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China Tightens Up On Info After Leaks  12/14 09:49

   The Xinjiang regional government in China's far west is deleting data, 
destroying documents, tightening controls on information and has held 
high-level meetings in response to leaks of classified papers on its mass 
detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, 
according to four people in contact with government employees there. 

   (AP) -- The Xinjiang regional government in China's far west is deleting 
data, destroying documents, tightening controls on information and has held 
high-level meetings in response to leaks of classified papers on its mass 
detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, 
according to four people in contact with government employees there. 

   Top officials deliberated  how to respond to the leaks in meetings at the 
Chinese Communist Party's regional headquarters in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, 
some of the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears 
of retribution against themselves, family members and the government workers. 

   The meetings began days after The New York Times published last month a 
cache of internal speeches on Xinjiang by top leaders including Chinese 
President Xi Jinping. They continued after the International Consortium of 
Investigative Journalists worked with news organizations around the world 
including The Associated Press to publish secret guidelines for operating 
detention centers and instructions on how to use technology to target people. 

   The Chinese government has long struggled with its 11-million-strong Uighur 
population, an ethnic Turkic minority native to Xinjiang, and in recent years 
has detained 1 million or more Uighurs and other minorities in the camps. 

   Xinjiang officials and the Chinese foreign ministry have not directly denied 
the authenticity of the documents, though Urumqi Communist Party chief Xu 
Hairong called reports on the leaks "malicious smears and distortions." 

   The Xinjiang government did not respond to a fax for comment on the arrests, 
the tightened restrictions on information and other measures responding to the 
leaks. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not have an immediate comment. 

   Xinjiang's government had already mandated stricter controls on information 
in October, before the news reports, according to three of the people, all 
Uighurs outside Xinjiang. 

   They include orders for community-level officials to burn paper forms 
containing sensitive personal details on residents in their area such as their 
detention status, and for various state offices to throw away computers, 
tighten management of classified information, and ensure all information 
related to the camps is now stored on databases disconnected from the internet 
in special, restricted-access rooms to bar hackers, the Uighurs said. 

   "They became much more serious about the transfer of information," one said. 

   Publication of the classified documents prompted the central government in 
Beijing to put more pressure on Xinjiang officials, several of the Uighurs 
said. 

   Restrictions on information appear to be tightening further. Some university 
teachers and district-level workers in Urumqi have been ordered to clean out 
sensitive data on their computers, phones and cloud storage, and to delete 
work-related social media groups, according to one Uighur with direct knowledge 
of the situation. 

   In other cases, the state appears to be confiscating evidence of detentions. 
Another Uighur who had been detained in Xinjiang years before said his ex-wife 
called him two weeks ago and begged him to send his release papers to her, 
saying eight officers had come to her home to search for the papers, then 
threatened she'd be jailed for life if she couldn't produce the papers. 

   "It's an old matter, and they've know I've been abroad for a long time," he 
said. "The fact that they suddenly want this now must mean the pressure on them 
is very high." 

   Some government workers have been rounded up as the state investigates the 
source of the leaks. In one case an entire family in civil service was 
arrested. Abduweli Ayup, a Uighur linguist in exile, said his wife's relatives 
in Xinjiang -- including her parents, siblings, and in-laws -- were detained 
shortly after the leaks were published, although Ayup said they had no relation 
to the leaks as far as he was aware. Some people in touch with relatives 
outside China were also investigated and seized, Ayup said. 

   It is unknown how many have been detained since the leaks. 

   Earlier this week, a Uighur woman in the Netherlands told a Dutch daily, de 
Volkskrant, that she was the source of the documents published by the 
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The woman, Asiye 
Abdulaheb, said that after she posted one page on social media in June, Chinese 
state agents sent her death threats and tried to recruit her ex-husband to spy 
on her. 

   The leaked documents lay out the Chinese government's deliberate strategy to 
lock up ethnic minorities even before they commit a crime, and to rewire their 
thoughts and the language they speak. They reveal that facilities Beijing calls 
"vocational training schools" are forced ideological and behavioral 
re-education centers run in secret. 

   The papers also show how Beijing is pioneering a new form of social control 
using data and artificial intelligence. Drawing on data collected by mass 
surveillance technology, computers issued the names of tens of thousands of 
people for interrogation or detention in just one week. 

   The leaks come at a delicate time in relations between Washington and 
Beijing, amid ongoing negotiations to end a trade war and U.S. concerns about 
the situation in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory where police 
have clashed with pro-democracy protesters. 

   Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the 
Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, aimed at pressuring China over the mass 
detentions in Xinjiang. Beijing swiftly denounced the bill  as foreign 
meddling. State media reported that the Chinese government was considering 
retaliatory measures including visa bans on U.S. officials.


(KR)

 
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