Scores of Chinese government bodies are engaged in an elaborate whole-of-government campaign of repression targeting Muslim Uyghurs in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, according to report published this week by an Australian think tank.
The report by the independent, nonpartisan Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) details the deep involvement of Chinese government agencies in a systematic effort to suppress the Uyghurs and their culture that has drawn accusations of genocide in several Western capitals.
The report titled “The Architecture of Repression: Unpacking Xinjiang’s Governance” is the latest document presenting evidence of the ramping up since 2014 of systematic human rights abuses of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The authors of the 80-page report reviewed thousands of Chinese-language sources, including leaked police records and government budget documents never before published, to map and analyze the mechanisms used by the Chinese government in the XUAR from 2014 to 2021, a period of mounting repression.
“The project maps out and analyzes Xinjiang’s vast and opaque bureaucratic structure that has operationalized the party-state’s war on Uyghurs,” tweeted report co-author Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, an Australian policy analyst and journalist known for exposing human rights abuses in China.
“Xinjiang’s community-based control mechanisms are part of a national push to enhance grassroots governance, which seeks to mobilize the masses to help stamp out dissent and instability and to increase the party’s domination in the lowest reaches of society,” the report says.
The research — funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office — sheds light on the implementation of five policies, including one the authors call the “Trinity” mechanism, to penetrate the everyday lives of Uyghurs in the XUAR at the grassroots level.
Introduced at the beginning of a 2014 counterterrorism campaign in the XUAR and later implemented throughout the region, the ‘Trinity’ mechanism ensures that neighborhood or village committee officials, police officers, and teams of officials who visit or occupy Uyghur homes co-manage every neighborhood and village.
“In Xinjiang, the neighborhood or village committee is the principal arbitrator of the re-education processes,” the report says. “During the Re-education Campaign, the Trinity mechanism holds at least two daily meetings: a ‘morning dispatch’ to assign home visits and ‘investigations’, and an ‘evening evaluation’ to decide what actions to take in response to those ‘investigations’, including whether any individuals should be sent away for re-education.”
China has held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of internment camps since 2017. Beijing says the camps are vocational training centers designed to combat extremism and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated Uyghurs living in Xinjiang.
“In some cases, individuals are stopped at checkpoints and interrogated at local police stations by intelligence officers before being sent to the camps,” says the report.
“When they’re released, they return to the Neighborhood Committee’s ‘management and control,’” it says, referring to the organization responsible for local party control.
The four other policies are the use of police substations in Xinjiang neighborhoods and villagers; a grid management system in which a local manager and other staff report potential problems in their communities; the compulsory Fanghuiju program in which majority Han Chinese officials and sometimes civilians are mobilized to visit or occupy the homes of Uyghur families; and a program under which neighborhoods grids are divided into micro-units of 10 households.
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