Minorities increasingly enlisted in factory labour or sentenced to prison . . .
Much is known about Beijing’s campaign to detain ethnic minorities and reshape indigenous cultures in Xinjiang. Recent reports, however, indicate that authorities have shifted away from the mass re-education of minorities towards integrating them into labour migration schemes or formally sentencing them in the criminal justice system. The Globe and Mail recently reported that at least 600,000 minority workers from Xinjiang have been relocated to factories across the country in a campaign an internal government report said is intended to “influence, fuse, and assimilate Uyghur minorities.” The number of work relocation arrangements has reportedly risen dramatically at the same time many detainees have “graduated” from the re-education camps. Similarly, Human Rights Watch and the Xinjiang Victims Database, an online volunteer effort to document detainees in Xinjiang, have documented a nearly five-fold increase in the number of people in Xinjiang sentenced to prison per year since 2016.
Surveillance from the ground and the cloud . . .
Meanwhile, journalists and researchers have revealed an increasingly elaborate surveillance state in Xinjiang meant to patrol and discipline minority communities after the initial mass detention phase. In many cases, surveillance has taken the form of door-to-door visits by village cadres and the assignment of Han “relatives” to ethnic minority families. But a police database recently obtained by The Intercept reveals how a network of surveillance cameras, smartphone apps, and security checkpoints has helped move surveillance beyond neighbourhood informants to include a large amount of digital and biometric data. Millions of records of phone calls, texts, and social networking messages have helped local public security bureaus classify individuals into suspicion levels, and monitor and pre-emptively detain those considered untrustworthy.
Trudeau hints at potential consequences . . .
In response to these reports and in the aftermath of Parliament’s recognition of the crisis in Xinjiang as a “genocide” last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed the Canadian government’s commitment to collaborate with other countries “on both getting clear answers and holding to account those responsible.” Meanwhile, the U.S. ban on Xinjiang cotton imports has seen some success in shifting supply chains away from Xinjiang, though activists say enforcement is only partial. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu sharply denied allegations of genocide and forced labour, attacking the personal character of some former detainees that testified on these issues and denying that internal reports obtained by media represent the government’s position. The Chinese government is currently in talks with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights about an official visit to Xinjiang. The last time a UN human rights representative visited China was in 2005.