China’s ‘War on Terror’ uproots families, leaked data shows

This Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020 photo shows details from a print of a leaked database obtained by The Associated Press. The text reads, "Family circle: Total relatives 11, 2 imprisoned, 1 sent to training, Father: Memtimin Emer... sentenced to 12 years, is now in the training center at the old vocational school." The database offers the fullest and most personal view yet into how Chinese officials decided who to put into and let out of detention camps, as part of a massive crackdown that has locked away more than a million ethnic minorities, most of them Muslim. (AP Photo)

Beijing (AP) — “Minor religious infection.” “Thinking is hard to grasp.” “Disturbs other persons by visiting them without reason.”

These are among the reasons listed for the detention of hundreds of Uighurs in detention camps in China’s far west, revealed in a leaked database.

The newly revealed database out of China has exposed in extraordinary detail the detention of 311 individuals, most of them Muslims, offering the fullest view yet into how officials decided who goes in and out of the detention camps.

It shows that the Chinese government focused on religion as a reason for the detention of Muslim-majority Uighurs — not just political extremism, as authorities claim.

It shows how the Chinese government has effectively criminalized individuals and entire families for practicing their faith — tracking, recording, and marking as suspicious ordinary religious activities like praying, attending a mosque, or even growing a long beard.

It also shows the role of family: People with detained relatives are far more likely to end up in a camp themselves, uprooting and criminalizing entire families.

When the Chinese government mass detention campaign engulfed Memtimin Emer’s native Xinjiang region three years ago, it wasn’t just the elderly imam who was locked away — three of his sons were as well.

Emer’s three sons landed in China’s detention camps despite never being charged with a crime - for trying to travel abroad, for being “untrustworthy”, or for going on the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

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