(Researcher of Ilham Tohti Institute and Dutch Uyghur Human Rights Foundation)
August 29, 2020 is the 4th anniversary of the transfer of Chen Quanguo, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Party Committee. During the four years of Chen’s repressive rule, Uyghurs have experienced unprecedented suffering, including being detained in concentration camps and being subject to ethnic cleansing.
The CCP has always had an obsessive fixation on public opinion; however, after the so-called “Xinjiang re-education camps” were severely criticised by the media and the public alike, Chen Quanguo was still able to sit firmly in the position of “Xinjiang’s most powerful man” without any change. This shows that Chen is “special” to the CCP. This “special” status of Chen reflects Xi Jinping’s “employment methods”.
Xi Jinping has mentioned many times in public that “the rise and fall of a career depends on the effective use of people; the most important thing in using people is to guide them.” So in the key position of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Party Committee, Xi Jinping needs to choose a “special” person . He needs someone like Chen Quanguo, who has accumulated all kinds of experience in suppressing people at the grassroots level for many years. Furthermore, Chen knows the grassroots level well, and he understands the laws of operation that govern the CCP.
Since Chen Quanguo started at the base level in Henan in 1983, he has 27 years of grassroots governance experience. After that, he was appointed as the secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the Communist Party of China on August 25, 2011. On May 8, 2012, he was elected as the first secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Military Region. He was in power in Tibet for 5 years. Until August 29, 2016, he was transferred to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Party Committee as Party Secretary and concurrently the first secretary and first political commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
Chen Quanguo carried out a series of policies to suppress Tibetans during his administration in Tibet, and committed an unprecedented genocide against Tibetans.His brutality in Tibet made him the most “suitable” candidate to suppress Uyghurs. However, during that period, the CCP also repeatedly emphasized the use of “Li Yunlong-style” officials and required officials to be “proactive.” The CCP believes that “people who are not firm in their political stance cannot deal with the Uyghur and Tibetan issues.”
The “Xinjiang Work Symposium” was held by the State Council of the Communist Party of China in 2010, after the 7.5 incident. At this symposium, Hu Jintao said, “The central government’s policies on Xinjiang throughout various periods are completely correct. Strengthening ethnic unity is the fundamental guarantee for long-term stability and maintaining society. Stability is the basic prerequisite for development and progress.”
Before the Xinjiang Work Conference of the CCP, on March 30, 2010, Beijing held the “National Counterpart Support Xinjiang Work Conference”. The meeting sent a signal that the central government would speed up Xinjiang’s “leapfrog development” by advancing a new round of counterpart assistance to Xinjiang. The meeting determined that 19 provinces and cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangdong, Liaoning, and Shenzhen will undertake the task of supporting Xinjiang. At that time, the CCP’s Xinjiang policy was implemented under the pretext that “Xinjiang is unsafe, unstable, and uncertain, and the task of maintaining social stability in Xinjiang is extremely difficult and onerous”.
Sure enough, after the Xinjiang Work Conference held in May 2010, the CCP began to implement the “counterpart aid Xinjiang” policy, mainly targeting the five prefectures in the southern Uyghur region.
The CCP designated Beijing to assist in the construction of Hotan City, Moyu County, Hotan County, Luopu County and the 14th Agricultural Division of the Corps; Tianjin to assist in the construction of Tian County, Cele County and Minfeng County, and to assist in the construction of Pishan County in Anhui Province; Jiangxi Province provides counterpart support in Akto County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture; Guangdong Province and Shenzhen City respectively support Shufu County, Jiashi County, and Tumushuk City, Kashgar City and Taxkorgan County of the Third Agricultural Division of the Kashgar Prefecture; Zhejiang supports 1 city and 8 counties in Aksu Prefecture and Alar City of the Agricultural First Division of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps; Shanghai counterparts support Kashgar and other regions.
These series of policies implemented in the name of aid to Xinjiang are actually aimed at “assimilating Uyghurs.”
“Counter-part aid to Xinjiang” began as early as 1979, when the CCP issued the “Zhongfa (1979) №52” document that “organized inland provinces and municipalities to implement counterpart assistance to border areas and ethnic minority areas”. This was for the purpose of assimilating Uyghurs and other ethnic groups.
