.[25][26][27] Zenz's research showed that birth control violations are punishable by internment in the Xinjiang internment camps,[26][27] a conclusion that has been corroborated an Associated Press investigation that also found that women in Xinjiang were forcibly sterilized and subject to forced abortions.[25] According to Zenz, population growth rates in the two largest Uyghur prefectures in Xinjiang, Kashgar and Hotan, fell by 84% between 2015 and 2018 due to forced sterilization, contraception, and abortions on Uyghurs.[28][29][4]

In June 2021, Zenz published a 28-page study in Central Asian Survey arguing that China has carried population control in Xinjiang with the explicit “long-term” intent to reduce population growth of the Uyghur ethnic minority.[30][31]


Zenz is the author of 'Tibetanness' Under Threat?, a study of the modern Tibetan education system. In the book, he examines the career prospects of students who major in Tibetan-language studies and the notion that the greater market value of Chinese-language education threatens Tibetan ethnocultural survival.[5][32]

In September 2020, Zenz authored a report that said that 500,000 Tibetans, mostly subsistence farmers and herders, were trained in the first seven months of 2020 in military-style training centres;[33][34][35][36] BBC News reports that experts cited in the report say these centres "are akin to labour camps".[35]


Zenz is a lapsed Catholic-turned-born-again Christian, and has stated that he feels "led by God" in his research on Chinese Muslims and other minority groups.[1] Zenz co-authored a book in 2012 with his father-in-law, Marlon L. Sias, titled Worthy to Escape: Why All Believers Will Not Be Raptured Before the Tribulation.[1]



Zenz's work to expose human rights abuses in Xinjiang has been the subject of widespread international attention and has been widely cited in media reports.[1][37][38][39][40]

An analysis published by the Mercator Institute for China Studies in January 2019 called Zenz's estimate that 1 million Uyghurs had been subject to extrajudicial detention "credible" and cited Zenz's 2018 study as one of two important studies that "popularized" the number of one million Uyghur detainees in 2018.[37] Zenz's work has been described by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as delivering solid evidence for the extent of the repression that had only been previously known through anecdotal evidence.[41]

The United States banned imports of cotton from Xinjiang shortly after Zenz published a report describing widespread use of forced labor in the region.[39]

As a result of his work on Xinjiang, Zenz has become a target for coordinated disinformation attacks from pro-Beijing and Chinese state-run media, as well as other state-affiliated entities.[9][42][43] Zenz and his work on Xinjiang have been criticized by the Chinese government,[39][44][45][46] which has repeatedly described Zenz's findings as "lies" even in cases where his findings were confirmed to have been truthful.[39] In March 2021, Chinese state media reported that Chinese companies have filed a lawsuit in Xinjiang against Zenz to recoup economic losses and restore their reputations in response to what Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described as "Zenz's 'rumors' of forced labor in the region".[38] This lawsuit is one in a series of steps that the Chinese government is taking in order to attack critics of Chinese government policies in Xinjiang.[39][47][48] On April 2, 2021, a court in Kashgar accepted the civil case brought by a textile company in Xinjiang against Zenz for defamation.[49] During an interview with The Daily Telegraph published in May 2021, Zenz defended himself against allegations of fabrication, noting that 95% of documents he has analyzed are publicly available government records. Zenz has become the target of repeated cyber attacks, receiving many attempted hacking attacks via email from people posing as Uyghurs.[9]

The European Union, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada imposed coordinated sanctions against Chinese government officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang in March 2021.[50][51] The Chinese government responded by imposing retaliatory sanctions against Zenz and others who had criticized the Chinese government for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including nine other people (five of whom are members of the European Parliament), two European Union bodies, the Mercator Institute for China Studies, and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation.[40][51] The sanctions against Zenz prohibit him from entering the People's Republic of China and restrict his ability to do business with Chinese firms.[40][51]


A 2019 article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described Zenz's research methods on Tibetans as unconventional and exciting little interest in the professional world. The article stated that Zenz had analyzed job postings for security personnel in Tibet, compared them with data on self-immolation by Tibetans, and then used that data to draw his conclusions about the Chinese government's policies of repression.[41] Development studies researcher Andrew Fischer described Zenz's early work as an "excellent discussion" of Tibetan education that included "interesting ways of measuring and representing" school outcomes[52] and as offering a "rare insight" into Tibetan education with "fascinating" details and of "immense value".[53]

In 2020, a report from Reuters wrote that the news agency had "corroborated Zenz’s findings and found additional policy documents, company reports, procurement filings and state media reports" regarding a growing forced labor program in Tibet.[34][35][36] The Chinese Foreign Ministry disputed Zenz's findings, with a spokesperson calling the findings "lies".[34][36]

