The Xinjiang Data Project

About the project

The Xinjiang Data Project fills an important information gap by bringing together rigorously vetted and empirical policy-relevant research on the human rights situation facing Uyghurs and other non-Han nationalities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It focuses on a core set of topics including the mass internment camps, surveillance and emerging technologies, forced labour and supply chains, the ‘re-education’ campaign, deliberate cultural destruction and other human rights abuses.

Drawing on open source data including satellite imagery, Chinese and Uyghur-language documents, official government statistics and a range of authoritative reports and academic studies, the Xinjiang Data Project documents the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses against Turkic-speaking indigenous communities in China’s resource-rich northwestern region, and explores the global implications.

This website was developed by researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) International Cyber Policy Centre in partnership with a range of global experts. This project is supported by advice from an independent advisory council (see below for more information).

The initial phase of this research project is supported by the US government’s State Department, but we are actively seeking further funding to continue this research project. Should you wish to support this research please contact us at xinjiangdataproject [at] aspi.org.au

Subscribe

If you are interested in occasional updates on relevant new research and other developments in Xinjiang, please subscribe to our newsletter here:

Advisory Council

We are grateful for the advice and assistance of a range of global experts on Xinjiang including Maya Wang from Human Rights Watch, Dr Timothy Grose from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Investigative reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios China; and Dr Darren Byler of the University of Colorado Boulder.

The Advisory Council informs the work of this project. It has three core functions:

  1. To ensure all work is rigorous and empirically accurate.
  2. To provide recommendations on future research topics.
  3. To suggest empirical research reports, media investigations or relevant Chinese language documents that should be highlighted on this site.

The Advisory Council is independent of ASPI. ASPI remains independent in the content of the research and in all editorial judgements. ASPI’s research publications reflect the personal views of the author(s) and should not be seen as representing the formal position of ASPI or the advisory members on any particular issue.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute

ASPI is an independent, non-partisan think tank that produces expert and timely advice by generating policy-relevant research and new ideas for governments, industry and civil society across defence, security, strategic and cyber issues. ASPI is one of the most authoritative and widely quoted contributors to public discussion of strategic policy issues in Australia and the broader Indo-Pacific region. ASPI has a mixed funding base that includes support and research grants from governments, industry and civil society groups. A detailed breakdown of our funding can be found here.

ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre is a leading voice in global debates on cyber, emerging and critical technologies, issues related to information and foreign interference; focusing on the impact these issues have on broader strategic policy. The centre has a growing mix of expertise and skills with teams of researchers who concentrate on policy, technical analysis, information operations and disinformation, critical and emerging technologies, cyber capacity building, satellite analysis, surveillance and China-related issues. The centre informs public debate in the Indo-Pacific region and supports public policy development by producing original, empirical, data-driven research. Explore our work here.

Why Xinjiang?

In Xinjiang, the Chinese government has developed a new form of repressive, tech-enhanced authoritarianism to surveil, control and ultimately re-engineer its non-Han nationalities, which has global implications.

Credible estimates suggest at least 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic-speaking minorities have been extrajudicially detained in massive political re-education camps since 2017. Our research team has identified more than 380 detention facilities across Xinjiang, newly constructed or expanded since 2017. Leaked documents and various investigations have revealed individuals are detained for accessing foreign websites, disobeying local authorities or refusing to drink or smoke in public, among other “extremist” or “abnormal” behaviour. Eyewitnesses and survivors have spoken of harsh treatment and violent abuse inside the camps. Uyghurs and Kazakhs overseas have reported losing all contact with their relatives in Xinjiang, unable to confirm if they are alive or dead.

A range of research has also unearthed how those outside the camps are subject to constant, intrusive surveillance by authorities, including the collection of biometric data and its automated analysis. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been forced to work in factories on government transfer schemes, some being moved directly from the camps. Ordinary expressions of Muslim faith, such as possessing a Qur’an or donating to a mosque, have been criminalised despite cultural and religious protections included in the Chinese Constitution. The birth rate of Uyghur people in Xinjiang has plummeted since the start of the crackdown, with evidence of forced sterilisations.

What does the Chinese government say?

The Chinese government denies the existence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and says the crackdown is about counterterrorism, deradicalisation and poverty alleviation. China denied the existence of the re-education camps for over a year. Yet in the face of overwhelming evidence from journalists and researchers, the government then claimed the camps are “vocational education and training centres” for ‘radicalized individuals’. 

What sort of information is included here?

Expert reports, empirical research, translations of publicly available official documents, and in-depth media and academic investigations relating to Xinjiang’s internment camps, surveillance and emerging technologies, forced labour and supply chains, the ‘re-education’ campaign and deliberate cultural destruction are available and searchable in our Knowledge Centre. This resource will be continually updated as our advisory panel considers more such information for inclusion. 

Search in the Knowledge centre by topic, keyword, document type or language. 

If you are interested in contributing your research to the site please contact us at the below email or here

We will also keep the Explainers section of the website updated with important news and topical developments.

Where requested, pseudonyms will be used to protect the identities of Uyghur researchers and academics involved in this project.

Contact us

xinjiangdataproject [at] aspi.org.au

Alternatively, view our Submissions page to find out how to make secure contact with us.