THE WORDS are chilling. When Chinese students returned to Xinjiang province to find their relatives missing and hauled off to brainwashing camps, a guide written by the authorities told them not to worry. “Treasure this chance for free education that the party and government has provided to thoroughly eradicate erroneous thinking, and also learn Chinese and job skills,” it said. “This offers a great foundation for a happy life for your family.”
This is the face of cultural genocide. China is eradicating the language, traditions and religion of Uighur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in China’s far northwest, corralling them into concentration camps and bombarding them with indoctrination by the Communist Party. The student guide was revealed by the New York Times along with hundreds of other pages of internal documents that show how the campaign is driven from the top by Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping.
China has insisted the camps are nothing more than vocational education and training centers aimed at combating violent Islamist extremism. To the returning students, soothing reassurances were offered that their vanished relatives were enjoying free food and living costs, “and the standards are quite high.” But the reality portrayed by eyewitnesses who left the facilities, as well as in satellite photography, is of an archipelago of prison camps, holding as many as 1 million people, surrounded by barbed wire and monitored continuously by surveillance cameras, with a goal of wiping out the traditions of the Uighurs and others in the region and pounding into them the Communist ideology.
The documents made public by the Times show how the camps were established based on a push by the highest levels of China’s government, a response to sporadic anti-government violence in the region. In 2016, China appointed a zealous new party chief to Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, who expanded the concentration camps and exhorted subordinates to “round up everyone who should be rounded up.” The documents also include secret speeches by Mr. Xi in which he denounces religious extremism in brutal terms and demands that the thinking and mind-set of China’s Muslim minorities be rewired. “The weapons of the people’s democratic dictatorship must be wielded without any hesitation or wavering,” Mr. Xi insisted. Others used terms such as “virus” and “infected” to describe the thinking of those Muslims who were imprisoned.
China’s leaders have repeatedly turned aside questions from abroad about the camps by saying it is an internal matter. The Times says it obtained the documents from a “member of the Chinese political establishment” hoping to make sure Mr. Xi and the leadership are held to account for the mass detentions. The world must not let this whistleblower down.