Documenting state-directed persecution of minorities in China's Xinjiang region

Map of Xinjiang here in red, from Wikipedia, used under license CC BY-SA 3.0 

Starting in 2017, China's government ramped up its systematic targeting of minority citizens living in the western province of Xinjiang. Xinjiang, which is the Chinese denomination (新疆 which means New Frontier, while Uyghurs often refer to it as the Uyghur Region, or Uyghur lands), is home to Muslim-majority groups that include 11 million Uyghurs and smaller numbers of Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Hui and others. Widely portrayed as ‘motherland separatists’ or simply ‘terrorists’ in mainstream Chinese discourse – including in government statements and media – the peoples of the region have been deprived of their most basic human rights, including freedom of religion, of movement and of communicating in their native language.

State-led persecution has taken different forms: imprisonment – often with heavy sentences of over 10 years  – and incarceration in internment camps, which, according to expert sources, may contain over a million mostly Muslim minorities.

Given the secrecy of the internment camps, which China insists on presenting as ‘vocational training centers’, and the lack of information coming from the country's jails, it is impossible to say how many people have died in incarceration, often without knowing what they were accused of. Press reports suggest the figure could be hundreds or possibly thousands. For the relatives of detainees, located both inside and outside China, the pain of knowing nothing about the wellbeing of their loved ones is relentless and does not lessen as the months and years go past.

More detailed information is available via the Xinjiang Victims Database.

Global Voices has been reporting regularly on this issue since and continues to update its coverage with stories, essays, testimonies and interviews:

China's persecution of Muslim minorities: One Uyghur student living in Turkey shares her story

‘Uyghur pop music humanizes and amplifies their hopes': interview with musicologist Elise Anderson

Solo protest in the Netherlands for the Uyghur cause: One man takes on the Chinese state

The long journey to Uyghur visibility: An interview with French author Sylvie Lasserre

‘Where is my family?': A question left unanswered for too many Uyghurs living abroad

The Uyghur Meshrep: A traditional community gathering censored in China 

Uyghur emojis help spread message of cultural resistance over social media

History repeats itself: Chinese state terror and the dismantling of Uyghur neo-Jadidism 

Uyghur human rights advocate Dilnur Reyhan laments lack of Muslim solidarity

A feeling of hopelessness: Interview with an Uyghur refugee in Turkey

Kazakh family of musicians and writers caught in the Xinjiang vortex

Letter to China: My Uyghur friend Zainur has been detained in one of your camps for two years

From camps to prisons: Xinjiang's next great human rights catastrophe

Uyghur man bids to save ‘most extraordinary mom in the world’ from Chinese camp

#FreeSerikjan and the long shadow of Xinjiang's camps in neighbouring Kazakhstan 

How an Uyghur activist felt the long arm of the Chinese Communist Party in Canada

‘Man returns to his native Xinjiang and disappears’ – a story too common for the headlines 

‘I won't stop': Kazakh man seeks justice for family caught in China's Xinjiang crackdown