Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs has described chilling footage showing hundreds of blindfolded and shackled men in China as "deeply disturbing".
Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs has described chilling drone footage published online appearing to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled men in China as "deeply disturbing".
The footage appears to show Uighur Muslim men at a train station being transferred, presumably to detention camps, by Chinese police.
Human rights groups accused China's ruling Communist Party of holding up to one million mainly Uighur people in "concentration camps" in the northwest Xinjiang region.
China vehemently denies the allegations.
The footage, which could not be independently verified, was published to YouTube last week by a newly created account calling itself War on Fear. Clips were also posted to Twitter by the handle @warcombatfear.
"Our aim is to fight fear," the video description said.
"The people of today's society always live under the supervision of the government with high technology. People lose their freedom. The leaders of the Communist Party of China called them patriotic and loved the people. In fact, they only love the party and only love power."
It added, "These videos were taken in China. This is the long-term suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region."
A European security source told Sky News they believe the footage is real and may have been taken earlier this year. "We've examined the footage and believe it to be genuine," they said.
"It shows up to 600 prisoners being moved — they're shackled together, have shaved heads, are blindfolded and have their hands locked behind their backs. This is typical of the way the Chinese move this type of prisoner."
Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne told news.com.au:
"I am aware of the deeply disturbing video that has been published online.
"I have previously raised Australia's concerns about reports of mass detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim peoples in Xinjiang.
"We have consistently called for China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and other Muslim groups.
"We have raised these concerns - and we will continue to raise them - both bilaterally and in relevant international meetings."
Nathan Ruser, a researcher with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre who has previously analysed satellite data to map China's "re-education" camps, also believes the footage is genuine.
Mr Ruser, who posted his analysis on Twitter, identified the location of the video as Bayingol, Xinjiang, but believes it was actually filmed around August 20 last year. "International warrants have been granted to prosecutors on the basis of social media videos which have been verified in such a manner," he wrote.
In July, Australia was one of 22 nations that signed a letter to the UN Human Rights Council criticising Beijing's treatment of Uighurs and calling on the Chinese government to "end its mass arbitrary detentions and related violations against Muslims in the Xinjiang region".
At the time, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia remained "deeply concerned" about China's treatment of the Uighur people and the reports of detention facilities in which they are housed.
"Those concerns have been raised with China regularly including by me directly in my visit last year," she told ABC radio.
"A letter was signed to the president of the Human Rights Council and the UN high commissioner for human rights a week or so ago — we were one of 22 signatories to that letter — and I think what that reflects is an increasing international focus on the developments in Xinjiang."
The letter sparked a furious backlash from Beijing, which accused the signatories of having "wantonly criticised and smeared China in total disregard for the truth", adding that by "blatantly politicising the issue of human rights, they have grossly interfered in China's internal affairs".
China has repeatedly insisted its camps are simply "re-education" centres focused on training and skills development, but former inmates have described physical and psychological torture as they are forced to renounce Islam and pledge allegiance to the state.
The Chinese Communist Party has previously compared Islam to an "infectious disease", saying in an official recording obtained by Radio Free Asia that "members of the public who have been chosen for re-education have been infected by an ideological illness".
"Being infected by religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology and not seeking treatment is like being infected by a disease that has not been treated in time, or like taking toxic drugs," the recording said. "There is no guarantee that it will not trigger and affect you in the future."