Policeman Li Laihui dispatched to Chira County

Verifiability/reliability: Strong, from a verified public security WeChat account, but numbers of detainees are estimates by individual, not precise figures

"My unforgettable Xinjiang Aid life" (难以忘怀的援疆生活) is an essay by police officer Li Laihui, posted on WeChat by a verified account associated with Public Security Bureau of Jiyuan, Henan, in January 2018. It was deleted sometime after November 24, 2020; the archived copy is here.

The account is verified.
The account is verified.

There are many things notable about this essay, but most notably, it corroborates the earlier account of another officer who had posted about his trip to Chira County Detention Center from April to July 2017. Also notable is that Li Laihui states the Center was holding over ten times its normal capacity. Note that detention centers are not camps themselves; rather, in this context at least, they appear more similar to jails (≠ prisons) where people are held either administrative processing before a hearing. The spike in detainees is presumably because most of these people were being sent to the newly activated network of reeducation facilities.

Li's account is extremely self-righteous, and the utter terror and fear with which this officer and his colleagues seem to hold Uyghur prisoners/detainees (the county is over 99% Uyghur) is stunning. Li describes how he was recognized for averting potential security disasters that could have resulted, for instance, from guards loosening prisoners' shackles when they were eating. Charming.

难以忘怀的援疆生活 监管支队副大队长 李来会 按照公安部和省公安厅的统一安排部署,从2017年9月3日起,全省公安监管系统抽调50名监管民警赴新疆重点地区进行三个月的轮训支援。我有幸作为济源市公安局唯一的援疆民警参加了此次援疆任务。援疆回来已经一个多月了,回想起援疆生活,仍历历在目。在新疆工作期间的所见所闻、所感所悟难以用语言表达,经历的每个人每件事让人记忆犹新,心情澎湃久久难以平静。

My Unforgettable Xinjiang Aid Life Li Laihui, Deputy Head, Overseer/Oversight* Team In accordance with coordinated deployment by the Ministry of of Public Security and the provincial Public Security Bureau [PSB], beginning September 3, 2017, 50 oversight police were sent to key areas in Xinjiang for three months of rotational training support. I was fortunate enough to be the only Xinjiang Aid police officer from Jiyuan PSB to participate in this Xinjiang Aid mission. A month after returning, my life in Xinjiang is still fresh in my memory. What I saw, heard, felt, and learned in Xinjiang is hard to express. Every person and event I experienced remains unfaded in my memory. The surges of emotion will take much time to quiet.

* I previously translated this term as supervisory. The role is related to management of detention facilities; they appear somewhat higher ranked than everyday guards, but are still very much involved in the hands-on work, so "warden" seems inaccurate. The description of their work, according to the WeChat account's bio, is to "protect the legal rights of the detained, guarantee criminal cases progress smoothly, and ensure the safety of detention facilities~" (维护在押人员合法权益,保障刑事诉讼顺利进行,确保监所安全~ (yes, the ~ is actually there))

积极响应号召,牢记特殊使命

Energetically Responding to the Call, Keeping the Special Mission Firmly in Mind

为深入贯彻习近平总书记关于反恐工作系列重要批示精神,落实公安部关于抽调监管民警赴新疆重点地区轮训支援确保监所安全的指示要求,我主动请缨参加这次援疆轮训。

In order to fully realize the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s series of important instructions on counterterrorism work, and to implement the directives of the Ministry of Public Security on dispatching overseer police officers to key areas in Xinjiang for rotation training support to ensure the safety of prisons, I volunteered to take part in the Xinjiang rotational training.

2017年9月3日下午9时许,我们河南50名监管民警抵达新疆维稳反恐培训基地——新疆乌鲁木齐警察学院,接受为期三天的强化学习和培训。启动仪式上,来自河南、吉林、辽宁三省的监管民警,重温入警誓词,嘹亮的口号,声震云霄,振奋人心。

Around 9pm on September 3, 2017, 50 oversight police from Henan arrived at the Xinjiang Stability Maintenance and Anti-terrorism Training Base—Xinjiang Ürümqi Police Academy and underwent three days of intensive study and training. At the launch ceremony, overseer police from Henan, Jilin and Liaoning provinces reviewed their police oaths. Our loud shouts of slogans were stunning and inspiring.

