Leaked documents about Chinese detention camps have dramatically contradicted government claims they are voluntary job training centres.
Classified documents appear to confirm the testimony of many former detainees: that they are centres for forced ideological and behavioural re-education.
More than a million people from ethnic minority groups, most Uighur Muslims, are in the camps in the far western Xinjiang region.
China’s embassy in the UK has dismissed the leak as a “fabrication and fake news”.
The documents leaked to a consortium of international journalists – including the Associated Press news agency – detail a strategy to lock up minorities in order to change their beliefs and even their language.
“To prevent escapes” they stipulates double-locked doors, watch towers and a huge video surveillance operation with no blind spots.
A scoring system grades detainees on how well they speak Mandarin, remember China’s communist ideology, and even stick to a list of rules on toilet breaks and bath times.
The documents – most from 2017 – reveal that any job or skills training only takes place after at least a year of learning ideology, law and Mandarin.
Artificial intelligence and mass surveillance technology is also being used on a large scale, with computers issuing the names of tens of thousands of people for interrogation or detention in just one week.
Many of those detained have not done anything wrong, with one document stating the purpose of the digital surveillance is “to prevent problems before they happen”.
Online footage purporting to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled Uighur prisoners is believed to be authentic, a security source told Sky News in September.
Uighurs are a Turkic minority of about 10 million with their own customs and language.
In 2014, China’s president Xi Jinping launched a so-called people’s war on terrorism after attacks, including bombings, by Uighur militants.
A Kazakh kindergarten administrator, Sayragul Sauytbay, told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) she was abducted in October 2017 and forced to become a Mandarin teacher at one camp.
“Escape was impossible,” she said. “In every corner in every place there were armed police.”
She called the centre a “concentration camp… much more horrifying than prison,” with rape, brainwashing and torture in a “black room” where people screamed.
She and another former prisoner told the ICIJ that detainees were given medication to make them obedient and listless.
The documents were issued to officials by Xinjiang region’s top authority, the Communist Party Political and Legal Affairs Commission.
They were given to the ICIJ by an anonymous source.
The organisation verified them by examining state media and public notices, consulting experts, cross-checking signatures and confirming contents with former camp employees and detainees.
In a written statement, China’s UK embassy said religious freedom and personal freedom of people in the camps is “fully respected”.
It said that since the terror crackdown started in Xinjiang there has not been a “single terrorist incident in the past three years”.
It added: “Xinjiang is much safer… The so-called leaked documents are fabrication and fake news.”