Mapping repression in Xinjiang

·2 min read

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.

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  • "The Architecture of Repression: Unpacking Xinjiang's Governance," released today by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), maps out 170 government bureaus in Xinjiang, identifies 440 top local officials, and reveals a return to mass political campaigns there.

Details: The report is based on thousands of pages of Chinese government documents, as well as new databases of government offices and party officials compiled by ASPI, now made available for other researchers to use.

  • ASPI researchers found party officials expect most government offices in Xinjiang to participate in repression in one form another — even the Forestry Bureau, which for a time managed accounts for some mass internment camps.

  • They also found an overwhelming majority of local party secretaries — the most powerful position in each county — is from the majority Han Chinese ethnicity, even though Xinjiang is supposed to be self-governed by Uyghurs (its full regional name is the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region).

  • The report also uncovers new evidence of mass campaigns in Xinjiang, once common during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, that involve show trials, public confessions, lengthy propaganda study sessions, and loyalty pledges. All are means of social and political control that can quash any sign of opposition to the systemic surveillance, forced labor and mass internment that Xinjiang's ethnic minorities face.

What they're saying: "Through long and complicated supply chains, this is the first time liberal democracies have found themselves consuming the outputs of China’s mass political campaigns, such as products made with forced labour," report co-author Vicky Xiuzhong Xu said in a statement.

Of note: The Chinese Embassy in D.C. did not respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper: The scope of forced labor in Xinjiang is bigger than we knew

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