Xinjiang papers

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Map showing the location of Xinjiang, China

The Xinjiang papers are a collection of more than 400 pages of internal Chinese government documents describing the government policy regarding Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.[1][2] In November 2019, journalists Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley at The New York Times broke the story that characterized the documents as "one of the most significant leaks of government papers from inside China's ruling Communist Party in decades."[1] According to The New York Times, the documents were leaked by a source inside the Chinese Communist Party and include a breakdown of how China created and organized the Xinjiang internment camps.[1]

In response to the Xinjiang papers' publication, the Chinese government claimed the documents were "sheer, pure fabrication".[3] The leak has led to increased scrutiny and criticism of China's internment camps in Xinjiang.[4][5]

Description and contents[edit]

The Xinjiang papers are a collection of over 400 pages of leaked internal Chinese documents detailing the detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by the Chinese Communist Party. They consist of internal speeches by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping and other officials, reports of population control and surveillance of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and internal investigations into local officials.[6]

Internal Speeches by Xi and other officials[edit]

In a series of internal speeches in 2014, Xi called for a "struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism" in Xinjiang.[1] Responding to terror attacks in Xinjiang, Xi called for the Chinese government to be "as harsh as them" and "show absolutely no mercy."[1] Xi compared Islamic extremism to a "virus-like contagion" and a "dangerously addictive drug", which would require "a period of painful, interventionary treatment."[1] Xi mentioned that internment camps must implement "effective educational remolding and transformation of criminals", and that "education and transformation" must continue after people were released.[1]

Xi warned that unrest in Syria and Afghanistan would allow terrorist organizations to infiltrate into Central Asia and launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. He stated that if violence spread to other parts of China, "social stability will suffer shocks, the general unity of people of every ethnicity will be damaged, and the broad outlook for reform, development, and stability will be affected."[1] In their campaign in Xinjiang, Xi encouraged officials to emulate America's "war on terror" following the September 11 attacks.[1] According to The New York Times, Xi's speeches show how he views threats to the party through the lens of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he attributed to "ideological laxity and spineless leadership."[1]

The Xinjiang papers also contain internal speeches by other CCP officials. Zhu Hailun, Xinjiang's former top security official, cited terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom as a "warning and lesson"[1] for China to adequately control the propagation of extremism. Zhu claimed that the UK's terrorist attacks could be attributed to the British government's "excessive emphasis on human rights above security."[1] Chen Quanguo, Party Secretary of Xinjiang, said that struggling against terror and safeguarding stability was a "protracted war" and a "war of offense."[1]

Reports of population control and surveillance[edit]

The documents contain directives and reports on the surveillance and control of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. According to the leaked papers, the internment and surveillance of Uyghur Muslims expanded rapidly after the appointment of Chen Quanguo as the Party Secretary of Xinjiang in 2016. Chen ordered officers to "prepare for a smashing, obliterating offensive" and "round up everyone who should be rounded up."[1] This included the detention of anyone with "symptoms of religious radicalism or antigovernment views", including giving up smoking or drinking, wearing long beards, praying outside mosques, and studying Arabic.[1]

The documents contain a script for local officials in Turpan to use in order to answer questions asked by the children of parents sent to internment camps. Officials were instructed to tell returning students that their parents were in a "training school set up by the government" because they had been "infected by unhealthy thoughts."[7] If students asked why their parents could not come home, officials were to say that they needed to "undergo enclosed, isolated treatment", and their unhealthy thoughts needed to be "dealt with like detox for drug addicts."[7] Students were instructed to "not believe or spread rumors" and "abide by the states' laws and rules", which could then "add points" for their relatives and shorten their detentions.[1]

Internal investigations into local officials[edit]

The documents state that the internment campaign faced doubts and resistance from local officials, some of whom were purged or jailed.[2] They specifically mention Wang Yongzhi, the former Party Secretary of Yarkand County.[8] Wang privately disagreed with the scale of the detentions and ordered the release of over 7,000 inmates, which allegedly led him to be stripped of power and imprisoned. According to The New York Times, the party "made an example" of Wang to show they would not tolerate any resistance to their campaign.[1]

