French news agency AFP reported on May 13 that it obtained two leaked lists that document thousands of Uyghurs who have been imprisoned in Xinjiang. After watching the list, several families said they finally found clues about their missing relatives.

The first list contains more than 10,000 names, including their birth date, ethnicity, ID number, charge, address, sentence length, and prison. They were detained in Xinjiang’s Konasheher county.

The individuals were put behind bars for offenses such as “gathering a group to disrupt social order,” “promoting extremism,” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Some were not charged but were sent to re-education camps notorious for forced labor, political indoctrination, torture, and forced sterilization.

Nursimangul Abdureshid, a Uighur minority, told AFP that she recognized seven people from her village on the list. She said they were villagers who were small business owners or farmers, and they were far from having links to terrorism.

She said, [quote] “When I search this list, I just feel like I can’t breathe.” [unquote]
The previously unreported database, which AFP has seen, lists over 10,000 imprisoned Uighurs from southwestern Xinjiang’s Konasheher county— including over 100 from Abdureshid’s village.

Data from the Chinese government reveals that between 2014 and 2018, the number of people convicted by Xinjiang courts increased from roughly 21,000 to more than 133,000.

In a second list that appeared to be from the police database, there were names of another 18,000 Uighurs. They were imprisoned between 2008 and 2015, and most were accused of ambiguous terrorism-related offenses.

Hundreds of people on the list were linked to the 2009 Urumqi riots, where nearly 200 people were killed. Over 900 were charged with producing bombs, and almost 300 others were involved in viewing or possessing “illegal” videos.

The Chinese government often justifies its treatment of Uighurs as an effort to counter-terrorism. However, Norway-based Uighur activist Abduweli Ayup said most people arrested were just tradespeople and illiterate farmers.

Ayup said, “My cousin was just a farmer. If you ask him what is ‘terrorism’, he couldn’t even read the word, even less understand it.”

China was not solely accused of crimes against humanity with Uighur minorities. Human rights groups and world powers also pay attention to its ongoing persecution of religious groups, including Tibet, Falun Gong, and Christians.

The United States and lawmakers in many other Western countries have described Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs as genocide.

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