The Chinese government is reportedly using detention and data-driven surveillance to impose a digital police state in the country’s Xinjiang region, which is home to a majority of Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority.
The detention program is referred to as “vocational training” by the government of China but the main purpose apparently is indoctrination.
Authorities believe the Turkic-speaking minority has been influenced by Islamic extremism. As a result, the government has reportedly whisked them off from the face of the planet. Nobody knows what happens to these people and where they are taken after they disappear. Their parents, friends, relatives and neighbors are all clueless but they believe they are put in secret detention centers without trials.
These people are reportedly accused of a wide-range of crimes that include political crimes, having “extremist thoughts” or simply traveling abroad.
As part of the training, Uighurs study “Mandarin, law, ethnic unity, de-radicalization, and patriotism.” They also abide by the "five togethers" — live, do drills, study, eat and sleep together.
According to local residents, some well-known centers are thought to be places where these people are kept. One detention center is sealed off by rifle-toting police while another is situated near a military base.
Apart from these secretive detention camps, a large number of police are also placed in the streets of the states. A close eye is always kept on Uighurs, so much so that the police keep track of where they go, what they read, who they talk to and what they do.
The program is not confined to the country only — Uighur students abroad are also being targeted.
The campaign against Uighurs was initiated by a Chen Quanguo, a Chinese Community Party official, who blamed the Muslim community for deadly attacks in the country and vowed to “bury terrorists in the ocean of the people's war and make them tremble.”
"What is happening is every single Uighur is being considered a suspect of not just terrorism but also political disloyalty," said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Uighurs living abroad added they are being separated by their loved ones.
“Our phones will not work anymore. So, don't try calling and don't worry about us. We'll be fine as long as you're all fine,” the grandfather of Salih Hudayar, an American Uighur graduate student, said.
Another man who fled the country after the crackdown began said his wife told him police showed up at their door every 20 minutes.
Although the regional government didn’t respond to messages, they describe the policy as a “strike hard” following the spate of attacks in 2013-14.