通过三天的学习,我们深刻认识到当前国际安全形势的严峻性。历史图片展上血淋淋的事实触目惊心,让我们清醒地认识到新疆“三股势力”的残酷现实和斗争形势的严峻。伊斯兰教极端分子在新疆制造过多起暴恐事件,他们所迫害的绝大多数都是普通老百姓,他们用刀伤、斧砍、汽车冲撞和自制炸弹袭击等各种手段犯下令人发指的罪行,真可谓惨无人道。通过培训让我们真正懂得了“新疆即是战区”的概念,也真正感觉到了“在新疆活着就是最大的幸福”这句话的含义。

Through our three days of study, we came to fully recognize the severity of the current international security situation. The bloody facts shown by a historical photo exhibition shocked us, and awoke us to the grim reality of the "third forces" in Xinjiang and the severity of the struggle [against it]. Islamic extremists have produced numerous case of violent terrorism in Xinjiang, and the vast majority of those they persecute are ordinary people. They use knives, axes, ramming with vehicles, homemade bombs and every other sort of tactic to commit outrageous crimes, which can easily be called inhuman. Through our training, we truly understood that "Xinjiang is a war zone" and also truly felt the meaning of the phrase "living in Xinjiang is the greatest fortune."

尽快适应,迅速融入当地生活和工作中

Quickly Acclimating and Integrating into Local Life and Work

9月7日,结束短暂的培训,我们直赴战斗一线——新疆和田地区。在和田地区公安局稍作休整,当晚,我们援疆策勒组12人在所长王刚宁的带领下,连夜赶到战斗岗位——策勒县看守所。

On September 7th, the brief training ended and we headed straight to the front lines—the Hotan Prefecture of Xinjiang. At the Public Security Bureau of Hotan Prefecture, we rested. That night, us 12 members of the Chira County group, led by the director Wang Gangning, rushed to our battle positions—the Chira County Detention Center.

策勒县位于新疆西南部,昆仑山北麓,塔克拉玛干大沙漠南缘。总人口不足16万人,99%以上都是维族人。策勒县占地面积3.1688万平方公里,乡镇之间距离较远,边界线上与多个国家相邻。沙尘暴是这里的恶劣的自然条件之一,年降雨量不足100毫米,是祖国最晚日落的地方。

Chira County is located in southwest Xinjiang, at the northern foot of the Kunlun Mountains and the southern edge of the Taklimakan Desert. The population is under 160,000 and more than 99% are Uyghur. Chira County covers an area of 31,688 sq. km., with long distances between the towns and villages. It borders many countries. Sandstorms are a harsh feature of nature and the annual rainfall is less than 100 mm here, the last place in the motherland to see the sunset.

我们策勒援疆小组一行12人于当晚8点来到了策勒县看守所,受到了策勒县看守所全体民警及警务工作人员的夹道欢迎。但我发现这些同行个个都是灰头土脸、无精打采,心想新疆的同行咋都这个样,这样的状态咋去应对这里的暴恐分子呢?随后我才知道这是他们的工作强度太大所致。欢迎过后,领导说给我们准备几个菜接个风,我们到餐厅一看,发现餐桌上只有三盘小菜:一盘凉拌黄瓜、一盘凉拌红萝卜丝、一盘醋溜豆芽,外加一盘馒头和一小碗凉白开。这是我们刚到就体验到了新疆同行的艰苦。据所长介绍,所里的财政归局里管,靠中央财政转移支付,控制很严,所里的一切开支必须由局长签字才能报销。本地也不产蔬菜,黄瓜豆芽平时是吃不到的,这几个小菜在我们看来尽管不咋地,却是特意为我们准备的,也算是高规格了。

Our group of 12, the Chira Xinjiang Aid Team, arrived at the Chira County Detention Center at 8:00 that night and were welcomed by all the police and staff* of the detention center. But I realized all of these officers were dejected and dispirited. I wondered how our Xinjiang counterparts could be like this—how can we deal with violent terrorists here in such a state? Then I realized that this was the result of their overly intensive work. After our welcome, the leader said they had prepared a few dishes for us. We went to the cafeteria and found that there were only three small plates on the table: a plate of cold-tossed cucumber, a plate of cold-tossed shredded carrots, a plate of vinegar bean sprouts, plus a plate of steamed buns and small bowl of boiled water. This is the hardship we experienced when we arrived in Xinjiang. According to the director, the finances of the center are managed by the [presumably: Public Security] Bureau with payments transferred from the central government. Control [of finances] is very tight. All expenses in the office must be signed by the director for reimbursement. Vegetables are not produced locally there either, so you usually can't get cucumber or bean sprouts. Though these small dishes may not have seemed like anything, they were specially prepared for us, and can be considered high-standard.

