Leaked data reviewed by the Associated Press (AP) revealed that nearly one in 25 people in a county of China’s Uyghur heartland had been sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges.
The number marks the highest known imprisonment rate in the world. According to Department of Justice statistics, it is ten-fold compared to the U.S. figure.
The leaked document came from a Chinese Han ethnic that opposes the Chinese regime policy in Xinjiang.
The AP obtained and verified the list of more than 10,000 Uyghurs sent to prison in just Konasheher county alone, a typical rural county in southern Xinjiang. The arrest sweeps out on men, women, young people, and even elderly ones.
The list further showed that the prison sentences across the county last for two to 25 years, with an average of nine years. Most of them were detained in 2017.
According to Uyghurs in exile, their sentences are so long that the vast majority would still be kept in jail.
According to experts, these people have become Beijing’s crackdown target simply because they are Uyghurs. However, the Communist regime always rejects the accusation, claiming that they just conducted the sentences under the law.
The AP’s findings have also confirmed what families and rights groups have said for years. Beijing has taken long-term incarceration as a measure to control the Uyghurs. In other words, it has taken advantage of the law as a weapon of repression.
The regime tends to charge them with offenses related to terrorism, religious extremism, or vague charges aiming at political dissidents, like picking quarrels and provoking troubles.
According to AP, this means the imprisoned actual number is almost certainly higher.
Darren Byler, an expert on Xinjiang’s mass incarceration system, said that most arrests were arbitrary and outside the law. The people were arrested just because of having relatives abroad or downloading specific mobile phone applications.
He said, “It is really remarkable. In no other location have we seen entire populations of people be described as terrorists or seen as terrorists.”