A newly revealed database has exposed the main reasons for the detentions of a Muslim, Emer, his three sons, and hundreds of others in Karakax.
The database obtained by The Associated Press news agency includes the internment of 311 individuals with relatives abroad and contains information on more than 2,000 of their relatives, neighbours and friends.
Each entry includes the detainee’s name, address, national identity number, detention date and location, along with a detailed dossier on their family, religious and neighbourhood background, the reason for the detention and a decision on whether or not to release them.
However, the documents do not indicate which government department compiled them or for whom.
Taken as a whole, the information offers the fullest and most personal view yet into how Chinese officials picked who was put into and who was let out of detention camps, as part of a significant crackdown that has locked away more than a million ethnic minorities, most of them Muslims.
The database emphasises that the Chinese government focused on religion as a reason for detention – not just political violence, as authorities claim, but everyday activities such as praying, attending a mosque, or even growing a long beard.
It also shows that people with detained relatives are far more likely to end up in a camp themselves, uprooting and giving entire families like Emer’s a criminal record in the process.
Similarly, family background and attitude is a bigger factor than detainee behaviour in whether they are released.
“It’s very clear that religious practice is being targeted,” said Darren Byler, a University of Colorado researcher studying the use of surveillance technology in Xinjiang.
“They want to fragment society, to pull the families apart and make them much more vulnerable to retraining and re-education,” he added.
The Xinjiang regional government did not respond to faxes requesting comment.
Asked whether Xinjiang is singling out people of a religious bent and their families, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “This kind of nonsense is not worth commenting on.”
Beijing has said before that the detention centres are for voluntary job training and that it does not discriminate based on religion.