Publication by The New York Times[edit]

On November 16, 2019, Ramzy and Buckley of The New York Times published the Xinjiang papers in an article titled "'Absolutely No Mercy': Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detention of Muslims". The documents were published along with translated excerpts and their own analysis. Ramzy and Buckley state that the documents were provided by a Chinese government official who requested anonymity and hoped to "prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions."[1]

The publication of the Xinjiang papers was followed by the China Cables leak a few days later. Other documents allegedly leaked from Chinese government sources include the Aksu List and the Karakax List.[9] Following the Xinjiang papers leak, the Xinjiang regional government ordered government officials to tighten control on sensitive information by deleting data, destroying documents, and restricting information transfer.[10]

Along with other reports of Uyghur repression in China, "Absolutely No Mercy: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detention of Muslims" was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 under the International Reporting category.[11]



Geng in a press conference in 2017

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang responded to The New York Times report in a press conference on November 18, 2019. Geng said that Xinjiang-related issues are purely domestic affairs and the government's measures "have been endorsed by all ethnic groups."[12] Geng accused The New York Times of using "clumsy patchwork and distortion" to "hype up the so-called 'internal documents'" and "smear China's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts."[13]

A spokesperson for the Xinjiang regional government stated that the report was "full of nonsense, lies, and sinister intentions" and was "completely fabricated."[14] China's ambassador to the United Kingdom described the documents as "sheer, pure fabrication".[3]

While The New York Times said that Wang Yongzhi was arrested for refusing to carry out detentions,[1] a 2018 report from China Daily wrote that Wang was removed for "serious disciplinary violations" including "bribery, corruption, and abuse of power."[15] Following The New York Times publication, some netizens shared the article on Chinese platform Sina Weibo and wrote tributes to him on social media.[16][17]



Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called The New York Times report "disturbing" and stated that it reinforced Australia's resolve to raise their human rights concerns with Beijing.[18] Penny Wong, foreign affairs spokesperson for the Australian Labor Party, called the report "deeply disturbing" and urged China to respond "transparently and swiftly."[19] Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale described the report as "horrifying" and stated that Australia needed to "play an active diplomatic role in putting maximum pressure on China."[19]


Citing evidence from the "Chinese Government's own documents, satellite imagery, and eyewitness testimony", Global Affairs Canada issued a joint statement with the United Kingdom calling for China to end its "human rights violations and abuses" in Xinjiang.[20] Canada called on China to allow independent members of the international community to investigate the situation in Xinjiang.[20] In coordination with the UK and other international partners, Canada announced business measures to address human rights abuses in Xinjiang. These measures include the prohibition of imports produced by forced labor, a Xinjiang Integrity Declaration for Canadian companies, and the issuance of a third-party analysis on forced labor and supply chain risks.[21][22]

United Kingdom[edit]

Following the Xinjiang papers and China Cables leaks, the UK cited the "Chinese authorities' own government documents"[23] as evidence of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims, including forced labor and extrajudicial detention. In coordination with international partners, including Canada, the UK announced business measures to ensure that UK organizations are not "contributing to the abuse of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang."[23] This includes a review of export controls to Xinjiang and the introduction of financial penalties for organizations violating the Modern Slavery Act.[23]

United States[edit]

In a press conference on November 26, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Xinjiang papers "detail the Chinese party's brutal detention and systematic repression of Uyghurs."[24] Pompeo said that the documents align with a growing body of evidence that China is committing human rights violations. He called for the Chinese government to end its policies in Xinjiang and "immediately release all those who are arbitrarily detained."[24] In a speech to the United States Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the leaked documents a "handbook for [an] Orwellian campaign to effectively erase a religious and ethnic minority."[25]