* Staff here is 警务工作人, lit. 'police affairs worker', a term that does not appear to be a common among Chinese police forces. It seems to be related specifically to more local-level Xinjiang police, if we take this Zhihu (like Quora or Yahoo! Answers) to mean anything.

看守所现有正式民警12人,部分民警在制暴、抓获危安分子时留下了伤痕及后遗症,部分民警因自然环境的不适,还患有各种疾病,更有刚做完手术后就立刻返回工作岗位的。自2014年以来,危安犯日益增多,看守所关押量已超正常关押量十几倍之多,因警力严重不足,又不能用任何在押人员干活,所里所有里里外外的工作都需要民警自己去干,长期超大工作量、超负荷的的连续运转,民警倍感身心疲惫,心力憔悴。这里的民警特别能吃大苦、特别能耐大劳,这是内地民警根本无法想象的。

There were 12 official police officers in the detention center. Some police officers were left with scars or other health issues while suppressing riots and capturing security threats [i.e. those accused of endangering public security]. Some police officers also suffered from various illnesses due to discomfort from natural environment, and there were some who returned to work immediately after [medical] operations. Since 2014, there had been an increasing number of security threats, and the detention center has exceeded its normal capacity by more than ten times. Because of the serious shortage of police, detainees could not be used for work; all the work inside and outside the detention center had to be done by police. The long-term, continuous operation under such a heavy workload exhausted the police physically and mentally. The police there were remarkably able to endure hardship and such hard work, unimaginable to inland police.

三个月来,我严格遵守《河南省监管民警援疆队伍管理规定》,工作中,以新入警思想与同事们合作交流,严格按照单位要求进行工作,把自己定位为“主人”而不是“过客”,把心思凝聚到干工作上,把精力集中到办具体实事上,分发挥自己的主观能动性,积极地开展工作。自觉做到到位不越位,参与不干预,干事不添事。生活中,我清醒地认识到平时的言行举止,为人处世不单是体现个人的道德学识和素质教养。为此,我经常告诫自己,任何时候任何场合都不能放松对自己的要求,自我约束,尽自身最大的努力,去适应当地的环境,适应当地生活,全身心融入到新的集体之中,无条件地服从当地领导的安排。轮休期间,维族同行有事时我经常毫无怨言地顶上去。我的真诚也赢得了大家的信赖和支持,我自己也感到莫大的欣慰。

For three months, I strictly followed the "Henan Oversight Police Xinjiang Aid Team Management Regulations," cooperating and exchanging [views, etc.] with colleagues with the mind of a new officer, strictly working according to the requirements of our work unit, and setting myself as a "host" and not a "passing guest." [I] concentrated my mind on doing the work, and my energy on concrete, practical matters. [I] gave play to my subjective agency and actively initiated my work. [I] consciously did what was needed but did not exceed boundaries, participated but did not interfere, and worked but did not just make work. In my life, I soberly recognized my everyday words and actions, [because] how one conducts themselves not only reflects their moral knowledge and quality upbringing. To that end, I was constantly wary of relaxing the demands I had for at any time or place. [I was] self-disciplined and gave it my all to adapt to the local environment and way of life. I put my entire heart and mind into this new collective and obeyed my superiors plans unconditionally. During my free time, if something came up for Uyghur colleagues I regularly would take their place without complaint. I really earned the trust and support of everyone, and I am very proud of myself.

迎难而上,任劳任怨 三个月来,我在策勒看守所从事过提讯提解、收押、巡视、监控、打饭、拖地、投劳、法庭警戒等所有的工作,在整个工作过程中,我尽最大努力完成领导交办的各项任务。工作强度是内地所无法比拟的。每天工作十五个小时,多时达十七八个小时。每天提押人数达150——200人次,多时达三四百人次;徒步走粗略估算每人每天至少在20公里以上。收押每天少则几十人,多则一、二百人;开庭警戒提押每天多时达到上百人次,因为上级要求我们不分白天和黑夜24小时无条件配合办案单位办理案件。

