Uyghur Update: 9th – 18th December

A bit longer because I will probably be late again next week…

Also, just a reminder that if you’re feeling down or you need help, please reach out to someone or call a help hotline. Trust me, it won’t last forever.


In the Uyghur Region

Biometric data collection

The big news this week appears to be the Human Rights Watch report that DNA and other biometric data were being collected from residents of the Uyghur region under the guise of a public health program.

According to the guidelines, different authorities are responsible for different types of biometric collection. Party cadres and police officers are responsible for collecting pictures, fingerprints and iris scans, and “household registration” (or hukou) information using mobile apps designed for such purpose either during home visits, or by setting up central collection points. Local health authorities are responsible for collecting DNA and blood type information “as part of” the Physicals for All program, according to the guidelines. The collected blood type information is directly sent to the police, while the “blood cards for DNA collection will be sent to the county police bureaus for profiling.” All of this information is stored and linked to an individual’s national identification number.

It is unclear whether citizens can opt-out, or if collection officers are required to gain consent before collecting this information. It seems as though citizens who are told they can get the free physical believe that if they don’t, it can be seen as grounds for a ‘thought problem’. So far, there is only information for a few districts in the region, but presumably they will be expanding it the way they did with the ‘bilingual’ education programs and the changes to worship.

A number of local governments in different parts of Xinjiang – Yining countyTacheng prefectureTiemenguan city (which is part of the Xinjiang Military Corps), Korla city, and Jinghe county – have issued local versions of the directives instructing the collection of biometrics. The directives in Ili and Tacheng largely reproduce the provincial-level guidelines verbatim. In Tiemenguan, though, the collection of DNA is limited to those aged 14 to 65. The Tiemenguan directive also instructs the propaganda authorities to be responsible for “monitoring public sentiments on the internet” about the biometric collection and to “guide and handle negative information.”

The Financial Times notes that it could be used to match organs to potential recipients post-execution. China Digital Times comments more on the issue and responds to the Global Times’ response to the initial report. In it, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson says:

“Xinjiang has witnessed economic development and social stability, and the people there are living and working in a joyful mood, a scene that some people overseas might be unwilling to see”

I’m thinking he is unwilling to see our misery each time another one of our family members are thrown into prison or “detention” for no reason.

Apparently some of DNA collection equipment are being bought from Thermo Fisher Scientific. Yet another disappointment from big science names. Others reporting on the issue: The GuardianBuzzfeed, CNN, Financial Times. Nature reported on this in May so it has been going on for a while…

Arrests, detentions, re-education

Associated Press released a new report outlining all the terrible things that are happening right now – from forced repatriation to re-education camps, biodata collection and heavy surveillance. The author interviews people and families going through it right now and it’s a really well-written report so click the link and read through it. Apparently it is the first in a series of reports to come out soon.

RFA reports that nearly 10% of residents from a town has been arrested.

I am hearing more about my friends’ families being taken into detention/re-education camps without any notice of when they will be allowed to leave. The police have quotas to fill, they say, and so people get taken in. I can no longer name any Uyghur friends who don’t have detained family and friends. Having relatives overseas is suspicious already. I met a person recently who had only gone there for a few weeks and the new friend they made there was taken in to “education” soon after they left. It’s heartbreaking.

More Kazakh people have been arrested for contacting family in Kazakhstan or having a copy of the Quran.

An Uyghur woman died due to an untreated medical condition after being detained by Chinese authorities. This Tweet talks more about the sorts of conditions detainees sometimes face in those prisons.

Arrested journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a report outlining the record number of journalists arrested this year. China was reported to have 41 journalists in prison, with most of the charges being something to do with being anti-state. RFA writes further on the matter and states that 13 of the 41 are Uyghur.


Global Times reports teaching Han culture, Confucian analects, and socialist values in schools in Kuqa. “By learning traditional Chinese culture, China’s core competitiveness can be promoted”. Other things China seems to be doing to “build cultural confidence” is ban Christmas on campus. While I myself am a bit of a grinch I don’t think banning religious holidays is that best way to stop the influence of Western culture.

China is pushing its official version of history to Hong Kong students, which takes out keys events like the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Cultural Revolution.

Ethnic Unity

Party secretary Chen announces a month of “ethnic unity” building activities, including reprising the old program of having party cadres stay with Uighur families to monitor them:

every government employee and Party official in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will be required to visit and even live with local families, in a bid to enhance ethnic unity in the region.

