China yesterday vowed it would “never be soft” in its crackdown in Xinjiang, after a massive leak of government documents shed new light on the mass detention of Muslims in the region.
More than 400 pages of internal papers obtained by the New York Times showed that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) ordered officials to act with “absolutely no mercy” against separatism and extremism in Xinjiang.
The documents, leaked by an unnamed official, included unpublished speeches by Xi as well as directives on the surveillance and control of the Uighur minority, the newspaper reported on Saturday.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) yesterday accused the Times of “turning a blind eye to the facts,” while “taking meaning out of context to publicize so-called internal documents, slander and smear counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts in Xinjiang”.
Geng told reporters at a regular news briefing in Beijing that the article was a “clumsy patchwork” based on “selected interpretation” of the documents.
“It is hyping up these so-called internal documents to smear China’s efforts in Xinjiang. What is the agenda?” he said.
“China will never be soft in its fight against violent terrorists,” Geng said, adding that the newspaper had ignored the true reasons behind and success of what China terms a campaign to end poverty, separatism and religious extremism.
However, he did not question the validity of the documents, which detail among other things the pivotal role played by Xi in demanding a harsh crackdown in Xinjiang.
Geng said that “thousands of violent terrorist incidents occurred in Xinjiang” between the 1990s and 2016, but current policies had prevented any attacks in the past three years.
“Officials and members of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang fully support” the government’s policies in the region, he said.
Human rights groups and outside experts say more than 1 million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been rounded up in a network of internment camps across the fractious region.
“The leaked papers clearly reveal and confirm what has been going on in Xinjiang with regard to the all-out suppression and control of the non-Han peoples there [and elsewhere in China], including the massive detention and forced education camps,” said Wang Fei-ling (王飛凌), a professor of international affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The leak also shows the Chinese Communist Party is “not nearly as monolithic as the party pretends,” he said.
The Times said the papers were leaked by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that the disclosure would prevent the leadership from “escaping culpability” for the mass detentions.
Additional reporting by AP
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