The Xinjiang Police Files​

Re-Education Camp Security and Political Paranoia
in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Peer reviewed academic article published with the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies

From 2017, the Chinese government detained over one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang in so-called vocational centers. Previously, witnesses and leaked state documents outlined the securitised nature of these re-education facilities. Now, the “Xinjiang Police Files,” a major cache of classified files from internal Chinese police networks, provides an unprecedented inside view. Detailed security instructions for re-education camps describe special police units carrying military assault weapons and show guards handcuffing detainees.

The files include thousands of images of detained Uyghurs, along with candid speeches by leading officials. They show leaders’ impassioned demands to treat persons from ethnic groups like dangerous criminals, and to readily open fire to stop escapees. This article authenticates and contextualizes the Xinjiang Police Files within the growing field of published internal Xinjiang government documents. 

Public Security Minister’s Speech Describes Xi Jinping’s Direction of Mass Detentions in Xinjiang​

Scholar Adrian Zenz’s Newly Released “Xinjiang Police Files” Affirm Scale of Campaign and Beijing’s Role in Shaping It

Article published with ChinaFile, online magazine 
of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations

From 2017, the Chinese government detained over one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang in so-called vocational centers. Previously, witnesses and leaked state documents outlined the securitised nature of these re-education facilities. Now, the “Xinjiang Police Files,” a major cache of classified files from internal Chinese police networks, provides an unprecedented inside view. Detailed security instructions for re-education camps describe special police units carrying military assault weapons and show guards handcuffing detainees. 

The files include thousands of images of detained Uyghurs, along with candid speeches by leading officials. They show leaders’ impassioned demands to treat persons from ethnic groups like dangerous criminals, and to readily open fire to stop escapees. This article authenticates and contextualizes the Xinjiang Police Files within the growing field of published internal Xinjiang government documents. Scholars have argued that political paranoia is a common feature of atrocity crimes. Here, it is suggested that the pre-emptive internment of large numbers of ordinary citizens can be explained as a devolution into political paranoia that promotes exaggerated threat perceptions.

Research Paper on Forced Labor in Xinjiang's Cotton Harvest

"Coercive Labor in the Cotton Harvest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Uzbekistan: A Comparative Analysis of State-Sponsored Forced Labor" by Dr. Adrian Zenz, Senior Fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Published in the Journal of Communist and Post-Communist Studies (May 19, 2023)

This peer-reviewed paper reveals new evidence for the systemic state-sponsored forced labor in the cotton harvests of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Drawing a detailed comparison with historical practices in Uzbekistan, it uncovers how both regions employ authoritarian state mechanisms and local grassroots mobilization to create coercive labor environments. The research reveals that while Uzbekistan’s forced labor was economically motivated, Xinjiang’s labor program primarily serves Beijing’s broader ethnopolitical goals, extending beyond mere economic gains. The paper argues that existing forced labor indicators, such as those used by the International Labor Organization, fail to fully capture forms of state-imposed coercive labor such as is seen in Xinjiang; explores the dynamic nature of the coercion, suggesting that it is a pervasive state-induced phenomenon deeply rooted within the sociocultural context of the regions; and underscores the challenges in eradicating forced labor in systemically coercive environments under authoritarian states, suggesting a need for a nuanced approach in international labor standards and monitoring.

Research Paper on Beijing's Coercive Labor Transfers for Uyghurs

"The conceptual evolution of poverty alleviation through labour transfer in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region" by Dr. Adrian Zenz, Senior Fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Published in the Central Asia Survey (October 25, 2023)

This peer-reviewed paper illustrates how in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, labor programs for re-education detainees and rural labor transfers are governed by distinct policies. It highlights that Xinjiang’s labor strategy has evolved as part of a broader initiative to manage surplus labor across China, yet intensified under the region’s unique settler colonial framework. Since 2014, Uyghur unemployment has been increasingly viewed through the lens of extremism, with labor transfers becoming a tool for promoting social stability and national security. The escalation of labor transfer coercion between 2017 and 2019 coincided with a spike in mass detentions, as Beijing emphasized poverty alleviation targets. In 2021, Xinjiang’s pivot to a more permanent, institutionalized labor model raised the potential for sustained coercion. This analysis reveals the complexities and entrenched nature of Xinjiang’s labor transfer program, emphasizing the need for a deeper understanding of its coercive mechanisms and long-term implications.