Working Hard in the Face of Difficulty In the past three months, I have been involved in all the jobs at Chira Detention Center: transport, detention, patrolling, monitoring, meals, cleaning, labor [i.e. detainees' forced labor assignment, detailed below], court guard, etc. Throughout the process, I tried my best to complete the various tasks assigned by leadership. The work intensity is incomparable to the inland. [We worked] fifteen hours a day, [even] up to seventeen or eighteen hours. We transported 150-200 detainees* a day, sometimes up to 300 or 400. My rough estimate is everyone walked at least 20 kilometers per day. Some days there were several tens of detainees, and on heavier days up to one or two hundred. The [number of] detentions could range from dozens of people a day to as many as one or two hundred. As a court guard [I] transported people up to 100 times a day because our superiors required we assist the case management units 24/7, no matter what.

* i.e. escorted to a hearing, etc. "Person-times" here in Chinese here is renci 人次. It's used to count the flow of people—for example, a subway might be used by "one million people per day" in English, but in Chinese, it would more accurately be used "one million person-times" because people can use it more than once in the same day. Thus, the number of detainees might be half that if they are being transported to a place and back (i.e. one person being transported two renci). Previously, I had mistranslated this as 'detained 150-200 people' per day.

在一次北疆投劳中,武警、特警、监管民警高度戒备,一次性投劳人员两千多人,几十台大巴连夜出发,监管民警除了要确保武警、特警个人安全,还要确保投劳人员的绝对安全以及所有车辆的安全。因路途较远,所有人不敢有一丝怠慢、一丝松懈,路上除了车辆加油,司机轮流驾驶,路途一律不能停车,饿了吃一个馕,渴了喝一瓶矿泉水,每半小时监管民警要在对讲机上互通情况,包括清点人员,车辆安全等,就这样我们跑了四天三夜才到达目的地。当所有危安犯按照分配到的监狱,逐一交接后,一颗心才算安定下来,所有车辆人员返回到看守所后,这次的投劳任务才算圆满完成。这些工作在新疆是常态化,而在内地看来却是不可思议的。

Once, for a labor project [i.e. prison labor: detainees being transported elsewhere for some project] in northern Xinjiang, the military police, tactical police,* and overseer civilian police were on full alert. There were over 2000 one-time laborers sent out on dozens of buses throughout the night. The overseer police had to ensure the safety of the military and tactical police, and also the absolutely safety of the laborers and of all of the vehicles. Because the route was long, no one dared slack off or relax. Except to refuel or change drivers, the vehicles were never to stop. If you were hungry, you ate some nan [a flatbread] and if you were thirsty you drank a bottle of water. Every half hour the overseer police had to report to one another on walkie-talkies, including a headcount and on vehicle safety. This went on for four days and three nights until we reached our destination. After all the prisoners were handed over one by one according to their assigned prisons, we finally could put our minds at ease. After all the vehicle personnel returned to the detention center, the labor project was successfully completed. These tasks are normalized in Xinjiang, but they're unimaginable inland.

* Tactical police, lit. special police (特警). A common translation is 'SWAT', but that might overstate their training/position to a Western reader. As described by Tynen 2019, pp. 55-56: "The shequ 'police officers' were technically not considered official 'police' and had the status more of a security guard. They wore uniforms that said SWAT in English with the Chinese translation 'special police.' The 'SWAT' were on the lowest strata of security personnel in the city."

有一次在巡视中,我发现一个嫌疑人坐在铺子上,用手偷偷地摆弄他的脚镣。我马上叫其他在押人员去查看他的脚镣,左脚脚镣竟然已经松开了!我立马通知管教组前往处置,及时消除了一起重大安全事故。

One time on patrol, I found a suspect sitting in a shop, quietly messing with his legcuffs. I immediately told the other detainees to check his legcuffs, and the one on his left foot had already released! I immediately notified the correctional team to handle it and eliminated a major safety incident in time.