Robert Barnett, the former Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University, wrote in March 2021 that Zenz's work on Tibet is generally "well-regarded" and noted that Zenz has been subject to unfair and abusive attacks from Chinese state media.[54] Barnett, however, criticized the methods used in creating a report written by Zenz and published in September 2020 by the Jamestown Foundation, writing that the report had not been peer-reviewed prior to publication, did not refer to the findings of other Tibet researchers, and had not been independently verified by field research.[54] Barnett also criticized the timing of and media coverage surrounding the report's publication, arguing that it had been "coordinated with a prominent media campaign" and that prominent newspapers have misrepresented the report by overstating Zenz's conclusions regarding the existence of labor camps in Tibet.[54]

Selected works

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Chin, Josh (21 May 2019). "The German Data Diver Who Exposed China's Muslim Crackdown". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 19 January 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  2. ^ "British Library EThOS: 'Tibetanness' under threat? : assimilation, career and market reforms in Qinghai, P.R. China". EThOS: e-theses online service. British Library. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  3. '^ Tibetanness' Under Threat?
  4. ^ a b "China's genocide against the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, in 4 disturbing charts - Vox". 10 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "Adrian Zenz". Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on 29 June 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  6. ^ Editorial Board (16 December 2019). "China appears to add a sickening new dimension to its treatment of Uighurs". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 3 January 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Adrian Zenz, Ph.D." Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Adrian Zenz". Akademie für Weltmission [de]. Archived from the original on 23 May 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d Ensor, Josie (3 May 2021). "Meet the man China is taking desperate measures to silence". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 May 2021.
  10. ^ Tiezzi, Shannon (1 December 2018). "Adrian Zenz on China's Xinjiang Re-Education Campaign". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  11. ^ National Cable Satellite Corporation. "Adrian Zenz". CSPAN. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Studien- und Weiterbildungsangebote" (in German). Arbeitsgemeinschaft evangelikaler Missionen e.V. 9 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Adrian Zenz". Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  14. ^ "'The Equivalent of Cultural Genocide'". Der Spiegel. 2019-11-28. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  15. ^ Yan, Hai (16 March 2020). "China Backs Lawsuits Against German Scholar for Human Rights Abuse Claims". Voice of America.
  16. ^ "Human rights in China: Beijing endorses legal action against German scholar over Xinjiang abuse claims". South China Morning Post. Bloomberg News. 9 March 2021.
  17. ^ Gan, Nectar (2 July 2019). "China calls Xinjiang camps training centres, but government's own documents say otherwise, researcher finds". South China Morning Post.
  18. ^ Wen, Philip; Duo, Eva (17 February 2020). "Document Shows Chinese Officials' Calculations in Waging Xinjiang Campaign". Wall Street Journal.
  19. ^ Waters, Nick (5 April 2019). "Are Historic Mosques In Xinjiang Being Destroyed?". Bellingcat.
  20. ^ "ウイグル絶望収容所の収監者数は89万人以上". Newsweek日本版 (in Japanese). 2018-03-13. Retrieved 2021-04-06.
  21. ^ "Where did the one million figure for detentions in Xinjiang's camps come from? | Merics". Retrieved 2021-04-06.
  22. ^ Zenz, Adrian. "Brainwashing, Police Guards and Coercive Internment: Evidence from Chinese Government Documents about the Nature and Extent of Xinjiang's "Vocational Training Internment Camps"". Journal of Political Risk. 7 (7). Archived from the original on 3 August 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  23. ^ Lipes, Joshua (12 November 2019). "Expert Estimates China Has More Than 1,000 Internment Camps For Xinjiang Uyghurs". Radio Free Asia. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  24. ^ Zenz, Adrian (1 July 2020). "China's Own Documents Show Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans in Xinjiang". Foreign Policy.
  25. ^ a b "China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization". Associated Press. 29 June 2020. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  26. ^ a b "China forcibly sterilising Uighur women in campaign to control population, new report says". SBS News. 30 June 2020. Archived from the original on 29 June 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  27. ^ a b Zenz, Adrian (June 2020). "Sterilizations, Forced Abortions, and Mandatory Birth Control" (PDF). Jamestown Foundation. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  28. ^ "Sterilizations, IUDs, and Coercive Birth Prevention: The CCP's Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birth Rates in Xinjiang - Jamestown".
