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Government is pursuing a ‘strike hard’ security campaign

A statue of Chairman Mao shaking hands with a Uighur villager in Hotan, southwestern Xinjiang, China.NYTGILLES SABRIE

The Chinese government has built a vast network of re-education camps and a pervasive system of surveillance to monitor and subdue millions from Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

Now China is also turning to an older, harsher method of control: filling prisons in Xinjiang.

The region in northwest China has experienced a record surge in arrests, trials and prison sentences in the past two years, according to a New York Times analysis of previously unreported official data.

As the Chinese government pursues a “strike hard” security campaign aimed overwhelmingly at minorities in Xinjiang, the use of prisons is throwing into doubt even China’s limited protections of defendants’ rights.

Courts in Xinjiang — where largely Muslim minorities, including Uighurs and Kazakhs, make up over half of the population — sentenced a total of 230,000 people to prison or other punishments in 2017 and 2018, significantly more than in any other period on record in decades for the region.

During 2017 alone, Xinjiang courts sentenced almost 87,000 defendants, 10 times more than in the previous year, to prison terms of five years or longer. Arrests increased eight-fold; prosecutions five-fold.

The police, prosecutors and judges in the region are working in unison to ram through convictions, serving the Communist Party’s campaign to eradicate unrest and convert the largely Muslim minorities into party loyalists. Arrests, the critics said, are often based on flimsy charges, and trials are perfunctory, with guilty judgments overwhelmingly likely. Once sentenced, prisoners face potential abuses and hard labour in overcrowded, isolated facilities.

No disclosure

Xinjiang, like other parts of China, does not disclose how many people are in prison, and the regional government did not answer faxed questions about incarceration and the legal statistics. Not all the people imprisoned in Xinjiang are from Muslim minorities, and not all charges are baseless.

“It’s as if the whole population is treated as guilty until proven innocent,” said Sean Roberts, an anthropologist at George Washington University who studies Uighurs, whose religion, Turkic language and traditions set them apart from China’s Han majority. “These internment camps and prisons are not going away and stand as a warning to the population that they better be more loyal to the party.”

Han Chinese residents have been largely spared from the wave of detentions, according to experts as well as data from Han-majority parts of Xinjiang.

The expanding population in prisons raises questions about Xinjiang officials’ recent avowals that most of the inmates in re-education camps — a separate system of incarceration — have been released.

Beijing’s claim disputed

Uighur activists and overseas Uighurs with relatives in the camps have disputed Beijing’s claim that the camps are shrinking. Interviews and government documents indicate that former camp inmates may be pressed into assigned labour or other kinds of detention.

And Uighurs living abroad said a sizable fraction of people held in re-education camps end up in prisons.

A sizable fraction of Uighurs sent to prisons were businesspeople, professionals and academics, said Habibulla Altay, a Uighur tea merchant who left China in 2016 and has settled in Switzerland.

“The government thinks they are dangerous because they have money and knowledge and often have been abroad,” he said. NY Times

Pro-democracy activists barricaded roads and disrupted other transport links to the airport

Escalating tensions: A barricade that was set on fire during a protest near a metro station in Hong Kong. REUTERSANUSHREE FADNAVIS

More than a dozen flights were cancelled on Sunday as thousands of pro-democracy activists blocked routes to ’s airport, a day after protesters and police fought pitched battles in some of the worst violence seen in the city since unrest began three months ago.

At least 16 flights were cancelled, the airport’s website said, with the departure hall packed with a backlog of passengers who had struggled to make it to the terminals.

Earlier, operators of the Airport Express train suspended services after the station was besieged, while black-clad protesters — hiding from CCTV cameras under umbrellas — built barricades at the bus terminus and attempted to stop traffic on the main road leading to the facility.

Stranded travellers were forced to abandon their lifts and drag their luggage along the airport road.

Sunday’s action is the latest in three months of increasingly violent protests sparked initially by opposition to a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but which morphed into a broader anti-government movement.

Outside one airport terminal, protesters set off fire extinguishers, piled luggage trolleys into makeshift road barricades and smashed surveillance cameras before being driven away by police.

“It’s out of our control,” said Andy Tang, 26, returning to Australia from a week’s holiday in Hong Kong. “So there’s no point getting annoyed about it.”

Pitched battles

The airport is covered by an injunction banning protesters from entering — imposed after a shutdown in August, which ended in ugly clashes — but protesters have routinely ignored legal moves to ban their actions.

On Sunday, city sanitation workers were seen clearing debris and removing graffiti after a night of pitched battles between protesters and police.

Hardcore demonstrators on Saturday hurled petrol bombs at government buildings and police, who responded with tear gas and water cannon laced with chemical dye before making mass arrests.

Hong Kong is bracing for more disruption on Monday, with calls for a general strike and the start of a university boycott.

‘I bow before the Polish victims of German tyranny’

Frank-Walter Steinmeier ALIK KEPLICZ

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday asked Poland’s forgiveness for history’s bloodiest conflict during a ceremony in the Polish city of , where the first World War II bombs fell 80 years ago.

“I bow before the victims of the attack on Wielun. I bow before the Polish victims of German tyranny. And I ask your forgiveness,” Mr. Steinmeier said in both German and Polish.

Poland suffered some of the worst horrors of Second World War II: nearly six million Poles died in the conflict that killed more than 50 million people overall.

That figure includes the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, half of them Polish. “It was Germans who committed these crimes against humanity in Poland. Anyone calling them things of the past, or claiming that the vile rule of terror of the National Socialists in Europe was a mere footnote of German history, is passing judgement on him or herself,” Mr. Steinmeier added in the presence of his Polish counterpart.

The line appeared to be a clear reference to the German far-right, whose co-leader Alexander Gauland once called the 12-year Third Reich a “speck of bird poop” on an otherwise glorious German past.

“As Germany’s Federal President, let me assure you that we will not forget,” Mr. Steinmeier said.

“We want to, and we will, remember. And we will bear the responsibility that our history imposes upon us.”

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda denounced Germany’s attack on Poland.

He apologises to the people for delay

Pope Francis TIZIANA FABI

Thousands of people who were gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Sunday on-the-dot-of-noon appearance by Pope Francis were watching for the window of the Apostolic Palace to be thrown open so they could listen to the pope’s remarks and receive his blessing. But after seven minutes, people were looking at each other quizzically — no pope?

Then Pope Francis popped out and answered their question, “First of all I must excuse myself for being late. I was blocked in an elevator for 25 minutes.”

Apparently referring to electrical power, the Pope explained that there was a “drop in tension,” causing the elevator to get stuck.

“Thank God the firefighters intervened,” he said, referring to Vatican State’s fire department.

The Vatican didn’t say if the Pope was alone in the elevator or accompanied by any of his aides.

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