‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Detail China's Mass Detentions
November 16, 2019 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Detail China's Mass Detentions "The papers were brought to light by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions." In the meantime, PLA soldiers have appeared for the first time in Hong Kong, doing "voluntary cleanup" of debris left behind by protesters and the Hong Kong Police Force.
posted by toastyk (40 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
It’s really frightening how well China does dystopia.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is one of the worst results of the Trump presidency. Authoritarian governments around the world have felt free to do all the repressive things they've wanted to do with few or no difficulties from Washington.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:26 AM on November 16, 2019 [23 favorites]

I heard about the PLA showing up in HK today and felt a cold, black, shadow move through me. Once the PLA in on the streets, there can be no good outcome. I fully expect disappearings to quietly begin.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on November 16, 2019 [15 favorites]

Honestly, as frightening as this report is, the leak itself is a huge thing - per the NYT article "The papers were brought to light by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions." The article goes on to document that at least one official ordered the release of 7000 detained individuals, for which he was disappeared, and forced to confess his "sins".

"In 2017, the party opened more than 12,000 investigations into party members in Xinjiang for infractions in the “fight against separatism,” more than 20 times the figure in the previous year, according to official statistics."
posted by toastyk at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2019 [25 favorites]

Related twitter thread from Zeynep Tufekci:
Hong Kong protests are in their fifth month despite an escalating crackdown. How? One surprising answer: the fate of China's Uyghurs. Many talked to me about it. They watched and learned. They've decided that they "may as well go down fighting."
posted by postcommunism at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2019 [32 favorites]

Trump presidency

At the risk of contributing to a derail, I'd like to suggest that this thread should not be centered on US politics or policy. Everything is connected, but US politics has a certain way of taking all the oxygen out of the room, especially on MetaFilter.
posted by Not A Thing at 10:51 AM on November 16, 2019 [35 favorites]

Also, I'm not convinced any American president could have done very much about Chinese abuses.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2019 [15 favorites]

[Officially supporting that; please be mindful not to make every thread about the US. China has its own context and plenty to talk about just in that frame.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:04 AM on November 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

More than one million former Chinese government officials have been arrested, imprisoned, or disappeared, under the guise of an anti-corruption purge. This purge has produced forced confessions, torture, and prisoners beaten to death. They even disappeared the head of Interpol. It is astounding how quickly and thoroughly Xi Jinping has accomplished this, and there is no end in sight.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:23 AM on November 16, 2019 [22 favorites]

The government sends Xinjiang’s brightest young Uighurs to universities across China, with the goal of training a new generation of Uighur civil servants and teachers loyal to the party.

The crackdown has been so extensive that it affected even these elite students, the directive shows. And that made the authorities nervous.

This is an interesting illustration of the constraints that even the most efficiently brutal regimes have to operate within. Combined with the circumstances of the leak itself as noted by toastyk above, I wonder if Xi is operating closer to the limits of his power than an outsider would realize.
posted by Not A Thing at 11:25 AM on November 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

[One deleted. We ask Americans in particular to be mindful about their footprint in discussions of non-US countries because Mefites from non-US countries have said how it's a problem that Americans often end up bringing every discussion back to center on the US. If you're not interested in what's going on in China on its own terms, that's okay, but this isn't the thread for that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2019 [20 favorites]

I've been seeing the tweet that first broke the news in English show up since 18 hours ago - first from within China itself, then slowly move across the international date line following the sunlight
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Shout out to /r/hongkong on reddit which has been a constant stream of citizen reporting and a pretty good handle on squelching the cyberwarfare and PRC/PLA agitprop they're being targeted with.

Apparently the PLA is out in plain clothes doing "volunteer" action which circumvents the garrison laws they're supposed to be operating under if at all. What are they volunteering to do? Cleaning and clearing barricades, of course.

So they're in the streets with matching brooms and buckets and even aparrently marching in drill formation with brooms at shoulder marching rest instead of rifles.

It's fucking surreal.
posted by loquacious at 12:07 PM on November 16, 2019 [20 favorites]


Another article on the PLA volunteer cleanup no one asked for.
posted by loquacious at 12:11 PM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

> "... expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions."