Several US politicians retweeted the article by The New York Times, including Joe Biden, Ilhan Omar, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren. Biden described China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims as "among the worst abuses of human rights in the world today",[26] while Omar called the documents a "chilling portrait of the Chinese government's campaign of mass detention and ethnic cleansing."[27] Schumer wrote that the Xinjiang papers "exposes the Chinese Communist Party's lies" and reveals a "brutal [and] repressive campaign" against Uyghur Muslims.[26] Warren described China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims as a "horrifying human rights violation" and said that "we must stand up to hatred and extremism at home -- and around the world."[28]

Several US lawmakers cited the Xinjiang papers in calling for the passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act,[27] which condemns human rights violations in Xinjiang and calls for sanctions against Chen Quanguo.[29][30] The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on June 17, 2020.[30] Under the Global Magnitsky Act, the US has imposed sanctions on Chen Quanguo, Zhu Hailun, and two other government officials "in connection with serious human rights abuses"[31] in Xinjiang.[32]

The Xinjiang papers leak also prompted calls for the US to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.[33][34] While US Department of State spokesman Ned Price said the US wished to discuss a possible boycott with allies to object to China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims, the State Department has denied that any discussions had been ongoing.[35][36]

Allegations of human rights violations[edit]

The Xinjiang papers leak contributed to accusations of extrajudicial detention and genocide against the Chinese government.[37][38] According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the documents demonstrate the "scale and depth of Beijing's Xinjiang program" and make it difficult for China to deny allegations of Uyghur and Muslim persecution.[5]

Some claim that the documents constitute a "direct linkage" between CCP leadership and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.[39] Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said that the papers "reveal a premeditated policy from the highest levels of the Chinese government to eradicate our identity."[40] According to an article in International Security, the Xinjiang papers "confirm the importance of terrorism in the minds of senior party leaders, including Xi Jinping."[41]

