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  • Leaked Karakax List Exposes “System of Targeted Cultural Genocide” in Xinjiang

  • Activist Xu Zhiyong Detained After 50 Days in Hiding

  • Huawei Faces New Charges And “Smoking Gun” Report


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Leaked Karakax List Exposes “System of Targeted Cultural Genocide” in Xinjiang

An ongoing mass detention campaign in Xinjiang, itself part of a longer-running crackdown aimed squarely at mitigating elements of local Uyghur culture and religiosity, has detained as many as two million Muslim ethnic minority members in Xinjiang since 2017. While authorities claim that these camps are simply “vocational training” facilities, there has been evidence of forced laborpolitical indoctrination, abuse, and deaths inside the camps relayed from former detainees and staff. A newly publicized leaked database known as the “Karakax list” (named after the southwestern Xinjiang county where it was compiled) provides insight into the administrative and ideological underpinnings of the system of camps, the extent of the surveillance used to gather information on Xinjiang residents, and also provides examples of the “problematic behavior” that have led to detention. The 137-page list, which has been leaked to journalists after circulating among activists and overseas Uyghurs, includes religious and political data on over 300 detainees from Karakax, information on their family members and acquaintances, and the ostensible reason for their detention. Common examples include behaviors relevant to Muslim practice–suggesting that religiosity is a major determining factor for detention, and countering authorities’ insistence that the camps’ purpose is primarily educational. At The New York Times, Austin Ramzy provides an overview of the leak:

[…] Even children as young as 16 were closely monitored for signs of what Beijing considered to be wayward thinking.

[…] “This document is by far the most detailed that we have,” said Mr. [Adrian] Zenz, a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington. “It allows us to dissect the anatomy of both the internment drive and what the government now is now doing with these people.”

Mr. Zenz said he was confident that the document was legitimate for a number of reasons. He said he had matched the identities of 337 listed detainees, relatives and neighbors with other government documents, spreadsheets and a leaked database from SenseNets, a Chinese surveillance company, that included GPS coordinates along with names, identification numbers, addresses and photos.

[…] Officials claim that the camps are to curb extremism by providing skills and language instruction, b]ut the Karakax spreadsheet shows how officials have monitored minute details of daily life to find targets for detention as Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party boss in Xinjiang, ordered officials to “round up everyone who should be rounded up.”

The authorities scrutinized three generations of each detainee’s family, as well as their neighbors and friends. Officials in charge of monitoring mosques reported on how actively the residents participated in ceremonies, including the naming of children, circumcision, weddings and funerals. […] [Source]

The Karakax list is the third major collection of leaked information offering insight into the evolution and implementation of the detention program, following The New York Times’ November 2019 publication of a report based on 403 leaked pages of leaked official documents, and a collection of documents acquired by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that same month. Adrian Zenz, the Xinjiang expert who first provided substantive evidence of the existence of the internment camps and has provided continuous analysis on the topic, has also published on leaked information acquired through his research, and has declared a goal of “decisively refuting” CCP claims that the camps are benign educational institutions. In the intro to an extensive “dissection of the anatomy” of Beijing’s internment drive in Xinjiang published this week at the Journal of Political Risk, Zenz further highlights the significance of the newest leak:

Specifically, the Karakax List outlines the reasons why 311 persons were interned and reveals the cognition behind the decision-making processes as to whether individuals can be released or not. Based on the principles of presumed guilt (rather than innocence) and assigning guilt through association, the state has developed a highly fine-tuned yet also very labor-intensive governance system whereby entire family circles are held hostage to their behavioral performance – jointly and as individuals. Ongoing mechanisms of appraisal and evaluation ensure high levels of acquiescence even when most detainees have been released from the camps.

The detailed new information provided by this document also allows us to develop a more fine-grained understanding of the ideological and administrative processes that preceded the internment campaign. In particular, this research paper carefully reviews the sequence and timing of events during Chen Quanguo’s first seven months in the region. It is argued that Chen must have been installed by the central government, possibly during a meeting at the Two Sessions in Beijing in March 2016 where Xi Jinping, Chen, and Chen’s predecessor in Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, were all in the same place. It is argued that Chen’s role in Xinjiang has not so much been that of an innovator as it has been that of a highly driven and disciplined administrator, with a focus on drastically upscaling existing mechanisms of investigation, categorization and internment.