  29. ^ "China 'using birth control' to suppress Uighurs". BBC News. 29 June 2020. Archived from the original on 29 June 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  30. ^ Zenz, Adrian (2021-08-24). "'End the dominance of the Uyghur ethnic group': an analysis of Beijing's population optimization strategy in southern Xinjiang". Central Asian Survey: 1–22. doi:10.1080/02634937.2021.1946483. ISSN 0263-4937. SSRN 3862512.
  31. ^ "New studies show the depths of the unfolding Uyghur catastrophe". The Washington Post. June 14, 2021. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  32. ^ Zenz, Adrian (2013). 'Tibetanness' Under Threat?: Neo-Integrationism, Minority Education and Career Strategies in Qinghai, P.R. China. Global Oriental. ISBN 978-9004257962.
  33. ^ Zenz, Adrian (22 September 2020). "Xinjiang's System of Militarized Vocational Training Comes to Tibet". China Brief. The Jamestown Foundation. 20 (17).
  34. ^ a b c Cadell, Cate (22 September 2020). "Exclusive: China sharply expands mass labor program in Tibet". Reuters. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  35. ^ a b c "China 'coercing Tibetans into mass labour camps'". BBC News. 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  36. ^ a b c Davidson, Helen (2020-09-22). "Report charts China's expansion of mass labour programme in Tibet". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  37. ^ a b "Where did the one million figure for detentions in Xinjiang's camps come from? | Merics". Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  38. ^ a b Dou, Eva (10 March 2021). "Academic faces Chinese lawsuit for exposing human rights abuses in Xinjiang". Washington Post. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  39. ^ a b c d e Vanderklippe, Nathan (9 March 2021). "Lawsuit against Xinjiang researcher marks new effort to silence critics of China's treatment of Uyghurs". The Globe and Mail.
  40. ^ a b c Saric, Ivana; Basu, Zachary (22 March 2021). "U.S., U.K., EU and Canada sanction Chinese officials over Uyghur abuses". Axios.
  41. ^ a b "Inhaftierte Uiguren in China Der Mann mit der Million". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). 9 August 2019. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  42. ^ Griffiths, James (17 April 2021). "From cover-up to propaganda blitz: China's attempts to control the narrative on Xinjiang". CNN.
  43. ^ Sebok, Filip (30 April 2021). "Czechia: A Case Study of China's Changing Overseas Propaganda Efforts". The Diplomat.
  44. ^ "China's Pushback: Beijing questions Western reporting on Xinjiang". Al Jazeera. 25 July 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  45. ^ Westcott, Ben (25 February 2020). "Chinese government disputes Xinjiang detention records leaked to CNN". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  46. ^ Guenfoud, Ibtissem; Davies, Guy (7 March 2021). "Uighur woman living in France speaks out about alleged Chinese 're-education' camp horrors". ABC News.
  47. ^ Chan, John (22 March 2021). "E.U. and Allies Sanction PRC Officials for Xinjiang Abuses; China Retaliates Against Politicians, Diplomats, Academics". China Digital Times.
  48. ^ Cheung, Rachel; Wilhelm, Benjamin (31 March 2021). "China Lashes Out to Silence Its Xinjiang Critics". World Politics Review. The Chinese government has long denied any human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, even as an increasing number of reports shed light on its brutal repression of mostly Muslim Uyghurs there. But in the face of mounting international pressure and now sanctions, Beijing is going on the offensive to silence critics of all stripes.
  49. ^ Mai, Jun; Lew, Linda (12 April 2021). "Xinjiang court to hear defamation case against German researcher Adrian Zenz over forced labour claims". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  50. ^ Emmott, Robin; Brunnstromm, David (22 March 2021). "West sanctions China over Xinjiang abuses, Beijing hits back at EU". Reuters.
  51. ^ a b c Cook, Lorne (22 March 2021). "EU, US, UK, Canada target China officials over Uyghur abuses". Associated Press.
  52. ^ Fischer, Andrew Martin (2013). The Disempowered Development of Tibet in China: A Study in the Economics of Marginalization. Studies in Modern Tibetan Culture. Lexington Books. p. 287 n. 22 and 23. ISBN 9780739134399.
  53. ^ Fischer, Andrew M. (2014). "Reviewed Work(s): 'Tibetanness' under Threat? Neo-integrationism, Minority Education and Career Strategies in Qinghai, P.R. China by Adrian Zenz". The China Quarterly. 219: 886–888. doi:10.1017/S0305741014000927. JSTOR 24740656. S2CID 154326730.
  54. ^ a b c Barnett, Robert (29 March 2021). "China's Policies in Its Far West: The Claim of Tibet-Xinjiang Equivalence". Asia Unbound. Council on Foreign Relations.

External links