Subsequently, in March 1996, Jiang Zemin chaired a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee on a special study on stability in Xinjiang, and issued “Document №7” of the “Minutes of the Meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Stability in Xinjiang.” The document pointed out the decision of “training and deploying a large number of Han cadres who love Xinjiang, can adhere to the party’s basic theory, basic line, and basic policy, and who can correctly implement the party’s ethnic and religious policies to work in Xinjiang.” As a result, under the false name of “counterpart aid to Xinjiang”, the CCP’s policy of brutal suppression and genocide of Uyghurs officially kicked off.
In 2013, the CCP issued the №11 document “Several Guiding Opinions on Further Controlling Illegal Religious Activities According to Law and Containing Religious Extremist Thoughts (for Trial Implementation)”. At the same time, it organized a Xinjiang-wide study of “Identification of Religious Extremist Activities (75 Kind of specific performance)”. (1)
At the “Second Xinjiang Work Conference” held on May 26, 2014, Xi Jinping pointed out the following principles:
1) “Strengthen education and poverty alleviation work in Xinjiang, so that all ethnic groups can establish a correct view of the country and nation”;
2) “In Xinjiang, we must insist on giving priority to education, promote “bilingual” education, increase poverty alleviation funds, and actively guide religion to adapt to socialist society.”
3) “It is necessary to firmly establish a correct outlook on the motherland and nationality among the people of all ethnic groups, and strengthen the recognition of the people of all ethnic groups with the great motherland.”
4) “Social stability and long-term stability are the overall goals of Xinjiang’s work. We must prioritize cracking down on violent terrorist activities as the focus of the current struggle, insulate from terrorists, build vast network, and strengthen international anti-terrorism cooperation.” (2)
At this “Central Xinjiang Work Forum”, Xi Jinping also put forward for the first time the concept of “promoting the establishment of an embedded social structure and community environment for all ethnic groups” in Xinjiang. In fact, after the “Cultural Revolution”, China has been looking for a method to completely subdue Uyghurs. “Iron fist,” “softly curing Xinjiang,” and other “government policies to fix Xinjiang” have undergone several changes. Since 2014, “softly curing Xinjiang” is no longer the only option for the CCP to govern Uyghurs. Many controversial methods have emerged.
Xi Jinping’s proposal to promote the establishment of a “social structure and community environment in which all ethnic groups are embedded in each other” aims at adhering to the so-called “three inseparables” and incorporating Uyghurs, Tibetans and other ethnic groups in the “melting pot of the Chinese nation”.
After Xi Jinping’s idea was put forward, a series of studies on the establishment of such a social structure in each ethnic group began to appear in Chinese academic circles. A series of policies have also been issued in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Xinjiang region began to establish experimental sites for mutual embedded living between the Uyghur and Han nationalities. This experimental site was first implemented in the Hotan region of southern Xinjiang. (3)
The transfer of Chen Quanguo to the Uyghur region in 2016 signified the beginning of the terrifying genocide. Indeed, Chen implemented a series of tough and completely destructive policies against the Uyghurs. (4)
When Chen Quanguo took office, he first recruited more than 30,000 police officers and positioned police stations on every street in every town. 7,300 security checkpoints are located throughout the region. A network monitoring system with comprehensive coverage was also built. People’s mobile phones are checked at any time, and computers in universities must be equipped with monitoring equipment. Chen Quanguo created a vast network to monitor every street corner, every mobile phone, and every person.
Uyghurs’ passports were confiscated and they were forbidden to go abroad; Uyghurs who studied in Muslim countries were required to return to their country, and were detained and interrogated after returning; restrictions on Uyghurs’ free movement within the region were implemented. If Uyghurs intend to travel far away, they must apply to the Public Security Bureau, and their application may be rejected.A large number of Uyghurs were arrested and detained in so-called re-education camps, but they were actually like concentration camps in Nazi Germany. There are also many beatings and tortures in these “political training centres.” There is a lot of evidence that a considerable number of prominent Uyghurs have also been imprisoned in concentration camps. Chen Guoguo played the role of the chief leader of the “Gestapo” during the Nazi period.
