The Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim people who primarily live in Xinjiang, a northwestern region in China, have long suffered the repressive regime of the Chinese Communist Party. Since early 2017, however, a new wave of repression began, as Chinese authorities initiated a comprehensive “reeducation” program involving state propaganda, mass surveillance, and the internment of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in concentration camps. Using the handful of violent extremists among Uyghurs as a pretext, the Beijing government, as observed by international media and human rights organizations, has embarked on a crusade to erase the identity, religion, culture, and language of a minority.
This story is a major human rights crisis in itself, yet it also signals a broader threat to freedom in other parts of the world. In Xinjiang, Chinese authorities are testing their new products for social control, such as drones disguised as birds to surveil citizens and state-issued tracking devices on human bodies. This cutting-edge totalitarianism can easily be exported to other regimes around the world that are eager to spy on their citizens and persecute their dissidents.