The US rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday said that the Chinese government used an expansive data collection project to arbitrarily detain Uyghur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

In its new report, HRW said it analysed a leaked list from 2018 of more than 2,000 detainees in Xinjiang’s Aksu prefecture, which includes the names of Uyghurs, phone numbers and reasons for detention in China’s camp system.

The report found that the programme, known as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP) –flagged as reasons for arrest behaviour such as wearing a veil or studying the Quran.

The Chinese Communist Party has for the last three years forced the Uyghur community into re-education camp in Xinjiang. Beijing has labelled the camps as “help centres”, which the Communist Party claims are designed to combat religious extremism. Leaked documents, however, showed that the centers are forced ideological re-education camps.

Activists say the purpose of the detention was to “erase the ethnic and religious identities of” Turkic Muslims and ensure their loyalty to the Chinese government.

HRW said its analysis of the Aksu List “strongly suggests that the vast majority of the people flagged by the IJOP system are detained for everyday lawful, non-violent behaviour”.

“The Aksu list is the first time we have seen the IJOP in action in detaining people,” said HRW’s Maya Wang, adding that it “provides further insights into how China’s brutal repression of Xinjiang’s Turkic Muslims is being turbocharged by technology”.

“The Chinese government should immediately shut down the IJOP, delete all the data it has collected, and release everyone arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang”, Wang concluded.


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