Government employees will be required to eat, live and work together with local people and pay for their meals during their week-long stay, according to the report, adding that the activity will be carried out over the remaining weeks of December.


Surveillance and security

The BBC team put China’s surveillance cameras to the test. It took them 7 mins to catch the reporter being tested. In general I don’t have anything against this sort of technology if it is put to good use, like catching criminals, but when things like protesting the government, praying, or gathering in groups deemed too ‘large’ without a permit are considered criminal, it is an incredibly easy system to abuse. Especially as they seem to want these surveillance systems to be able to predict criminal behaviour in the future:

“We can match your face to your car. We can match every face to an ID card. We can track your movements one week back in time… We can find your relatives, who you’re in touch with, and who you meet frequently.”

This is a report looking at the recent media campaigns in China that basically say everyone is responsible for the safety and security of China.

A researcher on Chinese issues, Adrian Zenz, reports that there are 1000s of poorly trained assistant police groups cropping up in China

A… fascinating… read on social credit scoring systems like Zhima Credit (in place since 2015)… and China’s move to having a national social credit system where everything you do is scored and you are ranked as a member of society. Y’know, ~soft totalitarianism~ lol.


Daily life…

Rian Thum, a historian on Uyghurs, is currently in the Uyghur region and his Tweets are pretty fascinating. Here is a thread on ethnic unity building (he offers more info for people who want to know more/write about it), facial recognition (again), Uyghur women waiting for men to leave Friday prayer, being turned away from shrines, This photo of cherishing ethnic unity like you cherish your eye because why the hell not:


Apparently the crescent moons from the Id Kah Mosque have been removed:



Human Rights Journalism – <recap>

A list of “The Best Human Rights Journalism in the World 2017” was released, and includes reporting on Uyghur issues such as:

The author of the list includes some of the best photography taken this year as well, and includes: shopkeepers forced to participate in “anti-terror” drill, Kashgar, Xinjiang (photo: Thomas Peters):

The following photo is from a series taken by Thomas Peters in Xinjiang. The series in general presents the breadth of Uighur life there, and every photo is excellent, but this is one of the few directly related to the Chinese government’s repression in the name of a war on terror. It’s just so ordinary, and the story behind it testifies to the ordinary coercion of the Uighurs’ everyday life under Communist Party rule. “Shopkeepers line up with wooden clubs to perform their daily anti-terror drill outside the bazaar in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, on March 24, 2017. Three times a day, alarms ring out through the streets of China’s ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, and shopkeepers rush out of their stores swinging government-issued wooden clubs. In mandatory anti-terror drills conducted under police supervision and witnessed by Reuters on a recent visit, they fight off imaginary knife-wielding assailants. Armoured paramilitary and police vehicles circle with sirens blaring.”

The Wider Image: Uighur heartland transformed into security state


Ilham Tohti Initiative

The Liberty Web interviewed Enver Can, Founder and President of The Ilham Tohti Initiative (ITI), about ITI and the Uyghur situation in general.




Apparently China has been learning to export its censorship over the years.


Here’s a video of 770 Tibetan monks pledging to love China and Buddhism.


I honestly thought Dastyari quit last year when they found out he was being influenced by China but I guess third time’s the charm? I assume he’ll get some cushy sponsorship with a Chinese company next year, like most politicians who deal with China.


The UK Parliament hosted the Roundtable on Organ Harvesting in China on December 13th, where Dolkun Isa spoke on putting the practice of organ harvesting in the context of the Chinese government’s repressive policies towards Uyghurs. You can read his full speech here. And Ethan Gutmann’s speech here.

Last week was international human rights day and there were demonstrations held in London.


According the Germany, Chinese intelligence is using LinkdIn and other social media platforms to establish contact with German politicians and officials. Also just… stop buying Huawei?



Belt and Road update: apparently its back on in Europe and the UK is putting a billion dollars or something. I heard there was some pushback from New Zealand and Europe but? I guess we’ll see?


Outside of Politics

David Brophy released an interesting article on called The 1957-58 Xinjiang Committee Plenum and the Attack on “Local Nationalism”. It includes some commentary on current day practices of the Communist Party as well.

For people who speak French: a video called The Silk Road and other wonders: Kashgar, the gateway to the middle empire, where the filmmakers go to Kashgar and then Tashkurgan.

Also, Adelaide will be hosting the annual East Turkistan Soccer Tournament next week! I wish they would check spelling and grammar when they make these posters honestly… oh well lol:




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