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Shocking Leaked Memo Reveals Harsh Reality of China’s Anti-Religion Prison Camps

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A classified cache of official Chinese government documents pertaining to the country’s clandestine internment camps has been obtained by investigative journalists.


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Will Maule

The leaked memos, named the “China Cables” have revealed many sordid details about the inner workings of the “re-education” camps, which are reportedly housing several religious minorities, including over one million Uighur Muslims.

The massive information haul was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and contained direct orders sent from the upper echelons of China’s ruling communist party to those responsible for running the camps.

Despite the government issuing public statements assuring the rest of the world that the fortified camps were nothing more than “vocational education centers” for foreign minorities, a very different picture has been painted in the uncovered documents.

These memos make it clear that those inside the camps are being held against their wishes. The documents instruct security officials that they must, at all costs, stop the inmates from getting away.

“Preventing escape” is a top priority,” the Guardian notes in its assessment of the leak. “The order demands round-the-clock video surveillance ‘with no blind spots’ to monitor every moment of an inmates’ day. Control of every aspect of their lives is so comprehensive that they have to be assigned a specific place not only in dormitories and classrooms, but even in the lunchtime queue.”

Other ways in which the government controls behavior in the facilities include a points-based system for good performance and behavior. Inmates are awarded points for demonstrating a commitment to “ideological transformation”, “compliance with discipline” and “study and training.”

The manipulation of the mind is absolutely crucial to the success of the camp’s programs, as inmates are systematically stripped of their cultural heritage and forced to align with China’s atheistic ideals. Shockingly, the memo places emphasis on the encouraging of “confession and repentance”; inmates are being instructed to repent for adhering to a foreign religion, and must reflect upon the “illegal, criminal and dangerous nature” of such supposedly heinous activity.

The memo also instructs that inmates should be under relentless, 24/7 surveillance while in the camps.

Staff are to “[Ensure] full video surveillance coverage of dormitories and classrooms free of blind spots,” it reads. “The students should have a fixed bed position, fixed queue position, fixed classroom seat and fixed station during skills work, and it is strictly forbidden for this to be changed,” the memo adds, presumably ensuring that each person’s personal surveillance is not compromised in any way.

Camp officials are also ordered to “implement behavioural norms and discipline requirements for getting up, roll call, washing, going to the toilet, organising and housekeeping, eating, studying, sleeping, closing the door and so forth.”

As the memo details, even after successfully completing their program of “educational transformation,” which takes at least a year, participants are not allowed to simply leave. Instead, when the government is happy that their minds have been suitable “transformed,” inmates then advance to the next tier of camp, which involves a “labor skills training”—otherwise known as a forced labor camp.

There have been numerous reports of abuse, torture and sexual violence against those held in these shady facilities. Indeed, this concern appears to have been addressed by the Chinese officials when they explicitly urged camp officials to “never allow abnormal deaths.”

Staff are also sworn to “strict secrecy.”

“The work policy of the vocational skills education and training centers are strong and highly sensitive,” the order reads. “It is necessary to strengthen the staff’s awareness of staying secret, serious political discipline and secrecy discipline.”

A BBC report into the camps released earlier this year provided some insight into the sinister goings-on, though the Chinese were engaging in some pretty heavy-handed subterfuge in order to keep the real story from being told. Now, with this leaked memo, the world’s greatest suspicions have been realized.

Human Rights experts insist that the leaked memo should be used by prosecutors as part of an investigation into human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government.

“This is an actionable piece of evidence, documenting a gross human rights violation,” Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, told the BBC. “I think it’s fair to describe everyone being detained as being subject at least to psychological torture, because they literally don’t know how long they’re going to be there.”

Ben Emmerson QC, a leading human rights lawyer and adviser to the World Uighur Congress, added that the program is a “mass brainwashing scheme designed and directed at an entire ethnic community.”

“It’s a total transformation that is designed specifically to wipe the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang as a separate cultural group off the face of the Earth,” he added.

Many are calling it the single largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority since the second world war.

Despite a group of independent experts verifying the legitimacy of the leaked documents, China has insisted they have been fabricated.

“The so called leaked documents are pure fabrication and fake news,” China’s embassy in London said in a statement. “There are no such documents or orders for the so-called ‘detention camps.’”

The statement added that the “Vocational education and training centers” had been constructed “for the prevention of terrorism.”