Uighurs are a Muslim community living in the Xinjiang region of China. The Uighurs were once a republic and often refer to the people in the region known as East Turkestan. This minority in China has faced much abuse over the past decade. The Uighurs are stripped of their basic religious and political rights. They have been put in detention camps to wipe the Uighur identity and religion.
The Chinese government says that the crackdown on Uighurs is because of a national security threat. The controversial policies in the region are justified using Islamophobia. As if this was not enough, the authorities have introduced an application to monitor this Muslim minority community.
Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP) app is for monitoring, tracking and flagging citizens for investigation or punishment. It allows the government to access personal information of the Uighurs like blood type, political interests and point of view about certain national interests. Apart from this, the app also monitors stuff like how much electricity and gas does the individual use and whether they are on birth control.
The IJOP application is mandatory for every Uighur to install. Officials make sure that every Uighur installs the application and enters the personal information prompted by the app. Among this information are height, blood type, vehicle registration number, use of birth control, political views and other things like whether they have any communication with relatives living somewhere abroad.
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What does the IJOP app do to monitoring the muslim community?
While the government plans to implement this system in all of China, the surveillance system implemented in Xinjiang is rather intrusive. After collecting the personal information of people (prompted by the officials) the app raises certain flags on actions that it finds suspicious. The app then notifies the officials about individuals who have raised these flags. The officials then pay a visit to these people and gather more information as instructed by the application.
The IJOP application considers 36 types of people suspicious. The diversity in these 36 types is huge. People may be considered suspicious if they are a convicted criminal, not enough social, have communication with relatives abroad, don’t use the front door often, irregular use of electricity, funding to mosques and preaching Islam without authorization.
As shocking and bizarre as it might seem, Uighurs are even detained and punished for things like setting clocks to a different time zone other than their region, having some sort of communication with someone living abroad and covering themselves.
Moreover, Uighurs are also put under pressure by authorities in the area. They have the right to stop any Uighur and question them, check their cell phones and personal belongings. The Uighurs can even be detained without evidence if the authorities think it is necessary.
How is China ‘tracking’ the Muslim community?
The authorities have installed hundreds of facial recognition cameras in the area to monitor the Uighurs. Furthermore, they have also installed thousands walk through gates that suck up information from the Uighurs’ electronic devices without them knowing. These walk-through gates or machines are called “three-dimensional portrait and integrated data doors.” The data doors are capable of collecting the MAC address and IMEI of the electronic devices. These are then used to track and keep tabs on these people. However, foreigners are exempted from walking through these gates.
Is this Surveillance a model for rest of China and the World?
China is already using mass surveillance systems all over the country. These systems may not be as intrusive as the IJOP but the idea behind these systems is the same. One example is the “social credit system” which is already being rolled out in the country. This system keeps track of citizens’ behavior and rewards and punishes them according to it. However, it is clear that such an intrusive system like IJOP will not be implemented all over the country. Furthermore, other countries will also be implementing similar but less intrusive systems to monitor the public.