Human Rights

The New York Times
ate: April 16, 2019
By: Jeremy Engle

Before reading the article:

What do you know about the Uighurs and their mistreatment by the Chinese government?

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) are a Muslim ethnic minority whose population is concentrated in far western China. Today, roughly 11 million Uighurs are facing what Human Rights Watch has called“rampant violations” of the “fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion and privacy, and protections from torture and unfair trials.”

Last fall, The New York Times reported that nearly one million Uighurs and members of other Muslim groups have been forced into indefinite detention in re-education camps in the western Xinjiang region. There, they face intense psychological pressure to renounce their culture, religion and identity.

The Chinese government, after initial denials, portrayed these sites as “vocational training centers” that are a necessary “preventive measure to deter people from terrorism and enable them to fit into society.

In a new interactive report, The Times, describes how China is turning the town of Kashgar into a virtual prison in order to further monitor and control the Uighur population.

Now, read the article, “How China Turned a City Into a Prison,” and answer the following questions:    [Click here to continue to full article]

In a major ethical leap for the tech world, Chinese start-ups have built algorithms that the government uses to track members of a largely Muslim minority group.

The New York Times
By Paul Mozur
April 14, 2019

Image SenseTime is among the Chinese artificial intelligence companies developing facial recognition technology.CreditCreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

The Chinese government has drawn wide international condemnationfor its harsh crackdown on ethnic Muslims in its western region, including holding as many as a million of them in detention camps.

Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said.

The facial recognition technology, which is integrated into China’s rapidly expanding networks of surveillance cameras, looks exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review. The practice makes China a pioneer in applying next-generation technology to watch its people, potentially ushering in a new era of automated racism.

The technology and its use to keep tabs on China’s 11 million Uighurs were described by five people with direct knowledge of the systems, who requested anonymity because they feared retribution. The New York Times also reviewed databases used by the police, government procurement documents and advertising materials distributed by the A.I. companies that make the systems.

Chinese authorities already maintain a vast surveillance net, including tracking people’s DNA, in the western region of Xinjiang, which many Uighurs call home. But the scope of the new systems, previously unreported, extends that monitoring into many other corners of the country.

Image Shoppers lined up for identification checks outside the Kashgar Bazaar last fall. Members of the largely Muslim Uighur minority have been under Chinese surveillance and persecution for years.CreditPaul Mozur

The police are now using facial recognition technology to target Uighurs in wealthy eastern cities like Hangzhou and Wenzhou and across the coastal province of Fujian, said two of the people. Law enforcement in the central Chinese city of Sanmenxia, along the Yellow River, ran a system that over the course of a month this year screened whether residents were Uighurs 500,000 times.    [FULL  STORY]

The Sidney Morning Herald
Date: April 7, 2019
By: Nick McKenzie

Yang Hengjun and his wife Xiaoliang Yuan.

Two Australian writers, including one now detained in China, were the targets of a Chinese government intelligence operation conducted partly on Australian soil.

An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Four Corners can reveal that the Chinese operation was seeking details about former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s 2016 classified inquiry into Beijing’s campaign to influence Australian politics.

Blogger Yang Hengjun, who is currently detained in China, and Sydney academic-writer, Dr Feng Chongyi, were both targeted by Chinese authorities for information on John Garnaut, the China expert and former journalist who led the classified investigation.

The revelations come as Mr Yang’s wife Xiaoliang Yuan broke her silence from China – risking potential blowback from the Chinese government – to call for Australia to fight harder for her husband’s release from the “residential detention” facility he’s been held in since travelling there in January.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has joined Mr Yang’s wife to issue an impassioned plea for Australians to demand his release from Beijing detention.

While some details of Mr Yang’s detention by Chinese intelligence officials in Beijing have filtered to the outside world, his questioning by Chinese agents in Sydney in March last year has never been made public.

Mr Yang was allegedly intercepted and questioned just prior to a meeting with Mr Garnaut.    [FULL  STORY]

The levelling of ancient sites in Xinjiang, alongside mass detention, is part of an attempt to destroy an entire society

The Guardian
Date: 7 Apr 2019
By: Rachel Harris

A mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang province, China. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Ten years ago, I started researching Islam among the Uighurs. I spent my summers travelling around the Xinjiang region in western China. I took long bus journeys through the desert to Kashgar, Yarkand and Kucha, slept on brick beds in family homes in remote villages, stopped off at Sufi shrines, and visited many, many mosques. My husband was working with me, and we dragged our kids along for the ride. The kids were quite small and not at all interested in our boring interviews with imams, and I bribed them with treats. I have a lot of photos of them sitting in the dust outside mosques, faces smeared with ice-cream, playing on their iPads.

It was an incredible time for mosque building in Xinjiang. After the Cultural Revolution, Uighur and Kazakh Muslims began to reconnect with their faith. They resumed the traditional practices of pilgrimage and festivals at the shrines that lie deep in the Taklamakan desert. They began to learn about Islam in the wider world; people who could afford it travelled to Mecca for the hajj, and they began to rebuild their mosques. As local communities grew richer they invested in bigger and more beautiful mosques; people crowded into them for Friday prayers, and they served as living symbols of community identity and pride.

I was reminded of all this by an image posted on Twitter last week. Shawn Zhang, who did pioneering work revealing the existence of the massive network of detention camps for Muslims in Xinjiang, posted “before and after” satellite images of Keriya mosque in the southern region of Hotan. This towering architectural monument, thought to date back to 1237 and extensively renovated in the 1980s and 1990s, was photographed on a festival day in 2016 with thousands of worshipers spilling out on to the streets. By 2018 the site where it had stood was a smooth patch of earth.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: March 27, 2019
By: Yong Xiong and Ben Westcott, CNN

Beijing (CNN)A law professor at a prestigious Chinese university in Beijing has been suspended and put under

Xi Jinping By: Nicolas Asfouri – Pool/Getty Images

investigation for writing a rare essay critical of President Xi Jinping.

Professor Xu Zhangrun of Tsinghua University was told last weekend he was being removed from all teaching positions until the investigation into him was complete, his colleague and friend Guo Yuhua told CNN Wednesday.
Guo, a sociology professor at the same university, said Xu’s work as a teacher, researcher and tutor had been suspended. She said the details of Xu’s suspension were still unclear but it had been in a major part due to an essay he published in July 2018.

The lengthy article, titled “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes,” challenged the direction of China under Xi and called for the reintroduction of presidential term limits, which were controversially removed by the government in early 2018.

“Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, we had a ‘supreme leader’ with no checks on his power; how could people not have all kinds of strange imaginings and new fears?” Xu asked in his essay.

The investigation into Xu is just the latest action taken by the Chinese government to repress dissenting voices or opinions that run contrary to the ruling Communist Party’s policies.    [FULL  STORY]

Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority countries to call out China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims. A BuzzFeed News investigation finds that several Turkish nationals have also disappeared, something that has never been publicly acknowledged by Turkey.

BuzzFeed News
Date: March 27, 2019
By: Megha Rajagopalan, BuzzFeed News Reporter and  K. Murat Yildiz, BuzzFeed Contributor
Reporting From Istanbul, Turkey 

A baker prepares bread for display in a Uighur bakery in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul.

ISTANBUL — It was supposed to be a routine business trip, so the young Turkish man was surprised when immigration officials at the Chinese airport pulled him into a room and questioned him for hours. He asked to speak to diplomats from his home country, but the Chinese officials shrugged their shoulders, telling him to take it up with police.

When police brought him in handcuffs to a jail cell on the other side of the country, so damp and dark that he immediately became sick, the man asked again. They told him his Turkish passport, whose edges had worn out from use, was fake.

