Dezeen Magazine

Investigating Xinjiang's Network of Detention Camps at Venice Architecture Biennale by Alison Killing

"We stand by our reporting" says Alison Killing in response to China criticism of Venice installation

British architect Alison Killing has defended her team's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on alleged internment camps in China, amid reports that the country is withdrawing from the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Killing defended her work after the Chinese Embassy in Italy issued a statement criticising coverage of an installation (pictured above) within the main exhibition of the Venice Architecture Biennale titled Investigating Xinjiang's Network of Detention Camps.

"The relevant reports seriously deviate from the facts"

The statement claimed that the installation, which outlines Killing, Megha Ragagopalan and Christo Buschek's investigation into a network of internment camps in Xinjiang, was based on "a large amount of false information".

"The Chinese Embassy in Italy has acknowledged that today some Italian media have taken advantage of some Chinese events to speculate again on the issues relating to Xinjiang," said the statement.

"The relevant reports seriously deviate from the facts and the so-called 'evidence' is based on a large amount of false information. We express our firm objection to this."

Italian news website Decode 39 reported that China was also withdrawing from the biennale in response to the installation. Dezeen contacted the Venice Architecture Biennale to confirm this, but did not receive a response before publication.

"We stand by our reporting"

In a statement issued to Dezeen, Killing defended the original reporting, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2021, and the installation that includes a 30 minute film explaining the process of using architectural analysis tools, satellite imagery and Chinese prison building regulations to uncover the network of camps allegedly built by the Chinese government for the detainment of Uyghurs.

"We stand by our reporting," said Killing.

"All the information in both the original articles and in the subsequent exhibition were corroborated in multiple ways – through satellite imagery analysis, interviews with dozens of former detainees, the Chinese government's own documents which detail the planning and execution of the programme, media reports and the analysis of human rights experts."

Killing also stated that the statement made by the Chinese Embassy in Italy forms part of a pattern of denial by the Chinese government.

"Since the world first learned of the camps in early 2017, the Chinese government has repeatedly denied their existence," she said.

"This is in the face of mounting evidence of genocide taking place in Xinjiang, provided by former detainees, leaks of the Chinese government's own documents, reports by journalists, human rights experts and numerous governments."

Killing's installation is featured in the main exhibition of this year's biennale, which was curated by Scottish-Ghanaian architect Lesley Lokko. We rounded up the key installations from the main exhibition and the best national pavilions at the event.

The photography is by Marco Zorzanello, courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

The Venice Architecture Biennale takes place from 20 May to 26 November 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide for information about the event, plus a list of other architecture and design events taking place around the world.