The Xinjiang Police Filesthe leak that has revealed tens of thousands of documents that ratify the campaign of systematic repression of the Beijing Government against the Uyghur Muslim minority, have portrayed for the first time the modus operandi of the Chinese police in the so-called “re-education camps”. A collection of photographs taken at one of these centers in Tekes, Ili Kazakh prefecture, Xinjiang, shows armed officers transferring inmates or interrogating inmates in so-called tiger chairs, seats prepared to chain detainees and interrogate them for many hours —even days—. The harshness of the images shows the violence of the prison system that operates in the re-education camps, in which China has interned between one and two million Uyghurs, and contradicts the Beijing version, which places these facilities as training centers under the emblem of “transformation through education”.
The strong security measures that surround these facilities, which have walls, fences, towers, surveillance systems and armed police stations, were already known thanks to satellite images. Previous leaks also contained government documents that demanded protocols to prevent the inmates from escaping – that is, they cannot leave freely, as Beijing claims – and the purchase of police equipment to arm officials. But in addition to the photographs of Tekes, the leak, to which EL PAÍS has had access and which was obtained by an anonymous foreign source who hacked into the computer systems of the Chinese police, includes internal documents on the regulations for police action of a Konasheher Reeducation Center in Kashgar Prefecture, also in Xinjiang. The combination of the two groups of files, that of the Tekes photos —with metadata that places them between April 2017 and September 2018, like the rest of the tens of thousands of files—, and that of the documents of Konasheher, allows to know the strong security measures and the practices of police mistreatment that take place in the re-education camps in which the Uyghurs are interned.
1. Forced injections and violent arrests
The image that heads this article, in which an elderly man receives an injection, taken on August 25, 2018, reflects the efforts in monitoring detainees, even when they go to receive medical treatment. The man is handcuffed and surrounded by officers carrying bats. According to a report by Amnesty International, former inmates in re-education centers have confirmed that they have received injections without their consent. The photograph attests to the security guidelines contained in one of the leaked Konasheher documents, according to which detainees in need of medical care can only be sent to a hospital if they undergo strict security screening. Specifically, they must be escorted by at least four people (two police officers, one civil servant and one medical staff member) and their mobility must be limited with handcuffs or shackles.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The second image, which precedes this section, shows the harshness of the arrests. A man is being restrained, with the intervention of five policemen and two officials, who carry wooden clubs and handcuffs.
2. Arrest and interrogation in a ‘tiger chair’
Between the first photograph of the series in this section, captured on September 25, 2018 by an official at a Tekes detention center, and the third, only four minutes have elapsed, according to the metadata in the files. But those four minutes contain the visual testimony of an arrest process: a man, his head covered with a black hood, walks with his hands and feet handcuffed while several armed policemen in riot gear surround him. They are escorting him to the interrogation room, where he will be seated on a tiger chair while another official will ask you questions. The use of tiger chairs It has been pointed out in an Amnesty International report as proof of mistreatment of detainees, who can spend entire days chained in these types of seats.
3. Use of shackles, handcuffs and hoods
The Beijing government has argued that the so-called “re-education centers” are a kind of residence where students, who, as they show, The Xinjiang Police Files they can reach over 70 years, they have freedom of movement. However, these two images show that the inmates are treated like dangerous criminals, always surrounded by strong security measures. They were taken on the same day, September 30, 2018, with a difference of one minute, and in the same place, as certified by some elements that appear in both, such as the yellow lines on the ground and the colors of Wall. The sequence is clear: a group of policemen armed with bats and riot gear surrounds some detainees. In the following photograph, it is discovered that those arrested are two people who are squatting with their heads covered and their hands handcuffed, while two agents seem to manipulate the shackles on their feet.
4. Indoctrination under police surveillance
Police presence is constant in education centers, even in situations where inmates appear to be being indoctrinated. In the first image, a group of men form two rows under the watchful eye of uniformed men. “It seems that they recite or sing something,” explains the German researcher Adrian Zenz, who has directed this investigation in which 14 international media have participated, including EL PAÍS. In the second, the detainees watch what appears to be a televised talk by Nurlan Abdumalin, governor of the Ili Kazakh prefecture, according to Zenz, also guarded by a group of agents. In the third photograph, which appears to be taken in a similar room used for instruction, the alleged students are being frisked.
5. Intervention of special forces inside the center
The police in the re-education centers are heavily armed. There is, however, a difference between officers with surnames from the region, who are only allowed to carry non-firearms, and Han officers, the majority ethnic group in China, who are allowed to carry rifles or pistols. In the event that those arrested try to escape or “create problems” in any type of activity, according to clarifying documents of The Xinjiang Police Files, an “armed attack group” must be mobilized and “the entire camp must be sealed”. Despite the detail in the instructions, there is no guideline recommending that the first attempt to quell a rebellion be non-lethal, for example with a warning shot or even to the legs. This absence of protocol demonstrates the veracity of the order given in one of the speeches by the former secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Xinjiang Chen Quanguo, to “shoot to kill” the inmates.
These two images of armed policemen in what, according to Zenz, appears to be a “riot or anti-flight drill”, taken on February 14, 2018 at a Tekes reeducation center, visualize this process of police mobilization. The agents appear dressed in green combat clothing and carrying large wooden clubs, firearms, helmets and shields, a material that does not fit, once again, with the image of a student residence that Beijing attributes to reeducation centers.
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits