Breaking Down the Xinjiang Crisis

This is an ongoing effort to establish an evidence-based picture of what is occurring in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Through translation of primary documents, critical analysis and summary of reports, and examination of common objections raised in response, I try to make here the case for considering the crisis in Xinjiang a cultural genocide. This project is aimed at those, particularly among the left who are skeptical of claims made by predominantly western media and governments with clear geopolitical motives about what is happening. Feel free to DM me on Twitter with any questions/corrections!

Part I: Background/preliminary evidence

This section focuses on background to and the early stages of current policy in Xinjiang (up to 2017, the year the crisis is generally considered to have begun), and a critical analysis of the research paper published by Adrian Zenz in 2018 that used Chinese documentation to demonstrate the existence of a widespread network of reeducation camps despite the government’s repeated denials.

The 2017 Xinjiang De-extremification Regulations
Which ethnic group do you belong to? and other subversive questions
Qiu 2017: Early Chinese research on mass internment
PRC denial of reeducation centers at the UN
Zenz 2018, Reforming Them Towards a Healthy Heart Attitude

Part II: Primary evidence—testimony, leaked documents, satellite imagery; further developments and discoveries

Zenz and several other sources, particularly reporters, forced the Chinese government to pivot from "the camps do not exist" to "these are humane vocational training schools." While China refuses to publish statistics on the number of detainees, it denigrates the notion that there might be as many as one million or more. This section provides translation and/or analysis of a host of documents—from translations of firsthand accounts by Party cadres, a short table of victim testimony, descriptions of outside visitors' views of Xinjiang, and leaked government documents—to demonstrate the stark holes in the official narrative.

Satellite imagery: what it can and cannot tell us
Leaked Chinese government documents
Select table of victim and relative testimony
Outsiders' accounts of Xinjiang
Translations of direct evidence and testimony from Chinese sources

Part III: Genocide?

Forthcoming. What does genocide mean, and does the term apply to what is happening in Xinjiang? From Part II, we see evidence of a system of internment and incarceration that is coercive, extensive, and per the accounts of many victims and their relatives, thoroughly traumatizing. This on its own, however, does not necessarily mean a genocide is occurring. So what is going on?

▫️ Allegations of forced labor

▫️ Allegations of forced sterilization and coercive birth suppression

▫️ “Genocide” and Xinjiang—what is the appropriate term for the crisis?

Part IV: Answering objections—denialist documents, common arguments, and PRC media depictions

Forthercoming. The following essays are attempts at comprehensive rebuttals to common objections

But some Uyghur on Twitter lied! (This is just like Nayirah)
But international observers are allowed to visit! (This proves camps are humane)

▫️ But there are no refugees!

▫️ But most Muslim countries support China anyways!

▫️ But there are so many happy, dancing Uyghurs!

▫️ But scale is nowhere near what's claimed by Western sources!

▫️ Addendum: list of pro-Uyghur disinformation and false Western reporting

Conclusion: So what?


▫️ Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and Chinese parallels

▫️ What can other countries do, if anything?

Other resources:

List of academics on Xinjiang
List of diaspora voices