More than any other government document pertaining to Beijing’s extralegal campaign of mass internment, the Karakax List lays bare the ideological and administrative micromechanics of a system of targeted cultural genocide that arguably rivals any similar attempt in the history of humanity. Driven by a deeply religio-phobic worldview, Beijing has embarked on a project that, ideologically, isn’t far from a medieval witch-hunt, yet is being executed with administrative perfectionism and iron discipline. Being distrustful of the true intentions of its minority citizens, the state has established a system of governance that fully substitutes trust with control. That, however, is also set to become its greatest long-term liability. Xinjiang’s mechanisms of governance are both labor-intensive and predicated upon highly unequal power structures that often run along and increase ethnic fault lines. The long-term ramifications of this arrangement for social stability and ethnic relations are impossible to predict. […] [Source]

Read Zenz’ full paper for in-depth analysis of the list and explanation of its authentication.

Citing contribution from the AP, The Guardian has more on the data contained in the list, providing examples of the reasons listed for internment:

On the database, detainees and their families are tracked and classified by rigid, well-defined categories. Households are designated as “trustworthy” or “not trustworthy,” and their attitudes are graded as “ordinary” or “good”. Families have “light” or “heavy” religious “atmospheres”, and the document keeps count of how many relatives of each detainee are in prison or have been sent to a “training centre”.

Officials used these categories to determine how suspicious a person was, even if they had not committed any crimes.

Other reasons listed for internment include “minor religious infection”, “disturbs other persons by visiting them without reasons”, “relatives abroad”, “thinking is hard to grasp” and “untrustworthy person born in a certain decade”. The last seems to refer to younger men, according to an analysis of the data by Adrian Zenz, an expert on the detention centres who compiled a report on the Karakax list.

[…] The most recent date in the document is March 2019. The detainees listed come from Karakax County, a traditional settlement of about 650,000 people where more than 97% of the population are Uighur. The list was corroborated through interviews with former Karakax residents, Chinese identity verification tools, and other lists and documents seen by the Associated Press.

[…] It showed that Karakax officials also explicitly targeted people for activities that included going abroad, getting a passport, installing foreign software or clicking on a link to a foreign website. [Source]

Reporting from Deutsche Welle shows how the detailed information contained in the list can be used to profile a detainee:

In May 2017, a Uighur man was taken away to a “re-education camp” in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region. As an observant Muslim, the man prayed at home after meals, and sometimes attended Friday prayers at his local mosque. The reasons for his forced internment: His wife had covered her face with a veil and the couple had “too many” children. There was never a trial.

According to a newly leaked document from Xinjiang, the man underwent a “great ideological transformation” in the camp and “realized his mistakes and showed good repentance.” The family’s four boys and two girls back at home all demonstrated “good behavior.”

In June 2017, however, their mother was sent to prison for six years. She was charged with participating in an “illegal religious activity.”

This family’s story is similar to hundreds of cases, which are listed in unprecedented detail. [Source]

An interactive visual report from CNN relays the new findings from the Karakax list, and tells the stories of overseas Uyghurs who came across the list after years without contact with their family in Xinjiang, and of some of those who passed the leaked material to journalists. Ivan Watson and Ben Westcott report:

Rozinsa Mamattohti couldn’t sleep or eat for days after she read the detailed records the Chinese government had been keeping on her entire family.

[…] For Mamattohti’s sister, 34-year-old Patem, the crime for which she was detained, according to the document, was a “violation of family planning policy,” or put simply, having too many children. Under the countrywide policy, which rarely if ever is cause for imprisonment, rural families in Xinjiang are limited to three children. Patem had four.

It was the first time since 2016 that Mamattohti had received any concrete news of what had happened to her family.

“I never imagined that my younger sister would be in prison,” Mamattohti told CNN, through tears, in her house in Istanbul. She said she first saw the leaked records when they were informally circulated on social media among Uyghurs overseas. “As I was reading their names I couldn’t hold myself together, I was devastated.”

[…] [Netherlands-based Uyghur hip-hop artist Tahirjan] Anwar won’t reveal the source of this new document, only saying that they were taken out of China and passed to exiled Uyghur activists. He said if his source’s identity is made public “that person will die.”

