The New York Times report on the more than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents created a new wave of attention to the Uighur crisis worldwide. Most importantly, the documents revealed new details on the origins of the Concentration Camps, i.e. how the demands and directives of Chinese President Xi Jinping led to the creation of the camps in the first place. Xi Jinping first laid the foundation for the crackdown in a series of speeches delivered in private to officials during and after a visit to East Turkistan (a.k.a Xinjiang) in April 2014. Xi called for an all-out “war against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism” using the “organs of dictatorship” and to show “absolutely no mercy.”
At the same time, the documents also shed light on the concrete execution of the mass detention of Uighurs under Xi Jinping’s command. After Xi Jinping appointed the new party boss for the region, Chen Quanguo, in August 2016, the Concentration Camps expanded rapidly and “rounded up everyone who should be rounded up.”
Interestingly enough, the documents also highlighted the extent of resistance to the orders of Xi Jinping: the notorious campaign faced unexpected doubts and skepticism from some Chinese officials who feared a backlash of exacerbated ethnic tensions and a stagnant economy. Chen Quanguo responded to the doubts and resistance from local officials by purging and punishing them for their standing in his way to execute Xi Jinping’s orders. In 2017 alone, more than 12,000 investigations were made into party members for violations related to the “fight against separatism.”
Overall, the leaked documents provided an unprecedented inside look at how Xi Jinping orchestrated the crackdown on Uighurs in East Turkistan (a.k.a Xinjiang).