I wonder if it's also intended as a passive reminder to the protesters in Hong Kong of what's waiting for them.
posted by at by at 12:14 PM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

There have been persistent and credible allegations that China is sterilizing detained Uiyghur women and forcing abortions on others.
posted by jamjam at 1:12 PM on November 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I cannot imagine the courage required to leak this.
posted by sallybrown at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2019 [15 favorites]

Zeynep Tufekci has expanded the Twitter thread into an article. (Or maybe it was the other way around, not sure.)

I feel such a sad foreboding about this. A great grinding machine is beginning to turn to crush so many people.
posted by clawsoon at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2019 [9 favorites]

From China Media Project, a most excellent piece on yesterday's Chinese mainland's PLA street cleaning exercise outside its barracks in Kowloon, Hong Kong:

The Limits of Positivety
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:54 PM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have info on where we can send money? I know someone had posted links in the past, but would be good to get an update.
posted by Telf at 12:17 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thorzdad: “Disappearances” is exactly how China dealt with the last HK independence movement - they arrested the leadership and defanged the movement. This time around, my understanding is that HKers have learnt from that experience. Protests are decentralised and happen organically - there is no central control to arrest, no hierarchy to disrupt.

My personal read of the situation is that the HK community is forcing China to make a choice: they can intern the entirety of HK, or they can find a way to back down.

Obviously the Party has both the capability and the will to move in and intern the entirety of HK if they so choose - that’s exactly what they’ve done to the Uighurs - but doing so will destroy what HK represents & cause massive international problems for them. HK is the nexus for a huge amount of financial trade between the West & China, both licit & illicit. Cutting off HK means in part cutting off China. It also means cutting off one of the major routes for the Chinese elites (within and without the Party) use to tunnel their wealth out of China to “safer” western regimes. At the same time, the Party elites fear that giving in to the independence demands will embolden movements elsewhere in China - the Party’s hold on the system as a whole is not as strong as the image they project.

They are caught on the horns of a dilemma: to crush the dissenters means destroying a chunk of the Chinese economy and the route via which they are smuggling their own wealth out of the country, with inevitable negative consequences on the country and the perception of the Party. To not crush the dissenters makes the Party look weak and will embolden dissenting movements elsewhere.

So to crushing the dissenters carries an unacceptable price, but to not crush the dissenters is also unacceptable. China has been thrashing about trying to solve this conundrum ever since the protests started.
posted by pharm at 3:22 AM on November 17, 2019 [15 favorites]

Someone pointed out that one of the things that the PLA "volunteers" are so helpfully cleaning up are the roadblocks that HKers had built to slow down PLA armoured vehicles.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 AM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

This Al Jazeera photo of a HK protestor armed with a bow is incredible.
posted by Telf at 5:57 AM on November 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

I just checked Twitter, and it looks like currently in HK, the police are in a standoff with protesters at Poly University. A police armored vehicle that tried to approach the school was set ablaze.

I agree with pharm about the way the CCP is being forced to reckon with the HK protesters. The protesters know they will lose, enough that many of them are carrying last messages for their parents and loved ones.

Other signs that power might be more tenuous in the CCP than they project:

Xi JinPing's daughter is re-enrolled at Harvard University. If things were going well, she'd have a cushy job inside the Party already, being groomed to take over.

Chinese businesses are acting like Russia in the 1990s and cutting and running.
posted by toastyk at 6:08 AM on November 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think the protestors (which is effectively the majority of HK at this point - the protests would not survive without the tacit support of the population in general) know perfectly well that in any ordinary stand-off with China they lose: It’s inevitable. But they also believe that if they publicly commit to a level of resistance that requires a total invasion of HK by the PLA alongside the interning of a third to a half the population in order to reassert control that this will be a pyrrhic victory for China & the Chinese leadership also believes this.

The outcome obviously depends on the willingness of the Chinese elite to do harm to China in order to crush dissent. The Uighurs could be crushed without (immediate) consequences for China because they didn’t matter economically. HK is in a different position. Will that make the difference? My head says no, China will crush them anyway & take whatever consequence follow on the chin because they cannot do otherwise, but my heart hopes that they will find a way to back down without losing face.
posted by pharm at 6:36 AM on November 17, 2019 [10 favorites]

Sooner or later the muslim world is going to rise up to China's attempt at muslim genocide and the consequences are going to be horrific for everyone involved.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

HKFP Lens: The Battle of PolyU
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:33 PM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hong Kong university siege: a visual guide (Lily Kuo, Michael Safi, Cath Levett, Paul Scruton , Finbarr Sheehy and Simon Jeffery; Guardian)

Pictures, some maps in 2-D and 3-D.
How the occupations began

Protesters had until the last two weeks avoided university campuses, which are traditionally sites of political activism and regarded by many students as their home turf. The occupations were a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid nature.