Anwar passed on the leaked material to another Uyghur exile in the Netherlands, writer Asiye Abdulahad, in the hope she’d know how to spread the word. Between them, Anwar and Abdulahad have been responsible for disseminating two of the Chinese government’s most embarrassing internal leaks in decades. They say neither of them was involved in an earlier leak of internal Chinese government documents to the New York Times.

Quietly-spoken writer Abdulahad isn’t a member of any formal Uyghur organization, but when the document appeared in her inbox, she knew she had to act. […] [Source]

BBC News puts the new details from the list into the context of their continued coverage of the situation in Xinjiang:

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Activist Xu Zhiyong Detained After 50 Days in Hiding

Activist and lawyer Xu Zhiyong has been detained, almost two months after he went missing following a police round-up of several activists on December 26. For the past 50 days, Xu has been in hiding, though he has continued publishing his writing on his blog, including a February 4 letter criticizing Xi Jinping for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Emily Feng reports for NPR:

Friends of Xu Zhiyong confirmed to NPR that Xu was arrested at around 6 p.m. local time on Feb. 15 in the Panyu district of Guangzhou, a major metropolis in the south of China. Xu had managed to evade authorities for 50 days as police began rounding up fellow activists the day after Christmas.

His detention marks an escalation in an ongoing crackdown on Chinese civil society groups under the country’s leader Xi Jinping, decimating a once burgeoning legal rights movement.

[…] How Xu avoided capture for so long in a country that has invested heavily in digital surveillance and laced its cities with cameras equipped with facial recognition capacities is unclear. Friends say he switched locations often and did not use a mobile phone, relying instead on Gmail to communicate with colleagues and loved ones.

Despite the intense efforts from Chinese authorities to locate and arrest him, Xu sometimes went for runs outside and occasionally took his meals at restaurants, according to an acquaintance. [Source]

The New York Times’ Javier C. Hernández reports that Xu’s girlfriend, Li Qianchu, has also gone missing:

The activist is the latest critic to be caught up in Mr. Xi’s far-reaching efforts to limit dissent in China. The crackdown, which has ensnared scores of activists, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals, is likely to intensify as the ruling Communist Party comes under broad attack for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, one of its biggest political challenges in years.

[…] It is unclear what charges the authorities might bring against Mr. Xu. The circumstances of the disappearance of his girlfriend, Ms. Li, were also ambiguous. The police in Guangzhou did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Xu’s friends defended his actions.

“It is within the scope of freedom of speech under the Chinese Constitution,” said Hua Ze, an activist based in New Jersey and a friend of Mr. Xu who confirmed his detention. [Source]

Verna Yu reports for the Guardian that Xu is likely to be hit with a lengthy sentence, given that he has already served time in prison. In July 2017, he was released after a four-year sentence for gathering crowds to create disturbance as part of a broader crackdown on the New Citizens’ Movement, a group founded by Xu to fight government corruption and social injustice. Xu had worked on cases involving anti-corruption, petitioners’ rights, and access to education for migrant workers’ children. From Feng’s report:

Xu published an essay early this month, which called on China’s president to resign for his lack of ability to govern China, citing the coronavirus crisis and the mishandling of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests – a dangerous move that guarantees official anger.

“You didn’t authorise the truth to be released, and the outbreak turned into a national disaster,” Xu wrote.

“Whenever you face looming crisis, you’re clueless,” Xu wrote. “I don’t think you’re an evil man, you’re just not wise … Mr Xi Jinping, please step down.”

[…] Xu’s detention is likely to end in a lengthy jail term, because he has previously been jailed and the authorities tend to punish repeated offenders harshly.

“We’re very pessimistic, it certainly won’t be a light sentence in view of the current situation,” his friend and fellow activist Hua Ze said. [Source]

The Chinese government has responded to the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 72,000 and killed 1,868 in China, by censoring news and punishing individuals for “spreading rumors” about the dangers of the disease. Online anger has flared over government censorship, which many blame for contributing to the spread of the virus. Most recently, writer Xu Zhangrun, who issued a strongly worded takedown of online censorship in the wake of the coronavirus, has had his internet access cut off after briefly being put under house arrest on the pretext of a health quarantine–a tactic increasingly used to silence government critics. Last year, Xu was removed from his position at Tsinghua University after publishing critiques of the Xi administration. He also co-signed an open letter to the National People’s Congress following the February 7 death of Doctor Li Wenliang, who had been admonished for discussing the virus’ spread online before contracting the disease himself and dying from it. Verna Yu and Emma Graham-Harrison write in the Guardian:

A friend of Xu’s who spoke on Sunday on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals said police placed Xu under house arrest soon after he returned to Beijing from his lunar new year break at his home town in Anhui province.

