Uighur woman says she helped leak secret Xinjiang papers

A November 2017 photo of Uighur security personnel on patrol near a mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang region. Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party has overseen a wave of mass detentions in Xinjiang, driving up to one million members of
A November 2017 photo of Uighur security personnel on patrol near a mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang region. Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party has overseen a wave of mass detentions in Xinjiang, driving up to one million members of largely Muslim minority groups, especially Uighurs, into indoctrination camps intended to drastically weaken their religious attachments.ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ms Asiye Abdulaheb, who lives in the Netherlands, said she has received death threats for helping to leak the documents. PHOTO: AURELIE GEURTS
Ms Asiye Abdulaheb, who lives in the Netherlands, said she has received death threats for helping to leak the documents. PHOTO: AURELIE GEURTS

LONDON • A Uighur woman living in the Netherlands said she helped leak secret Chinese government documents that shed light on how Beijing runs mass detention camps for Muslim ethnic minorities, recounting how she has lived in fear after receiving death threats for speaking out.

Ms Asiye Abdulaheb, 46, told a Dutch newspaper that she was involved in the release of 24 pages of documents published by Western news outlets last month and was speaking out now to protect relatives from retaliation.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by journalists around the world, followed an earlier leak of 403 pages of internal papers to The New York Times that described how the authorities created, managed and justified the continuing crackdown on as many as one million ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Ms Abdulaheb said she had decided to speak about her involvement in the leak even though it might endanger her or her family. "I can handle the pressure, but I'm afraid that something will happen to my children and their father," she told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. "We no longer sleep. We need more protection. Publicity gives us protection."

Ms Abdulaheb, who speaks Mandarin, said she had worked for Chinese state institutions and that she moved to the Netherlands in 2009.

In an interview on Saturday, she confirmed that she received and helped leak the 24 pages, but she did not explain how she obtained the documents.

The Dutch newspaper reported that Ms Abdulaheb had "shaken with nerves" when she acquired the 24 pages of internal Chinese documents on her laptop this year. After she posted a screenshot of one of the documents on Twitter, a German researcher on Xinjiang, China - Dr Adrian Zenz - reached out to her and confirmed the authenticity of the documents. Those documents were later acquired by various news organisations, though Ms Abdulaheb did not say how.

ICIJ, an independent non-profit group based in Washington, later partnered with 17 other organisations, including The New York Times, to publish revelations on internment camps based on the set of documents.

That article came a week after the Times published a report based on 403 leaked pages that shed light on the origins and expansion of the crackdown in Xinjiang. The Times report said the source of its documents was a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity.

ON MOVE TO SPEAK UP

I can handle the pressure, but I'm afraid that something will happen to my children and their father... We no longer sleep. We need more protection. Publicity gives us protection.

MS ASIYE ABDULAHEB, a Uighur woman living in the Netherlands who said she helped leak secret Chinese government documents that shed light on how Beijing runs mass detention camps for Muslim ethnic minorities.

In a statement on Saturday, the consortium declined to say whether Ms Abdulaheb was the source for its report. "ICIJ does not comment on its sources," it said.

The two exposes sharpened international debate over the Chinese government's intense crackdown across the region. Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party has overseen a wave of mass detentions in Xinjiang, driving up to one million members of largely Muslim minority groups, especially Uighurs, into indoctrination camps intended to drastically weaken their religious attachments and make them loyal to the party.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2019, with the headline 'Uighur woman says she helped leak secret Xinjiang papers'. Print Edition | Subscribe