The immediate trigger for the battle to shift to campuses appears to have been the death of a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student on 8 November. Since then, several campuses have been barricaded by students, some of whom are using footbridges or or near the campuses to block main roads.

The moves have turned campuses into fortresses. At Chinese University of Hong Kong last week, activists built watchtowers while campus sports centres were raided for bows and arrows.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:35 PM on November 18, 2019

Hong Kong’s High Court rules anti-mask law unconstitutional
Hong Kong’s ban on face-covering at protests has been ruled unconstitutional with the High Court saying that it “goes further than necessary” in the restriction of fundamental rights.

The judgment on Monday came as an unexpected blow to the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) to enact the mask ban without legislative oversight.

The court also ruled that the ERO was partially unconstitutional as sections of the law that empower Hong Kong’s leader to make laws “on any occasion of public danger” are incompatible with the Basic Law.

After the ruling, the government said that it would stop enforcing the ban for the time being.

The court will hear arguments on Wednesday to decide what further actions will be taken over the ban.

In their 106-page judgment, Court of First Instance judges Godfrey Lam and Anderson Chow ruled that the mask ban failed the proportionality test – the yardstick for measuring whether a restriction of human rights was constitutional.
How long will the High Court be allowed to do its duty?
posted by clawsoon at 4:22 PM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by clawsoon at 3:19 AM on November 19, 2019

US Senate passes the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The Protect Hong Kong Act, which would ban the export of teargas and other crowd control supplies to Hong Kong and its police force has passed the House but not the Senate.
posted by toastyk at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2019

Hong Kong’s police force changed their motto from “We Serve with Pride and Care” to “Serving Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty” on the day its new chief took office on Tuesday. ...

“The police force has evolved over time. We will use a new motto in reference to changes in current society,” he said.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

“I summoned the Chinese Ambassador to express our outrage at the brutal and disgraceful treatment of Simon in violation of China’s international obligations. I have made clear we expect the Chinese authorities to investigate and hold those responsible to account,” Raab said, adding that Cheng’s mistreatment amounted to torture.

But China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang on Wednesday warned London to remain “prudent and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic affairs, because that will only harm the UK’s interests.”
Is it only our "interests" that we care about anymore? I hope not.
posted by clawsoon at 2:52 PM on November 20, 2019

Beyond Orwell's Worst Nightmares
How China Uses Artificial Intelligence to Commit Genocide.
The “neural network” was created by the People’s Liberation Army of China as part of its new digital military doctrine, C4ISR, and is now part of the National Vigilance programme, which plans to cover China with a tracking technology network.
From 2017, all Muslims aged 12 to 65 are required to undergo comprehensive biometric and DNA tests, including having photographs taken of their face and body from several angles, blood tests, fingerprints, eye retina scans, hair samples and voice recordings.
According to the official data, China will use 626 million monitoring cameras in 2020.
posted by adamvasco at 4:58 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Looks like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its partners did a big release yesterday on the leaks, which they're giving the name the China Cables. Frightening stuff, and you can see why Hong Kong voted for anything but this.

China’s Operating Manuals for Mass Internment and Arrest by Algorithm

How China Targets Uighurs ‘One by One’ for Using a Mobile App

Who Are the Uighurs and Why Mass Detention?

Watch: China Cables Exposes Chilling Details of Mass Detention in Xinjiang

They're calling it the "largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority since World War II."
posted by clawsoon at 6:04 AM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

The memo includes orders to:
  • "Never allow escapes"
  • "Increase discipline and punishment of behavioural violations"
  • "Promote repentance and confession"
  • "Make remedial Mandarin studies the top priority"
  • "Encourage students to truly transform"
  • "[Ensure] full video surveillance coverage of dormitories and classrooms free of blind spots"...
One [document] reveals that 15,000 people from southern Xinjiang were sent to the camps over the course of just one week in 2017.
posted by clawsoon at 6:20 AM on November 25, 2019

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