和我在一起工作的都是参加工作不久的协警和警务工作人员,我在学习他们好的工作方法的同时,勤于观察,积极思考。先后发现早晨关灯后单独关押监室巡视看不到号内情况、打饭时协警和警务工作人员私自给在押人员松拷、医院的监管病房和监控室沟通不畅及号里风险管理人员不明确等问题,并积极通过援疆小组向所里反映,所领导积极采纳,立即纠正,及时杜绝了漏洞,消除了隐患,受到了当地各级领导的一致好评。后被和田地区公安机关评为援疆工作先进个人。

The auxiliary police and police staff who have been working with me are all relatively new. While studying their good working habits, I was diligent in observation and proactive thinking. [I] successively discovered that after lights were turned off in the morning, the solitary detention room couldn't be seen on patrol; that the police and police staff surreptitiously loosened the shackles of detainees; and that the hospital sick ward and the monitoring room had poor communication and the units' risk management personnel were not clearly [delineated]. I reported this to the Xinjiang Aid Small Group and it the leaders energetically received [my report] and fixed the problem, [and thus we] eliminated loopholes in a timely manner, and eliminated hidden dangers, and received unanimous praise from local leaders at all levels. I was later appraised as an Advanced Xinjiang Aid Work Individual by the Public Security Bureau of Hotan.

充分发扬新疆公安提出的“特别能忍耐、特别能奉献、特别能战斗,特别能牺牲”的精神,奋力前行

Fully Carrying Forward with the Spirit of "Outstanding Endurance, Outstanding Dedication, Outstanding Fighting, and Outstanding Sacrifice" of the Xinjiang Police

在援疆工作的三个月时间里,由于当地极为干燥的沙漠气候,再加上自己年龄偏大,有多年的痔疮、腰椎间盘突出、颈动脉斑块等疾病,以及当地半生不熟的牛羊肉、极少的蔬菜、饭菜都是辣的要命等饮食习惯,导致我的身体吃不消,经常出现便血、大脑供血不足、腰酸腿疼等症状。我常常看监控看的眼里布满血丝、提押、巡视跑的两腿红肿、起床时腰都直不起来。所有这些我都默默地忍受,从不叫苦叫累,一直奋力前行。因为我时刻想到我是河南公安,我是济源公安,我绝不能给河南公安丢脸,绝不能给济源公安丢脸!三个月的援疆工作,我真正体验到了什么是艰苦,什么是忍耐,什么是奉献;真正见证了新疆公安民警站在维稳一线,时刻经历着生与死的考验,血与火的洗礼。新疆的工作量不经历是根本想象不到有多大。连续工作和全体加班到凌晨两三点是常事,十天半月甚至一个月不休息也是常事,艰苦的条件,良好的工作作风,高度的责任心,让我深刻感受到新疆公安民警对祖国的无限忠诚和对公安事业的无比热爱。

During my three months working in Xinjiang Aid, due to the extremely dry desert climate coupled with my age—[with] many years of diseases such as hemorrhoids, herniated lumbar discs, carotid artery plaques—and the local food of half-baked beef and mutton, few vegetables, and extreme spiciness such that I could not eat. I regularly was afflicted with bloody stool, insufficient blood supply to the brain, and back and leg pain. I often watched the surveillance cameras with bloodshot eyes, red and swollen legs from patrolling and escorting, and was unable to straigten my waist when I got up in the mornings. I endured all of these in silence, never complaining or getting tired, and kept moving forward. Because I always kept in mind my Henan Public Security Bureau, my Jiyuan Public Security Bureau—I could not bring shame to the Henan Public Security Bureau or Jiyuan Public Security Bureau! During my three months working in Xinjiang Aid, I truly experienced what hardship, what patience, and what dedication are. I have truly witnessed the Xinjiang Public Security police standing on the front line of stability maintenance, constantly experiencing trials of life and death, a baptism by blood and fire. It is impossible to imagine the huge workload in Xinjiang is without experiencing it. Continuously working and overtime until two or three in the morning is a common occurrence. Going ten days, half a month, or even a full month without a day off is a common occurrence. The difficult conditions, good work habits, and high sense of responsibility allowed me deeply feel the Xinjiang police' boundless loyalty to the motherland and unparalleled passion for public security.

这段经历给我身体留下了留下一些痛苦,但却给我的精神留下了一大笔宝贵的人生财富。我返回工作岗位后,要继续发扬“特别能忍耐、特别能奉献、特别能战斗,特别能牺牲”的新疆公安精神,切实做好新形势下公安监管工作,以高昂的斗志和必胜的信念去迎接新的挑战。

This experience left my body in pain, but it also left my spirit with a precious wealth of life [experience]. After I return to work, I will continue to carry forward the Xinjiang police spirit of "outstanding endurance, outstanding dedication, outstanding fighting, and outstanding sacrifice", and earnestly do a good job of police oversight under the new circumstances, meeting new challenges with high morale and a conviction for victory.