The United Kingdom and Germany’s foreign ministers, and senior United States and European officials renewed their condemnation of China for its treatment of minorities in Xinjiang on the heels of a new leak showing Uyghur men, women and teenagers detained in prison-like conditions.

The unprecedented leak, dubbed the Xinjiang Police Files, contains confidential government records and chilling photographs taken inside internment camps in Xinjiang, the first of their kind to be released without government authorization. Together, the photos and documents show the highly militarized nature of the detention facilities and refute Chinese government claims that the camps are mere educational and training centers.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement that the files revealed “shocking details of China’s human rights violations” against the Uyghur Muslim population.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addressed the new findings in a video conference with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and “called for a transparent investigation” into the allegations, according to a ministry statement.

“This is not something that can be ignored, and it is also not something that can be kept quiet about,” Baerbock told reporters in Berlin.

Speaking at a daily press conference, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, said the new reporting shows China’s ongoing “genocide and crimes against humanity” targeting Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Asked whether the U.S. government believes that Chinese President Xi Jinping is directly involved in the repression campaign in Xinjiang, Price said that it would be “difficult to imagine” that it “would not have the approval of the highest levels” of the Chinese government.

The leaked material come from the public security bureaus of China’s Konasheher and Tekes counties, in the majority-Muslim region in northwestern China. It was obtained by Adrian Zenz, a German scholar at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, who shared the cache with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 13 news organizations.

Photo of armed guards
Chinese guards appear in riot gear, surrounding two shackled prisoners during an anti-escape drill at a detention center in Tekes county in Xinjiang in 2018. Image: Xinjiang Police Files

Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the media reports are “the latest example of the anti-China forces’ smearing of Xinjiang.”

“Xinjiang enjoys peace and stability, its economy is thriving and its people live and work in peace and contentment,” Wang said.

The leaked records, most dating to 2017 or 2018, represent a major advance in public access to knowledge of China’s mass-detention policy and the implementation of that policy at the local level, in this case, the western prefectures of Kashgar and Yili.

The leaked material includes mug shots of more than 2,800 detainees, photos of anti-escape drills and classified speeches by two high-ranking Chinese politicians considered the architects of the Xinjiang mass detention program.


Dolkun Isa, the leader of the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of Uyghurs in exile, said the Xinjiang Police Files “add to the mounting evidence exposing the Chinese government’s atrocity crimes against the Uyghurs.”

“This must be a wake-up call for the international community,” Isa said.

The publication of the leaked material coincides with the arrival in China of U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, who is expected to travel to Xinjiang this week.

In her statement today, British Foreign Secretary Truss reiterated her government’s “longstanding expectation” that Beijing grant Bachelet “full and unfettered access to the region so that she can conduct a thorough assessment of the facts on the ground.”

The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China urged the U.N. human rights commissioner to confront the Chinese officials with the new findings.

The reports “highlight the role Xi Jinping and other top officials had in crafting the genocidal policies” employed in Xinjiang, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), who co-chair the commission, said in a statement.

“The evidence presented is overwhelming and horrific and cannot be ignored or pushed aside by the international community,” they said.