Server hack yields harrowing images of life inside Chinese detention camps
A hack on police servers in China’s Xinjiang region has yielded thousands of graphic images and videos of Uighur detainees suffering in detention camps in one of the starkest accounts yet of the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the country’s persecution of ethnic minorities.
The images are accompanied by training manuals, detailed police work rosters, and instructions for guarding the camps. Using a euphemism to describe inmates, one document states: “If students do not respond to warning shots and continue to try to escape, the armed police shoot to kill,” the BBC reported. Images show one prisoner in an iron torture device known as a tiger chair, which immobilizes the arms. Der Spiegel, one of the other outlets that published the tranch of hacked photos and documents, said it confirmed their authenticity in part by analyzing GPS data included in some of the images.
“The material is unprecedented on several levels,” Dr. Adrian Zenz, director and senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, who obtained the files and shared them with news outlets, wrote on Twitter. His thread provided a broad overview of the leaked materials that included “high-level speeches, implicating top leadership and containing blunt language,” “camp security instructions, far more detailed than China Cables [that] describe heavily armed strike units with battlefield assault rifles,” and other evidence of Uighur oppression at the hands of the Chinese government.
Most of the images and documents are available on a dedicated site. Contents include the images of 2,884 detainees, training images and Powerpoint documents for security drills, and speeches and directives from top government officials documenting Beijing’s knowledge and backing of the camps and policies.
Little is known about the specifics of the hack that made the leaked items available. The BBC said only that, “The source of the files claims to have hacked, downloaded and decrypted them from a number of police computer servers in Xinjiang, before passing them to Dr. Adrian Zenz, a scholar at the US-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who has previously been sanctioned by the Chinese government for his influential research on Xinjiang.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, issued a statement to the BBC that said: “Xinjiang related issues are in essence about countering violent terrorism, radicalization, and separatism, not about human rights or religion,” and went on to say that Chinese authorities had taken “a host of decisive, robust and effective deradicalization measures.” The statement added: “The local people are living a safe, happy, and fulfilling life.”