For example: They wanted to go on a religious pilgrimage. They frequently worshiped at a mosque. They had friends whom the authorities had designated as suspicious. They maintained what the government considered a “heavy religious environment” at home, or they wore a beard, or attended a funeral, or obtained a passport, or had more than one child. All of these might be considered normal activity in an open society, but in China’s police state they were cause for punishment.
For several years, China has been carrying out a cultural genocide, not mass killing of people but a mass extermination of their ideas and beliefs. In the camps, detainees are bombarded with the language and traditions of the country’s majority Han Chinese. China has said the camps were necessary to offset extremism and separatism in Xinjiang, scenes of periodic unrest and Chinese crackdowns over the years.
The details of how people were taken to the camps are found in a 137-page spreadsheet outlining information that authorities in Karakax County in southwestern Xinjiang collected on residents between 2017 and March 2019. The sheet includes names and government identification numbers of 311 people held in the camps, as well as hundreds of their neighbors and relatives. The spreadsheet offers a study of who was incarcerated and why. The authorities checked three generations of each detainee’s family and monitored people as young as 16 years old for behavior that would indicate adherence to ethnic Uighur culture and traditions. The document was obtained by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.
The spreadsheet shows that many of the detainees were later released. While China has said they were studying to improve their language and vocational skills, the spreadsheet suggests they are, in many cases, being assigned to work in industrial parks, and does not mention skills or knowledge obtained in the camps, according to the Journal. Other evidence has come to light suggesting some of the detainees leave the camps to be transferred to forced labor.
Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, who has helped expose the camps, wrote of the spreadsheet, “More than any other government document pertaining to Beijing’s extralegal campaign of mass internment, the Karakax List lays bare the ideological and administrative micromechanics of a system of targeted cultural genocide that arguably rivals any similar attempt in the history of humanity.” Now there can be no hiding it.