There is evidence that in the southern region where Uyghurs live, almost all Uyghurs are arrested and their children are sent to orphanages – some are even sent to orphanages in eastern China, far away from their homeland.
In order to achieve the goal of assimilating the Uyghurs, Chen’s national authorities also resorted to all sorts of tricks and methods that are difficult to endure, and inconceivable. For example, Uyghurs are prohibited from fasting during Ramadan. The shops opened by Uighurs are also required to sell alcohol. Parents are forbidden to give their children Islamic names. A Uyghur cadre who quit smoking was demoted.
Beginning in September 2017, Chen Quanguo ordered the entire region to stop using Uyghur textbooks. From kindergartens to high schools, the use of Uyghur language and scripts was completely prohibited. Uyghurs have to learn Chinese from an early age. According to an Uzbek woman who applied for political asylum in the Netherlands and a former teacher in Xinjiang’s concentration camps, the people detained in the concentration camps are basically all Uyghurs. Her husband is also Uyghur. Although she has a formal occupation and social status, when she and her husband went to the local public security agency to apply to go abroad, they were publicly rejected. Because her husband is Uyghur, he is not allowed to go abroad; but she is Uzbek and not Uygur, therefore, she was allowed to go abroad. (5)
Obviously, the smooth implementation of Chen Quanguo’s extreme policies which even violate of the “Regional Autonomy Law” designated by the CCP itself, is inseparable from the strong support and various assistance from the CCP authorities under the leadership of Xi Jinping.
The Uyghur area under Chen Quanguo’s rule is called an “open-air prison” internationally, and it is undoubtedly the largest “open-air prison” in the world. Chen Quanguo’s hard work has been commended by Xi Jinping. In October 2017, at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Chen was promoted to a member of the Politburo and entered the top rung of the party, formed by the 25-member Politburo. When Xi Jinping visited Xinjiang in 2014, he said, “Don’t always settle economic accounts, focus on political accounts.” This obviously urges Chen Quanguo’s generation of government officials to impose more brutal suppression on Uyghurs, no matter the financial cost. The CCP’s “stability maintenance” in the Uyghur region costed 22.22 billion yuan in 2014, and increased to to 57.95 billion yuan in 2017: a staggering cumulative increase of 161%. Furthermore, there was a 92.6% increase in 2017 compared to 2016. From this data, it is not difficult to decipher the CCP’s firm ambition to exterminate Uyghurs. (6)
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released a confidential internal CCP document provided by me in November 2019. The document includes a work guideline personally approved and issued by Zhu Hailun, the top security official in Xinjiang. The document is regarded as a guidebook for the effective operation of detention camps. These confidential documents instruct the Chinese police how to use the extnsive data collection and analysis system. The system uses artificial intelligence to analyse the residents of the entire Uyghur region, it then classifies and draws up a list of persons to be arrested and detained, based on artificial intelligence data.
The leak of the CCP’s confidential documents marked a greater breakthrough in the outside world’s perception of the largest contemporary concentration camp systems. In the past two years, the outside world has only had access to narratives of refugees and ex-detainees, rumors and satellite images, in order to paint a picture of the open-air prison that is Xinjiang. Nonetheless, these sources resulted in the estimate that the CCP’s detention system in Xinjiang is large enough to accommodate 1 million or more people. These documents corroborate these estimations, and also outline the CCP’s large-scale data collection, surveillance, and security management projects in the Uyghur region.
As a follow-up to the confidential documents released by ICIJ in the “Moyu List” that broke out in February 2020, the present leak of China’s confidential documents reveals how Uyghurs were detained for growing a beard, wearing Islamic headdress and accessing the internet. The Chinese Communist regime has never stopped its crimes in the name of the country, under false pretence of a “Chinese nation”, the regime aims to deceive the world and export its terrifying policy through channels of globalisation.
The CCP’s crime of setting up Nazi-style concentration camps that undermine basic human morality, is a crime against humanity that violates international law. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, Chen Quanguo and others, the regime has committed the unforgivable crime of genocide against Uyghurs. This is completely a criminal act by the CCP. The authorities may be able to conceal it for a while, but the Chinese government will eventually be judged by history for its inhumane conduct.