There is an Orwellian state in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China. It is filled with a network of more than 7,300 police monitoring stations that appear every 500 meters in urban areas. In recent years, almost 90,000 policemen were recruited and there was a 356 percent increase in security expenditures. This is all designed to contain Uighur people. Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim ethnicity residing in the Xinjiang province, located in the Western region of China. The area has a proposed population of over 15 million Uighurs. The province is twice the size of Germany and has China’s largest natural gas reserves, about 50 percent of its coal and 20 percent of China’s oil.
In 2016, many Uighurs’ passports were systematically confiscated by Chinese authorities. Regional travel for Uighurs is still restricted, as they cannot visit family in a different region or city without permission from the public security bureau. According to a resident of Xinjiang, “Entire villages in Southern Xinjiang have been emptied of young and middle-aged people,” with an aggregate of 12.8 percent of village populations sent to concentration camps. At least 1 million Uighurs were herded abhorrently into concentration camps for “re-education purposes.” Guards in the camps are equipped with tear gas, stun guns, electric batons and spiked clubs in order to contain the “students” in camps surrounded by barbed wire and infrared cameras.
The security of the region is strategic; it borders Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, Russia and Mongolia. It is a gateway for the ancient silk road that China wants to redevelop with the Belt Road Initiative. To do so, China is systematically effacing Uighurs from the region, spuriously securing Xinjiang for the Belt Road Initiative. The initiative is akin to the Marshall Plan. Its goal is to expand infrastructure, trade and influence to more than 70 countries in Eurasia and Africa. It is a strategic imperative to the Chinese Communist Party, even at the cost of “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.” The most poignant fact is the only American proponent for the Uighurs is Sen. Marco Rubio. He has consistently highlighted the Uighurs’ plight.
Blood tests done via cell phone apps and ubiquitous facial recognition video cameras in public both contribute to the construction of an Orwellian biometric database. Security checkpoints are like those of the TSA. Government-required software scans your phone at mandatory checkpoints looking for forbidden Islamic words; if discovered, the Chinese Communist Party may send you to a concentration camp for “re-education.” There is a religious ban on beards and veils in Xinjiang. When Uighurs purchase a kitchen knife, a QR code with their ID data is etched into the knife with a laser. China is now developing gait recognition software — these factors are an evolution toward Orwellian totalitarianism.
Senators and congresspeople, including officials of the current administration, fail to deliver remonstrations toward our ostensible “Cold War” adversary’s human rights abuses. When are we ever going to make countries accountable for their unabashed human rights violations? This administration has repealed its commitment to human rights — the sheer geopolitical tactlessness is sad. The president lauds himself claiming he hires “the best and most serious people.” The last administration to claim that nickname deliberately escalated conflict that seemed to start the Vietnam War — it also was duplicitous and deceitful to the American public. The United States should organize multilateral sanctions for corporations and Chinese officials that are linked to human rights violations.
Mendel Litzman is a junior majoring in political science.