Looking through the photos of the 2,884 inmates in the Xinjiang Police Files is not for the faint of heart. You scroll—as you would on Instagram—past face after face of a people unjustly detained by the Chinese government for no other reason than that they are Uyghur.
The first thing I noticed in the photos were their eyes. Some look bewildered, others determined, others tear-filled, others entirely blank.
It is surreal to have photographic evidence of the victims of Beijing’s genocidal campaign—long known to those of us who work in this field. We have listened to the testimony of survivors and analyzed the satellite imagery of camps uncovered by journalists and experts. We didn’t need convincing. We had no doubt the atrocities were happening.
But these photos offer something new. Gazing at those photos, it is impossible to deny the humanity of each and every Uyghur. And it is impossible to deny what the CCP is doing to them today.
Beyond providing photographic evidence of their mass internment, the Xinjiang Police Files include speeches of Chinese leaders outlining plans to reeducate and mass-intern Uyghurs. There are PowerPoints providing security protocols, including shoot-to-kill orders to ensure that no one escapes. And there is a detailed analysis of the composition of the political reeducation camp population.
The speeches alone are damning, as they show a direct linkage between top leaders in the Chinese government and the atrocities being committed. The speech from Zhao Kezhi, China’s minister of public security, included particularly striking revelations, as it directly implicates Xi Jinping in the mass internment Uyghurs.
Even though the U.S. government already determined that Uyghurs face ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity, the most difficult legal threshold to meet for genocide is demonstrating the Chinese leadership’s “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” a people group. The speeches in the Xinjiang Police Files go a long way toward proving intent and linking those intentions directly to culprits—culprits who should undoubtedly face consequences for their grave and harrowing actions.
Leaders around the globe have no excuse for inaction. The information revealed in these files should lead capitals around the world to strengthen efforts to hold China accountable. In, some cases, it already has.
Additional tranches of sanctions against the officials identified in the Xinjiang Police Files are, of course, in order. But the U.S. government should undertake far more concerted efforts to extend safe haven to Uyghurs by designating them a group of special humanitarian concern and giving them Priority-2 refugee status.
The U.S. cannot act alone. Countries around the globe should band together in offering shelter from the CCP’s human rights violations. At the very least, they should agree not to repatriate Uyghurs at Beijing’s request. Countries must also tighten up their efforts to combat the well-documented use of Uyghur forced labor. Complementary measures to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act signed into U.S. law last year should be implemented all across the world to ensure that no goods produced with forced labor make their way into any market around the globe.
Not a day should pass that the U.S. and other countries fail to advocate for the Uyghur people, pressing the CCP to close the camps and calling for the release of every last Uyghur held within their ironclad camp doors. The people looking back at us from the Xinjiang Police Files demand that it be so.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaenos/2022/05/31/the-xinjiang-police-files-should-prompt-action-against-uyghur-genocide/?sh=58d434232856