Shame and Deflection

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A trove of leaked files detailing the mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs is providing new details on China’s crackdown on the community and cast a shadow over a six-day visit by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The leaked information includes thousands of mugshots and documents that show police tactics, such as how to subdue detainees and a shoot-to-kill policy for escapees. The documents date back to 2018 and also provide a rare glimpse into the “reeducation camps,” which Chinese officials say are vocational training schools.

The data leak was published by the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and a consortium of media including the BBC and USA Today.

The foundation described the information as “unprecedented evidence on every level” of the treatment of the minority by Chinese authorities. Others noted that the documents add to a growing body of witness accounts and public records, as well as confirm the allegations of forced labor and sterilization of Uyghur women.

The leak comes as Bachelet visits the region following years-long negotiations with Chinese authorities. Critics believe her visit – the first by a UN human rights official since 2005 – risks becoming little more than a publicity stunt for the Chinese government.

British and US officials also questioned the validity of the visit and urged China to allow Bachelet the freedom to investigate the claims in light of the leaked documents.

China, however, criticized the leak as “the latest example of the anti-China forces’ smearing of Xinjiang.” Beijing described the international pressure by the US and the UK as an attempt to “sabotage” Bachelet’s visit.

Bachelet has yet to comment on the leak.

Despite skepticism, some human rights groups acknowledged that Bachelet’s visit is still important in raising awareness about the Uyghur issue.

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