The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has released a new report on what it dubs the “architecture of repression” against the Uyghur population in China. The report, which is based on thousands of publicly available Chinese-language primary documents such as police records and budget documents from government websites, aims to paint a picture of the expansive governance apparatus created just for the Uyghurs.
Al Jazeera reports,
Using the data, ASPI pieced together evidence showing “five key sets of Xinjiang’s repressive policies” from mass internment, forced labour and mass at-home surveillance to “coercive birth control and ubiquitous propaganda”.
In Xinjiang’s capital city of Urumqi, for example, the Beijing-controlled government has deployed “neighbourhood committees” and the police to monitor the community, sending “micro clues … when someone does something irregular”.
This report exposes the disturbing extent of surveillance and policing of Uyghurs by the Chinese state. According to ASPI, “irregular” activities include unexpected visitors showing up at home, persons driving cars that belong to others, or even receiving overseas phone calls.
Uyghurs, watched by neighborhood committees, are at risk of being arrested and imprisoned for acting irregularly. APSI reports of one case in which a Uyghur man was detained just to fill a quota.
Over one million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim peoples have been detained since 2017, with many pulled into a vast and complex system of forced labor that potentially taints the supply chains of multiple industries including fashion, technology, and agriculture.
According to a government memo from Karashahar Hui Autonomous County (焉耆回族自治县),
transferred workers are not allowed to leave their work assignments or go home without the approval
of both the county and prefecture level labour transfer taskforces. Any ‘abnormal circumstances’
(异常情况) relating to the workers’ conduct are reported back to the county-level PLAC, the Public
Security Bureau and the labour transfer taskforce in Xinjiang. Washington Post reporters who visited
a Nike factory in Qingdao in 2020 also found Uyghur workers not allowed to go home, and the exterior
of the factory resembling a prison.
In response, the Chinese foreign ministry stated, “The so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang are an outright political conspiracy.” The Ministry asserts that the Uyghur Region is one of “social stability, economic development, solidarity among ethnic groups and harmony among religions.”
But many countries are not convinced. The same week the report was released, 43 countries signed a statement made at the United Nations Human Rights Council expressing concern about the Uyghur Region and calling for access for independent observers and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has been so far unable to secure a visit to the Uyghur Region.
ASPI is infamous for its previous groundbreaking report on the Uyghur forced labor system published in early 2020, implicating several popular international companies. In the absence of independent observers and the tight lockdown of information about the Uyghur Region, ASPI continues its research. “Amid international debates about whether recent events in Xinjiang constitute genocide, and while Chinese officials are actively scrubbing relevant evidence and seeking to silence those who speak out, it is important to carry out a timely and detailed investigation into Xinjiang’s governance now.”
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