China’s Algorithms of Repression


“Since late 2016, the Chinese government has subjected the 13 million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to mass arbitrary detention, forced political indoctrination, restrictions on movement, and religious oppression. Credible estimates indicate that under this heightened repression, up to one million people are being held in “political education” camps. The government’s “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” (Strike Hard Campaign, 严厉打击暴力恐怖活动专项行动) has turned Xinjiang into one of China’s major centers for using innovative technologies for social control.”

This report provides a detailed description of “a mobile app that police and other officials use to communicate with the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP, 一体化联合作战平台), one of the main systems Chinese authorities use for mass surveillance in Xinjiang.”

The report highlights how this mass surveillance is contrary to not only to internationally guaranteed rights to privacy and presumption of innocence but also to Chinese law.

The HRW reports three functions of the IJOP app:

  • Collecting personal information
  • Reporting on activities or circumstances deemed suspicious
  • Prompting investigations of people, the system flags as problematic.

The report also gives a detailed overview of the extent of the data collection on individuals. It highlights that an analysis of the app illustrates how even peaceful religious activities as donating to mosques or preaching the Quran without authorization are considered suspicious.

“Government control over movement in Xinjiang today bears similarities to the Mao Zedong era (1949-1976), when people were restricted to where they were registered to live and police could detain anyone for venturing outside their locales.”

The report concludes by stressing upon the need for targeted sanctions through the Global Magnitsky Act against the party secretary in Xinjiang and other senior officials, by foreign governments.

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