Home Muslim culture Uyghurs in China now live in a giant open-air prison camp

Uyghurs in China now live in a giant open-air prison camp

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A cultural genocide is currently taking place in China against the country’s Uyghur minority. Aggressively policed ​​by Chinese authorities and facing the constant threat of arrest or torture, these Turkic-speaking people of China’s Wild West now exist in the world’s first real digital dictatorship.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the entire province of Xinjiang, an area barely smaller than Alaska, has been turned into a giant open-air prison camp by the Chinese Communist Party. As author Nury Turkel explains in his new book, “No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs”, every neighborhood in Uyghur cities, large and small, now has its own “community police station”. hastily erected and maintained by “subordinates”. police assistants, who are more muscular than real law enforcement officers. The neighborhoods themselves are surrounded by manned checkpoints, where those who want to leave are forced to squint at a camera for a retinal scan before departure.

Each neighborhood is then divided into small “grids” of 15-20 families, each with a “grid overseer”. As the author writes, each monitor is responsible for spying on their neighbors, reporting suspicious or prohibited activity to the authorities – such as Islamic practices like refusing to eat pork or fasting during Ramadan.

Then come the Monday morning flag-raising ceremonies, where attendance is mandatory. As the red flag of Communist China is raised, writes Turkel, who is of Uyghur ethnicity, Party officials “lead chanted slogans about the greatness of the party and its general secretary, Xi Jinping, and the need for Uyghurs to abandon their faith in anyone but him.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen as the architect of the current Uyghur crackdown, which has used a range of high-tech surveillance methods to monitor their every move.
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“IS THERE A GOD?

In her book, Turkel tells the story of a young woman named Zumrat, who remembers with shudders the first time she was forced to renounce Islam.

“The party apparatchik leading the meeting shouted to the assembled Uyghurs, ‘Is there a God?

The shocked crowd stopped before answering “No”. They had to – members of the neighborhood watch watched their reactions as they stood around the mast. Terrified, Zumrat moved her lips, but didn’t utter the words denouncing her faith this first time.

“Who is your new god?” the meeting leader called.

“Xi Jinping,” dutifully chanted the crowd.

Later, when Zumrat returned home, she prayed to Allah for forgiveness.

Uyghur men walk past the Id Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in China.
Dating back to 1442, the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang is the largest mosque in China and a powerful symbol of Uyghur Islamic history and culture. Hundreds of other Uighur mosques have been destroyed by Chinese authorities.
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But these “old-fashioned” methods of surveillance, most of which have existed in one way or another since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, are just the beginning. The technological explosion gave Xi Jinping ways to monitor the population using artificial intelligence – AI – that the late Chairman Mao could only fantasize about.

The mechanics of how the watch works is absolutely chilling. For the past few years, says Turkel, every adult Uyghur has been summoned to their local police station to undergo “a deluge of scans, tests and examinations… [including] retinal scans and fingerprints…blood or hair samples…for DNA profiling. They also had to “read a set text for forty-five minutes so that their voices could be recorded and identified, so that spies with listening devices parked outside people’s homes would know who was speaking”.

Finally, they are also forced to walk, talk, smile and frown in front of a battery of cameras. The goal is to train the AI ​​program to identify every Uyghur on the surveillance video, which the AI ​​is now able to do even when a person’s face is turned away from the camera. Their very gait betrays them.

Chinese police push protesting Uyghur women down a street.
Chinese police officers jostle Uyghur women during a street protest in Xinjiang. Uyghurs can be arrested by Chinese police for practicing their now-banned Islamic faith.
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But this artificial intelligence deployed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is not over; he then instantly determines whether a man’s beard is slightly too shaggy or a woman’s dress is slightly too long. These are signs that a Uyghur man or woman might be secretly practicing their faith; if identified, AI surveillance systems send an arrest warrant to the printer at the local police station. The police take over from there, bringing the suspects in for questioning, binding their hands, feet and necks in what is called a “tiger chair” and asking them, for example, if they believe to the Communist Party or to God. The wrong answer – “I believe in God” – results in torture and a prison sentence.

Communist authorities have also enlisted smartphones in their surveillance network. As the author writes, all Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang had to download an application called “Clean Internet Security Soldier”. This allows the AI ​​to play “I Spy” with your cell phone, monitoring every detail of your life for any signs of “suspicious activity”.

If you buy more groceries than usual, AI alerts the police that you may have unregistered guests and your home is raided. If you buy more gas than usual, the police will stop and ask you where you think you’re going.

the infamous "tiger chair" instrument of torture, which binds its victims by the hands, feet and neck.  The chair is often used by Chinese authorities during violent interrogation sessions.
The infamous “tiger chair” torture device, which binds its victims by the hands, feet and neck. The chair is often used by Chinese authorities during violent interrogation sessions.
Human Rights Watch

In Zumrat’s case, she made the mistake of sending a friend the common Islamic phrase “peace be upon you.” “Soon after, a security official approached her and told her that the Arabic phrase was now banned. She had to stick to the ‘national language’ – the new official term for Mandarin…Next time, the official warned, things wouldn’t be so easy for her.”

Chinese “big brothers”

But Beijing is not content to simply scan the retinas of Uyghurs before allowing them to cross the street, or to track a Uyghur’s every move on their own mobile phone. Many Uyghur families have been forced to allow communist agents to stay with them – and spy on them – in their own homes. According to Turkel, CCP documents show that hundreds of thousands of police, military or security agents were imposed on families in this way.

Uyghur family in front of their house, Minfeng, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.
The destruction of the traditional Uyghur family has been central to China’s efforts to erase Uyghurs. Some families have been forced to allow Chinese authorities into their homes to live with them, spy on them, and even abuse them.
Corbis via Getty Images

These Han Chinese ‘big brothers’ — they claim they are ‘parents’ using fictitious kinship terms — ban the use of the Uyghur language in the household, try to bribe children to tell their parents and often sexually abuse mothers and their daughters.

Turkel recounts how a woman who “stabbed her ‘relative’ to death after the man sexually abused her and [12-year-old] the girl. She could not go to the police to report the sexual abuse because the state was complicit. … The woman and her daughter disappeared without a trace.

These abuses continue even when Uyghur husbands are still living in the household, as the men are often afraid to intervene. When a woman complained to her husband that their Chinese “relative” was pressuring her to perform oral sex on him, Turkel says, the man “was terrified and insisted there was nothing they could do. The Chinese had broken the dignity of this Uyghur man, to the point that he did not want to protect his own wife, the mother of his child.

Supporters of the East Turkestan National Awakening Movement gather outside the British Embassy.
All over the world, demonstrations have been organized to raise awareness of the plight of the Uyghurs. While many Uyghurs have managed to flee China and find refuge in the West, neighboring Muslim nations have not been as welcoming.
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As Uyghurs are held hostage in their own homes, their history, language, culture and religion are systematically erased in their former homeland. As the author writes, the Uyghur language, closely related to Turkish, is no longer taught in local schools and books on Uyghur history are now banned. Mosques and shrines that have existed for centuries are being razed by the hundreds, and it is a crime to own a copy of the Koran. And even though ethnic Han Chinese women in Xinjiang and elsewhere are encouraged by the Party to have more babies, Uyghur women are told to have fewer – with contraception, sterilization and even abortion which are imposed on them.

Han’s Wrath

As a long-time China watcher, it is clear to me that the Party’s goal is not just to turn surviving Uyghurs into atheists and CCP members. But to give them a entirely new identity as Han Chinese. The same CCP that tried to erase history during the Cultural Revolution is now hacking the brains of an entire people. It’s much worse than forced assimilation: it’s genocide in slow motion.

Thanks to Turkel, we know who ordered this CCP version of the infamous German “Final Solution”. It came from none other than the greatest big brother of them all, Xi Jinping himself. In 2014, Xi visited Xinjiang and said Uyghurs should “show no mercy.” Since then, the Party has become more and more ruthless.

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It is not easy for Uyghurs to escape the giant prison that was once their homeland. Regional Muslim countries, instead of being sympathetic to the plight of their co-religionists, have proven too willing to deport fleeing Uyghurs to China, where they face imprisonment or even execution for daring to leave. Even the oil-rich Sheikhdoms fear the wrath of possible Chinese retaliation.

The only place Uyghurs are truly protected is, ironically, in Western countries, particularly the United States, which were founded by religious freedom advocates and have declared what is happening to Uyghurs to be “genocide.” “. That’s why the “No Escape” author, contemplating his own escape from Chinese tyranny, decided “America was the only safe place to go.”

Steven W. Mosher is president of the Population Research Institute and author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Pandemics.”