[…] Those restrictions were lifted late last week, but his internet connection has been cut off since Friday, the friend added.

“He tried to get it mended but found out that his IP [internet protocol address] has been blocked. He lives on the outskirts of Beijing and is far away from shops and other services. Under the current [coronavirus] situation, things are very difficult for him.”

Friends say that since publication, Xu’s account has been suspended on WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, and many have been unable to get in touch with him for days. His name has been scrubbed from Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog, with only articles from official websites several years ago showing up on the country’s biggest search engine, Baidu. Calls to his mobile phone went unanswered on Sunday. [Source]

Read translated accounts of online censorship and public anger over the government’s handling of coronavirus via CDT. Read also more about Xu Zhiyong and his work, in his own words.

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Huawei Faces New Charges And “Smoking Gun” Report

Two new blows against Chinese network equipment giant Huawei landed this week, in the form of additional U.S. legal charges and reports of “smoking gun” evidence that the company’s products constitute a serious security risk. Reuters’ Karen Freifeld reported on the new indictment on Thursday:

In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.

It also contains new allegations about the company’s involvement in countries subject to sanctions. Among other accusations, it says Huawei installed surveillance equipment in Iran that was used to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran.

[…] There are no new charges against Meng in the superseding indictment.

[…] “The indictment paints a damning portrait of an illegitimate organization that lacks any regard for the law,” U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr and vice chairman Mark Warner said in a joint statement.

[…] At the same time, the United States is weighing new regulations to stop more foreign shipments of products with U.S. technology to Huawei. [Source]

Defense officials are said to have argued against further restrictions on the basis that they could starve U.S. suppliers of sales revenue needed to fund R&D, but have now reportedly dropped this objection.

NPR’s Noel King and Jim Zarroli discussed the indictment news on Morning Edition:

KING: How much of the information in this indictment is stuff we haven’t seen before?

ZARROLI: Well, most of it has already come out. There is some new detail, for instance, about Huawei’s dealings with Iran and North Korea. […] It quotes emails in which the two countries are referred to by codes. This would be – now, this kind of commercial activity with Iran would be a violation of American sanctions. The indictment says that the banks did business – that the banks that did business with Huawei asked about what was going on, and Huawei officials lied. And then when Huawei found out that U.S. officials were investigating it, it allegedly arranged to transfer employees who knew about what was happening back to China.

KING: Jim, if we already knew a lot of this already, why is the Trump administration coming out with this indictment now?

ZARROLI: Well, this is part of a campaign by the administration to put the squeeze on Huawei. The company makes a lot of the telecom equipment used to provide countries with Internet service. U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien just said that Huawei has a kind of backdoor in its equipment. It lets it spy on Internet users in other countries. And the U.S. has been pressuring American allies not to buy Huawei equipment. The administration also bars American companies from selling to Huawei. So the U.S. really sees Huawei as a long-term security threat. [Source]

The Wall Street Journal’s Bojan Pancevski and Deborah Ball reported comments from both sides at a major security conference this week:

John Suffolk, a Huawei senior vice president, dismissed the charges against the company as meritless, saying they were predominantly recycled from civil disputes over the past 20 years that had been litigated and settled.

“They are hoping that if they throw enough mud, some of the mud will stick,” Mr. Suffolk said at the Munich Security Conference.

Just as Mr. Suffolk’s briefing was under way, senior U.S. officials pushed back against Huawei’s defense in a press conference of their own.

“Over the last couple of years there’s been more than enough evidence of the way the Chinese government has been using its national champions so really the onus is on Huawei now: They have to show they are a trustworthy partner, they have to separate themselves from the Chinese government,” said Robert B. Blair, U.S. special representative for international telecommunications policy. [Source]

The article also included follow-up on another report by Pancevski this week on alleged “smoking gun” evidence of Huawei illegally retaining access to law enforcement surveillance capabilities on foreign cellular networks. From the WSJ:

The U.S. kept the intelligence highly classified until late last year, when U.S. officials provided details to allies including the U.K. and Germany, according to officials from the three countries. That was a tactical turnabout by the U.S., which in the past had argued that it didn’t need to produce hard evidence of the threat it says Huawei poses to nations’ security.

