BEIJING (Reuters) – A trove of leaked Chinese government documents reveals details of its clampdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in the country’s western Xinjiang region under President Xi Jinping, the New York Times reported.
United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps in Xinjiang in a crackdown that has drawn condemnation from the United States and other countries.
The documents, which the newspaper on Saturday said were leaked by “a member of the Chinese political establishment”, show how Xi gave a series of internal speeches to officials during and after a 2014 visit to Xinjiang following a stabbing attack by Uighur militants at a train station that killed 31 people.
The report said Xi called for an “all-out ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism’ using the ‘organs of dictatorship,’ and showing ‘absolutely no mercy’.”
The documents show that the Chinese leadership’s fears were heightened by militant attacks in other countries and the U.S. drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.
It was unclear how the documents, totalling 403 pages, were gathered and selected, the newspaper said.
Beijing denies any mistreatment of the Uighurs or others in Xinjiang, saying it is providing vocational training to help stamp out Islamic extremism and separatism and teach new skills.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not deny the authenticity of the documents, but said the New York Times report was “a clumsy patchwork of selective interpretation” that was “deaf and blind to the facts.”
“The public in Xinjiang wholeheartedly endorsed China’s measures to maintain stability. China will show no mercy to terrorists and will spare no measures in protecting people’s lives and safety,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
“The experience could be borrowed in other countries.”
In London, China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, was asked about the report during a press conference mainly focused on Hong Kong.
“I can categorically deny there is such a document,” he said. “It is sheer, pure fabrication.”
The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Monday that the report “lacks morality” and accused some in the West of being “eager to see Xinjiang engulfed in extreme violence and chaos”.
It said China had taken “decisive measures” in the region to ensure it did not become “another Republic of Chechnya”.
The documents show how officials were given talking points to explain to returning university students that their family members had been taken away for training, and how the programme faced pushback from some local officials, the report said.
They also show that the internment camps expanded quickly after Chen Quanguo was appointed in August 2016 as the party boss of the region, the report said. Chen had taken a tough line to quell restiveness against Communist Party rule during his previous posting in Tibet.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Additional reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai, Cate Cadell in Beijing and Estelle Shirbon in London; Editing by Kim Coghill, Sam Holmes and Mike Collett-White)