The Xinjiang papers have been cited as evidence of Uyghur genocide by the Chinese government against Uyghur Muslims.[37][42][43] Along with other leaked documents, the publication of the Xinjiang papers led to increased attention and scrutiny of China's internment camps in Xinjiang.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Ramzy, Austin; Buckley, Chris (16 November 2019). "'Absolutely No Mercy': Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2019-12-22. Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  2. ^ a b Kuo, Lily (17 November 2019). "'Show no mercy': leaked documents reveal details of China's Xinjiang detentions". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2019-11-18. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  3. ^ a b Reuters Staff (18 November 2019). "China attacks Western reporting on Xinjiang as 'pure fabrication'". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-04-27. {{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ a b Sandler, Rachel (17 November 2019). "Leaked Documents Show Xi Jinping's Secret Speeches About China's Uighur Crackdown". Forbes. Retrieved 2021-04-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b Dilleen, Connor (18 November 2019). "Xinjiang revelations a blow to Beijing's credibility and Xi's leadership". The Strategist. Retrieved 2021-04-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Uighurs and their supporters decry Chinese 'concentration camps,' 'genocide' after Xinjiang documents leaked". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  7. ^ a b "Document: What Chinese Officials Told Children Whose Families Were Put in Camps". The New York Times. 16 November 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  8. ^ Li, Jane (18 November 2019). ""He refused": China sees online tributes to an official who freed Muslims in Xinjiang". Quartz. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  9. ^ "China: Big Data Program Targets Xinjiang's Muslims". Human Rights Watch. 9 December 2020. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  10. ^ "China deletes data, destroys documents after leaks on Uighur camps". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 December 2019. Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  11. ^ "Finalist: Staff of The New York Times". The Pulitzer Prizes. 2020. Retrieved 2021-05-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on November 18, 2019". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  13. ^ "Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on November 18, 2019 — Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Adelaide All Rights Reserved". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  14. ^ Yan, Li (19 November 2019). "Xinjiang's government spokesperson refutes NYT fake report on". ECNS. Retrieved 2021-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ 伍妍. "Xinjiang official removed, expelled". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  16. ^ Li, Jane (18 November 2019). ""He refused": China sees online tributes to an official who freed Muslims in Xinjiang". Quartz. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  17. ^ Ma, Alexandra (20 November 2019). "People in China are bypassing its internet firewall to read explosive leaked files about Uighur oppression, and saluting an official who disobeyed Xi Jinping". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  18. ^ "Statement on reports on Xinjiang". Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  19. ^ a b Hunter, Fergus (17 November 2019). "China's brutal detention regime revealed in leaked documents". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  20. ^ a b Canada, Global Affairs (22 March 2021). "Foreign Ministers' joint statement on Xinjiang". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  21. ^ Canada, Global Affairs (12 January 2021). "Canada announces new measures to address human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  22. ^ Canada, Global Affairs (12 January 2021). "Measures Related to the Human Rights Situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  23. ^ a b c "UK Government announces business measures over Xinjiang human rights abuses". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  24. ^ a b "Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  25. ^ "McConnell: Chinese Communist Party Must Not Make Hong Kong a '21st-Century Version of Tiananmen Square' | Republican Leader". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  26. ^ a b Myers, Steven Lee (18 November 2019). "China Defends Crackdown on Muslims, and Criticizes Times Article". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  27. ^ a b "'Xinjiang Papers' Leak Spurs Calls For Action on China's Uyghur Camps". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  28. ^ Beachum, Lateshia (18 November 2019). "Uighurs and their supporters decry Chinese 'concentration camps,' 'genocide' after Xinjiang documents leaked". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ Edmondson, Catie (27 May 2020). "House Passes Uighur Human Rights Bill, Prodding Trump to Punish China". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  30. ^ a b "All Info - S.3744 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020". 116th Congress (2019-2020). 17 June 2020. Retrieved 2021-05-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ "Treasury Sanctions Chinese Entity and Officials Pursuant to Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act | U.S. Department of the Treasury". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  32. ^ "Xinjiang: US sanctions on Chinese officials over 'abuse' of Muslims". BBC News. 9 July 2020. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  33. ^ Mazza, Michael (29 November 2019). "Opinion: The U.S. should boycott Beijing's 2022 Winter Olympics". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ Westcott, Ben (2 December 2019). "Beijing won't back down despite Xinjiang revelations". CNN. Retrieved 2021-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. ^ "A U.S. boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics is more likely than not". Fortune. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  36. ^ Macias, Amanda (6 April 2021). "U.S. State Department backs away from the idea of a Beijing Olympics boycott". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  37. ^ a b Finnegan, Ciara (11 January 2020). "The Uyghur Minority in China: A Case Study of Cultural Genocide, Minority Rights and the Insufficiency of the International Legal Framework in Preventing State-Imposed Extinction". Laws. 9 (1): 1. doi:10.3390/laws9010001. ISSN 2075-471X.
  38. ^ Holder, Ross (18 February 2020). "On the interrelatedness of human rights, culture and religion: considering the significance of cultural rights in protecting the religious identity of China's Uyghur minority". The International Journal of Human Rights. 25 (5): 771–792. doi:10.1080/13642987.2020.1725487. ISSN 1364-2987. S2CID 212757176.
  39. ^ Lowsen, Ben. "Smuggling Out the Truth: The Story of the Xinjiang Papers and China Cables". Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  40. ^ "Leak to New York Times Should Be Followed By Action From International Community". World Uyghur Congress. 18 November 2019. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  41. ^ Greitens, Sheena Chestnut; Lee, Myunghee; Yazici, Emir (Winter 2019–2020). "Counterterrorism and Preventive Repression: China's Changing Strategy in Xinjiang". International Security. 44 (3): 9–47. doi:10.1162/isec_a_00368. ISSN 0162-2889.
  42. ^ "The world must not let the Xinjiang whistleblower down". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  43. ^ "Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang? Applying the Legal Tests". Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The University of Queensland. November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)