When telecom-equipment makers sell hardware such as switching gear, base stations and antennas to cellphone carriers—which assemble the networks that enable mobile communication and computing—they are required by law to build in ways for authorities to tap into the networks for lawful purposes.

These companies also are required to make sure they themselves can’t gain access without the consent of the network operator. Only law-enforcement officials or authorized officials at carriers are allowed into these “lawful interception interfaces.” Such access is governed by laws and protocols in each country.

[…] Some German officials came away […] convinced by the U.S. intelligence, according to a senior official familiar with the meeting. A confidential memo written by the German Foreign Office and seen by The Wall Street Journal states that Mr. Pottinger provided “smoking gun” evidence that Huawei equipment posed a spying risk. The memo was first reported by the German newspaper Handelsblatt. Mr. Pottinger didn’t respond to requests for comment. [Source]

The evidence, on the other hand, did not dissuade Britain from announcing late last month that it would allow Huawei a limited role in its deployment of next-generation 5G networks, though it did designate the company a “high risk” vendor barred from sensitive roles and subject to market share caps elsewhere. The decision attracted widespread criticism, notably from former Australian signals intelligence chief Simeon Gilding. In a blog post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Gilding wrote that the Australian Signals Directorate had concluded it was not possible to adequately mitigate the risk “that hostile intelligence services could not leverage their national vendors to gain access to our 5G networks.” Although Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei has insisted that he would not allow Chinese authorities to use his company this way, many regard such refusal as implausible given legal requirements and, more importantly, the underlying political reality they embody.

Britain’s position also came up at the Munich Security Conference, The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour reports:

There have been reports of a highly charged phone call between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump in the wake of the UK decision. Johnson has postponed a planned visit to the US until the summer, citing the pressure of domestic work, but also reflecting the tensions between the two allies.

At a briefing in Munich, Robert Blair, the White House special representative for international telecommunications policy, said Britain needed to take a “hard look” at its decision to use equipment made by Huawei, which officials in Washington say is a security risk – charges the company denies.

Blair said Washington was looking to develop a partnership with the telecoms industry to provide alternatives to Huawei’s technology.

He said a partnership was “very different from buying shares with taxpayers’ money”. Blair stressed that the UK decision, even if not reversed, would not lead to an end to intelligence cooperation between the close allies, but added that it might require the US to rethink how it shares data. [Source]

Blair’s comments on industry partnerships follow discussion of how the U.S. might boost Huawei’s European competitors Nokia and Ericsson, if not by buying control of them (as Attorney General William Barr proposed last week), then perhaps through assistance with R&D costs or customer financing. The American campaign to dissuade or deter other Western countries from letting Huawei in on 5G has struggled partly in the face of claims that there is little alternative.

Canada, deeply entangled in the battle by its detention of Huawei’s CFO and founder’s daughter, has yet to announce a decision. Military officials are reportedly urging a ban, but one major carrier has said it plans to start building its own 5G network incorporating Huawei equipment this year.

In a statement responding to the WSJ’s “smoking gun” report, Huawei counterattacked both the newspaper and U.S. authorities:

As evidenced by the Snowden leaks, the United States has been covertly accessing telecom networks worldwide, spying on other countries for quite some time. The report by the Washington Post this week about how the CIA used an encryption company to spy on other countries for decades [link] is yet additional proof.

US allegations of Huawei using lawful interception are nothing but a smokescreen – they don’t adhere to any form of accepted logic in the cyber security domain. Huawei has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so. The Wall Street Journal is clearly aware that the US government can’t provide any evidence to support their allegations, and yet it still chose to repeat the lies being spread by these US officials. This reflects The Wall Street Journal’s bias against Huawei and undermines its credibility.

[…] Huawei is only an equipment supplier. In this role, accessing customer networks without their authorization and visibility would be impossible. We do not have the ability to bypass carriers, access control, and take data from their networks without being detected by all normal firewalls or security systems. In fact, even The Wall Street Journal admits that US officials are unable to provide any concrete details concerning these so-called “backdoors.” [Source]

At Lawfare, Stanford University’s Dr. Herb Lin suggested grounds for skepticism in the contrast between the claim that unauthorized access “would be impossible” and a Huawei official’s comment in the WSJ article that it was merely “extremely implausible and would be discovered immediately.”

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