How China is Fighting Dissent in the Uyghur Region

Religious extremism in China is something you’ve never heard about. And here is why. In the Uyghur state of modern China, which is at the northwest of the country, in Xinjian province, more than 380 “re-educational” facilities have been established for the last 3 years. The camps are built for Muslim Chinese, a national minority called Uyghur, who has been living here long ago before the region got controlled by the Chinese government.

Recently, Alibaba Group, a company which used to belong to “Chinese Zukergberg” Jack Ma, has developed a software, that detects Uyghur in the area. Recognition-as-a-Service has never been used in such a cynical and open way for a manhunt for the last decades of digital government existence.

Why Uyghurs?

维吾尔人 — wéiwú’ěrrén are Turcik speaking people from interior Asia. Their tribes originate in the Altai mountains chain. After migrating through Central Asia, inhabited some Asian republics and finally settled down in Xinjiang, which was controlled by the Han nationality.

In the 10th century, almost every Uyghur was a Muslim. And to the 16th one, Islam played an enormous part in the cultural context of the nation. 80% of the Uyghurs still live in Tarim Basin and the other part in Xinjiang, which is now a part of China.

The clashes between Hans (the biggest nationality in China) and Uyghurs have been severe for the last four centuries. Big numbers of Han started moving to Xinjiang after the region became autonomous in 1950 when by 1990 the two-fifth of the population was Hans. With time the tensity between the nationalities became huge, the protest and outbreaks occurred often. The last big one happened in 2009 when 200 Hans were murdered and 1700 injured.

Since 2009 the Chinese government claimed the Uyghurs to be separatists and threw lots of them in jails. The government sets up cameras, checkpoints, and police stations in the Uyghurs’ places of living.

In 2017 about a million Uyghurs were sent to political training camps that are guarded and monitored by the police 24/7. It is hard for the Uyghurs to leave Xinjiang, they are monitored closely by the government and lack major human rights on the territory of China.

Camps for the Uyghurs

Xinjiang province is the first producer of gas in China. The government needs this region to maintain the economy of the country and the inmates of the re-educational camp to provide free and forced labor.

The Uyghurs of the camps live under the bars, walk with the guards, and sew T-Shirts for the US market. Some of the Uyghurs who fled the country say that it’s hard to keep in contact with the rest of the family from Xinjiang.

In August 2018 United Nations called upon the government to end the prosecution, China rejected that the camps ever existed. But the satellite footage shows the opposite. It is just recently the Chinese government confirmed the existence of the re-education facilities.

Still, lots of goods, natural resources are produced by imprisoned Uyghurs, and still the US and EU despite the public denunciation, buy them.

Digital Oppression of the Uyghurs

Huawei and Megvii, which are Chinese tech giants, at the end of 2020, are testing software produced by Alibaba Group, which offers a facial recognition of the Uyghurs. After being asked for a comment, Alibaba deleted the news.

The software is going to be used by the police in video surveillance projects. Every time the software notices an Uyghur, it will give the location to the special police units. Thus they can send men to the location. Also, it will help differ if someone from the minority is live streaming to block the broadcast.

As Alibaba has commented on the software deployment: “the system will not be used in the international version of Alibaba Cloud, it is for testing in China only.”

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Stories on science, critique, and social behavior. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savashonair/

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Savash on-air

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Stories on science, critique, and social behavior. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savashonair/

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