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4 years ago, the NYT published this article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang-documents.html, discussing the then-recently leaked https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang_papers. There is some discussion here: Reddit1 as to how to access all the documents.

Recently, I was talking to someone and found out that some people thought the documents were faked. Indeed there are many such threads online; here is one related to the NYT article files is: Reddit2. Some arguments are of a linguistic nature, claiming that the files are fake because the language use seems to not match that one would expect of a government document.

Similar threads include: Quora1, Reddit3, Reddit4, Reddit5.

The following article was linked in Reddit1 above, presents a case that the NYT files are not fake: https://web.archive.org/web/20211118025634/https://wokeglobaltimes.com/xinjiang/leaked-chinese-government-documents.

Recall that the Xinjiang Papers is a set of multiple documents, including speeches from Party leaders, papers from an internal Party investigation, and the one showcased here: "Turpan City Concentrated Education Training School Students' Children Q&A Strategy" (吐鲁番市集中教育培训学校学员子女问答策略). This is an important thing to note—the allegation of English translation is only ever made against the pages from the Turpan Q&A document, because the Chinese in the rest of the documents is perfectly idiomatic, if a bit stuffy and bureaucratic. In fact, the Turpan Q&A is actually a subset of a single document, an attachment to an official Party memo. Notice that in the image above, the first page of annotations are on page 6. That's because the first five pages—the policy document to which it was attached—are, again, written in perfectly decent Mandarin.

It should be noted that the Turpan Q&A, then, is not an official document in the sense that it is not a formal circular that the Party uses to communicate, for which there are rigid rules about formatting, style, etc. (Here's an existentially, annihilatingly boring 204-page book on such rules, if you're curious.) This is more like a memo in that it does not carry the weight of Party policy, but is rather the apparent result of cadres attempting to carry out a policy.

Specifically, the Turpan Q&A is supposed to help cadres when visiting families of the detained for "check ups" and the like.

...

How can you assume it's translated from English?

In reality, it was more likely translated from Uyghur.

This document is designed for interaction with detainees' families, who are going to be overwhelmingly—you guessed it!—Uyghur. In all likelihood, then, it was written in Uyghur by Uyghur cadres and translated into Chinese. Chinese speakers of Uyghur are far fewer than Uyghur speakers of Chinese, so this translator would almost certainly be Uyghur.

Amusingly, I noticed this summer that Chines state media seems to imply translation is a major part of at least some Uyghur cadres' work. In a video produced by Xinhua documenting how idyllic life is in Xinjiang, we see, for instance, a lovely Uyghur cadre asked to do this: [there was probably a picture/video here, that was not able to be captured by the Internet Archive]

Consider also that the New York Times has plenty of native Chinese speakers. It literally has an entire Chinese branch that publishes only in Mandarin. So it also seems unlikely the Times would have fabricated something so shoddy, right? And surely you know the CIA has plenty of linguists who would be able to do so as well. Perhaps it was just some nefarious Uyghur activists who, for some reason, would first write something in English, their third language if they know Mandarin as well?

And, again, the linguistic idiosyncrasies that supposedly show the entire cache to be faked are only present in the pages from the Turpan Q&A document. Why would a source fabricating these documents only translate one from English so sloppily? I guess they hired different translators. And all of them, except for one, were native Chinese speakers. And that one non-native speaker translated the exact portion of the hoax—no more, no less—that would be most likely originally written by Uyghur cadres.

Clearly, the more logical conclusion is not that these documents were faked—it's that they were written by Uyghur cadres and translated into Chinese for non-Uyghur-speaking cadres tasked with interacting with families of the detained. The conspiracy theory that the New York Times' Xinjiang Papers were fabricated has neither linguistic basis nor even rhetorical support from the national organs of the Chinese government. If you choose to believe they're faked, you're doing so against the preponderance of evidence.

A more mainstream news source just says "some experts" find the files to not be fake: https://www.dw.com/en/china-leaked-xinjiang-files-likely-accurate-experts-say/a-61919739.


Question: I am wondering if there are sources online that can somehow verify that these, and perhaps other, leaked files are legitimate. Have there been any historians/anthropologists who have compiled as definitive a case as possible, in a way similar to how in the past 80 years Holocaust historians have written book after book presenting evidence for the Holocaust and combating Holocaust denialist claims? For instance I see that the US Holocaust memorial museum has this page; I assume professionals there are interested in compiling and preserving strong evidence for China's persecution of the Uyghurs. They do say

The Simon-Skjodt Center has determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe the Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs. These are serious crimes that inflict severe harm on communities.

Perpetrators of atrocity crimes often go to great lengths to hide the nature and extent of their crimes. The limited amount of available, independently verified evidence of crimes in Xinjiang is the direct result of the Chinese government’s near total restrictions on access to Xinjiang. The Simon-Skjodt Center urges the Chinese government to fully cooperate with independent expert investigations. As more information emerges, including about forced sterilization, investigations could result in a determination that the Chinese government’s actions reflect genocidal intent and may constitute genocide under international law. The Simon-Skjodt Center continues to closely monitor the situation.

so it seems that the professionals there are indeed actively researching the situation.

Also for comparison, see this Twitter thread (that I only found via this article) for how one can verify leaked videos:

Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000 Sep 21, 2019

4 days ago a video showing 3-400 detainees handcuffed & blindfolded at a train station in Xinjiang was uploaded to YouTube (https://youtube.com/watch?v=gGYoeJ5U7cQ) In this thread I'll share how I've verified that this video was filmed at 库尔勒西站 (41.8202, 86.0176) on or around August 18th.

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  • I'm sure there's a lot of Chinese effort to discredit those files/leaks. I'm not sure what you expect as answer here besides more Western experts saying they look ok. Those files are not videos, so you can't apply the same exact methods. Oct 29, 2023 at 4:33
  • @Fizz IDK what methods experts have for verifying such things; maybe there are ways of analyzing pictures/scans of documents to e.g. narrow down what devices took those pictures/scans, perhaps using techniques like stylometry (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylometry) to gain more confidence in the authenticity of the documents, or some detail exactly how these files were leaked (e.g. is there some story like Snowden's, sneaking files out using a thumb drive, escaping to Hong Kong and handing over documents to journalists). How do experts verify text-based evidence for historical atrocities?
    – D.R
    Oct 29, 2023 at 5:16
  • @Fizz or even if it's just more Western experts sharing their analysis, that would still be valuable. I had to go to an years-old archived page of a website called "woke global times" to find a convincing rebuttal against the claims that the NYT files were faked; that to me is absurd.
    – D.R
    Oct 31, 2023 at 16:21

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