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Chinese Uyghur detention camp database published by BBC

The BBC published a major database of pictures taken inside the Chinese Uyghur detention camp. As stated by the broadcaster, the entire system of, what Chinese authorities call, re-education camps have more in common with the detention camps of the Soviet Union than anything else.

In a database called the Xinjiang Police Files, there are more than 5,000 police photographs of Uyghurs, taken between January and July 2018. The youngest of these people, Rahile Omer, was 14 or 15 years old at the time of her arrest. The oldest, Anihan Hamit – 73 years old.

Some photographs also show guards standing by with batons. The BBC recalls that Chinese officials have consistently argued that “learning” at the centres is not compulsory. Foreign Ministry head Wang Yi asserted in 2019 that these are “schools that help people free themselves from extremism”.

Warning shot, then shoot to kill

Among the leaked files, however, are protocols showing that the camps had officers armed with machine guns and sniper rifles and that they were told to fire a warning shot and then “shoot to kill” in the event of an escape attempt.

Detainee photos and ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy revealed in China hack

— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 24, 2022

The database contains information about 250,000 Uyghurs and annotations of who was detained and in which centre. There are people sentenced to prison for “crimes” committed even decades earlier. One man heard a 10-year sentence in 2017 for “studying Islamic scriptures with his grandmother” for several days in 2010, the BBC reported.

Hundreds of others were punished for using mobile phones, such as listening to “illegal lectures” or having unauthorised apps. Others were sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for not using their phones and were therefore deemed to be trying to evade electronic surveillance.

How did the document emerge

The source of the documents claimed to have stolen them from police servers in Xinjiang. The BBC contacted the source directly, however, he refused to reveal his identity.

The BBC notes that the police protocols are written in an ordinary Microsoft Word document and it is difficult to independently confirm their authenticity. However, they are in the database together with other materials, such as photographs, which are easier to verify.

Beijing’s response

A request to the PRC authorities for comment on the documents was answered by the Chinese embassy in the US. “The issues related to Xinjiang are actually about countering violent terrorism, radicalisation and separatism, not human rights or religion,” the embassy wrote in a statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Michelle Bachelet ends her stay in China today. Among other things, she is scheduled to visit Xinjiang province.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s human rights chief, visited China to independently examine rights in the country, especially in Xinjiang amid the crackdown on Uyghurs.

But the trip has instead become fresh material for Beijing’s propaganda about the region.

— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 27, 2022

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