Author: Yael Grauer
Affiliation: Independent Journalist
Organization/Publisher: The Intercept
Date/Place: January 29, 2021/UK
Type of Literature: Investigation Report
Word Count: 11,000
Keywords: Uyghur, Surveillance, China, leaked files, minorities, religious extremism, terrorism, Islamophobia.
The Intercept has obtained leaked files from a massive police database developed by the private defense company named Landasoft used by the Chinese government to facilitate police surveillance of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. The files detail the methods and tactics used by the Chinese government in order to repress the citizens of Ürümqi. The files confirm large-scale internment of Muslims and prove that the Chinese government has cameras installed in private homes, children are forcibly separated from their families and placed in pre-schools with electric fences, the systematic destruction of Uyghur cemeteries, and state-sponsored programs to encourage abortion, sterilization and birth control. The police files show that authorities order investigations based on evidence from text messages, phone calls, subscription data, phone hardware details, references to WeChat conversations, and also e-commerce and banking records. The database used by the police is called iTap, a Landasoft product with 52 gigabytes of data. The database helps to track relations up to three degrees of separation between a suspected terrorist/extremist and any other citizen. “Extremism” as defined by the Chinese state can range from normal pious behavior exhibited by regular Muslims to speaking in languages other than Mandarin Chinese. The main aspect of the program revolves around phone surveillance. Records in the database show that over just 1.8 years, the database collected more than 10 million entries for SMS text messages alone. This does not include other entries for phone calls, contacts, and hardware details. The leaked files are from a district in Ürümqi in the Xinjiang province. It is only the tip of the iceberg in the vast Chinese state apparatus for monitoring citizens country-wide. The files show that the Chinese state desires to get all physical details on each citizen in the region through a program titled, “Physicals for All”. Under this program, the government uses physical check-ups, for example on university campuses, or health clinics to gather and process all health parameters in order to obtain a total physical picture and facial recognition of each person. The report provided by the Intercept provides a granular view of the multidimensional mechanisms of control employed by the Chinese state against Muslim minorities and substantiates claims made by human rights groups across the globe.
By: M. Üveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate