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Here Are Some Reasons Why China Is Imprisoning Muslims

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Mary Margaret Olohan on February 18, 2020

  • The Chinese government imprisoned Muslims for basic religious activities, data obtained by the AP show.
  • Documents show the most complete view yet as to how and why Chinese officials chose to detain people and imprison them in detention camps.
  • The Chinese government targeted individuals based on activities such as praying, going to mosque, growing a beard or having family already detained.

The Chinese government imprisoned Muslims for basic religious activity, such as going to a mosque, praying or having a long beard, a database obtained by The Associated Press shows.

The newly released database shows that the Chinese government targeted Muslims based both on their religious beliefs and on their ties to family members, according to the AP.

The database offers the most complete view yet as to how and why Chinese officials chose to detain people and imprison them in detention camps, examining the internment of 311 people who have relatives abroad and listing information on over 2,000 of their family, friends and relatives.

The data show that the Chinese government targeted individuals based on activities such as praying or going to mosque or even growing a beard. People with relatives who are already detained are much more likely to be detained themselves, the database also shows.

Leaked data from China’s Far West details how the state has effectively criminalized individuals and entire families for practicing Islam. https://t.co/MJXvGg1G7t

— The Associated Press (@AP) February 17, 2020

Every entry includes the prisoner’s address, name, detention date, detention location and national identity number. The entries also include detailed information on the prisoner’s family, religious background, the reason this person was detained, and the decision made whether or not tot release the prisoner, the AP reported.

The publication reported that it is unclear which department of the Chinese government compiled the documents or who the documents were compiled for.

“It’s very clear that religious practice is being targeted,” University of Colorado researcher Darren Byler, who studies the use of surveillance technology in China’s Xinjiang region, told the AP. “They want to fragment society, to pull the families apart and make them much more vulnerable to retraining and reeducation.”

The AP noted that the most recent set of documents, of which the most recent date is March 2019, come from sources who are in the Uighur exile community. These detainees named in the document come from Karakax County, where 97% of the 650,000 residents are Uighur.

The documents show that the government determines whether families and their households are suspicious by classifying them through categories such as “trustworthy or “not trustworthy” and giving attitude grades of “ordinary or good.” The documents also rate the family’s religious atmosphere as either “light” or “heavy” and record how many of the family’s relatives are imprisoned or in a “training center.”

The detainees were interred for reasons such as “minor religious infection,” “disturbs other persons by visiting them without reasons,” “relatives abroad,” “thinking is hard to grasp” and “untrustworthy person born in a certain decade,” the AP reported. The publication added that the reason “untrustworthy person born in a certain decade” probably refers to young men since analysis of the data by Adrian Zenz shows that about 31% of the people listed under this category were between 25-29 years old.

“It underscores the witch-hunt mindset of the government, and how the government criminalizes everything,” Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation senior fellow Zenz told the AP.

Information obtained from the database comes after leaked internal files from the Chinese government in November 2019 showed how top officials’ demands led to the creation of mass indoctrination camps of groups like Uighurs and Kazakhs.

The documents showed that the Chinese government is aware the camps, which the government portrays as job-training efforts to quiet extremism, have torn parents away from their children, leaving students unsure of who will pay their tuition. The papers also show that officials were told to tell the people their families might suffer further if they complained.

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