Inside China surveillance hell: 'All your life in the record'...Cameras, barbed wire, torture...
INSIDE CHINA'S MASSIVE SURVEILLANCE OPERATION
Isobel cockerll May 9, 2019 07:00 AM
“The day I left, my husband was arrested,” Atawula said. When she arrived in Turkey in June 2016, her phone stopped working—and by the time she had it repaired, all her friends and relatives had deleted her from their WeChat accounts. They feared that the government would punish them for communicating with her.
The WeChat Lockdown
Miyesser Mijit, 28, whose name has been changed to protect her family, is a Uyghur master’s student in Istanbul who left Xinjiang in 2014, just before the crackdown. During her undergraduate studies in mainland China, she and her Uyghur peers had already learned to use their laptops and phones with caution. They feared they would be expelled from university if they were caught expressing their religion online.
A Surveillance State Is Born
The monitoring of Uyghurs was not limited to their smartphones. Mijit remembers first encountering facial recognition technology in the summer of 2013. Her brother came home from the police station carrying a device slightly bigger than a cellphone. He scanned her face and entered her age range as roughly between 20 and 30. The device promptly brought up all her information, including her home address. Her brother warned her this technology would soon be rolled out across Xinjiang. “All your life will be in the record,” he told her.
Amina Abduwayit, 38, a businesswoman from Urumqi who now lives in Zeytinburnu, remembers being summoned to the police station and having her face scanned and inputted into the police database.“It was like a monkey show,” she said. “They would ask you to stare like this and that. They would ask you to laugh, and you laugh, and ask you to glare and you glare.”
It’s part of of huge domestic security investment across China, which hit a record $197 billion in 2017. Around 173 million cameras now watch China’s citizens. In the imminent future, the government achieve 100 percent video coverage of “key public areas.”
The government’s efforts to control the people of Xinjiang were not only digital; it also began to imprison them physically. In August 2018, a United Nations human rights panel said it believed one million Uyghurs were being held in what amounts to a “massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy.”
She was set free in August 2018 and came to Turkey, no longer feeling safe in Kazakhstan, where the government has been .