China has turned Xinjiang into a zone of repression — and a frightening window into the future

The Washington Post
Date: February 23, 2019
By: Editorial Board

The Chinese database that Victor Gevers, a Dutch cybersecurity researcher, found online has given a rare glimpse into China’s extensive surveillance of Xinjiang, a remote region home to an ethnic minority population that is largely Muslim. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

AT A minimum, the minority Muslim Uighur population of Xinjiang province in China is about 11 million people, and probably significantly higher. So consider the scope of surveillance over Uighurs in light of a recent database leak that indicated about 2.5 million people in Xinjiang are being tracked by cameras and other devices, generating more than 6.6 million GPS coordinates in one 24-hour period, much of it tagged with locations such as “mosque” and “hotel.”

Victor Gevers, a security researcher for the GDI Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to defend Internet freedom, found the database, belonging to SenseNets, a Chinese company that provides facial recognition and other monitoring systems to the police. The company had left the database unguarded but closed it off when Mr. Gevers inquired. It included records such as identification numbers, gender, nationality, address, birth dates, photographs, employers and which cameras or trackers they had passed. Mr. Gevers suggests that more than a quarter of those in the database appear to be ethnic Uighurs, although it also included Han Chinese and others.

The data provides another glimpse into the darkening world of Xinjiang, which China’s authorities have turned into a zone of repression. In addition to ubiquitous electronic and physical surveillance, an estimated 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims have been incarcerated in concentration camps where, witnesses say, they are being brainwashed to wipe out their traditional culture and language.    [FULL  STORY]