A week later, with his arms and legs shackled to a chair in an underground interrogation room in the city of Ghulja in western China, where he had lived before he became a naturalized citizen of Turkey, he asked for a third time to speak to Turkish diplomats. This time the answer came sharp and clear.

“You are not a Turk,” an officer told him. “You are from here. Don’t think you are special — we kill people like you so that others can live in peace.”

“Don’t think you are special — we kill people like you so that others can live in peace.”

The young businessman said he had endured 38 days of interrogations, hunger, sleep deprivation, and abuse in Chinese custody before finally being released and deported back to Istanbul, without ever being told of any charges against him.

He is an ethnic Uighur — a religious and cultural minority group that the Chinese government views as a threat to the country’s security. The government has subjected Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the far-west region of Xinjiang to a sweeping campaign of mass surveillance and incarceration that has seen more than a million people detained in internment camps.

Despite his ordeal, the young businessman was fortunate to have been released. BuzzFeed News has found that six Turkish nationals — and possibly dozens more — have gone missing in China’s Xinjiang region, including a pair of young children. None of their cases have been publicly acknowledged by the Turkish or Chinese governments, and are being reported here for the first time.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: March 27, 2019
By: Clay Chandler

Tuesday’s South China Morning Post features a harrowing profile of David Kong, one of the more than 13 million Chinese citizens officially designated a “discredited individual.” In 2015 after his publishing venture collapsed and he failed to repay debts of about $240,000, Kong was branded a deadbeat and his name entered onto a public blacklist maintained by the Supreme Court. That “discredited” status deters prospective employers and makes it impossible for Kong to borrow money. It also bars him from air travel and forces him to buy the cheapest class of seat when he travels by train.

China created the discredited list in 2013. As of the end of last year, Chinese courts had prevented “untrustworthy” citizens from taking more than 17 million flights and 5 million high-speed train trips, according to a recent report by China’s National Public Credit Information Centre. It’s a bit too close to the dystopian vision in the 2016 episode of the British tech satire series Black Mirror where a character played by Bryce Dallas Howard is shunned from society when her personal rating score nosedives.

All societies impose legal and social punishments on those who shirk their debts. But what troubles many Western observers is that China’s “discredited list” is a part of a much broader “social credit system” that aims to monitor and control behavior of all sorts—and relies increasingly on surveillance capabilities of the nation’s private tech companies.

Over the past decade, Beijing has experimented with pilot social credit score programs in dozens of cities.

The Communist Party wants to instill the people with “core socialist values.” That means winnowing out content that extols individualism or hedonism.

The New York Times
Date: March 27, 2019
By Li Yuan 

In an episode of “Give Me Five,” censors covered the Chinese pop star Jiang Yaojia’s pink hair with a ladybug cap, as seen in a Taiwanese-based media broadcast, CTi News.

China is waging a war on fun. The latest target: men’s earrings.

Chinese censors in recent months have blurred the earlobes of some of China’s young male pop stars in television and internet appearances, lest their piercings and jewelry set too feminine an example for the country’s boys. The ban elicited eye rolls and even some jokes, but it illustrated the Communist Party’s creeping interference in even the smallest details of Chinese life.

Men’s earrings aren’t the only objectionable material that China’s censors are blurring, covering up or cutting out. Soccer players wear long sleeves to cover their tattoos. Women in costumes at a racy video game convention have been told to raise their necklines. Rappers can rhyme only about peace and harmony.

This sanitizing infuriates Rae Fan, a 22-year-old college student in southern China’s Guangxi region. Some of her favorite American and South Korean movies have disappeared from local streaming platforms. To make matters worse, her friends appear indifferent to it and won’t welcome anything that smacks of criticism of the government. Her parents, both civil servants, told her that she would be better off not watching those movies anyway.

In other words, the censorship is working.

“The purpose of this kind of control is to ensure everybody shares the mainstream values,” Ms. Fan said. “We will be easier to manage.”

The Communist Party’s effort to instill what it calls “core socialist values” — patriotism, harmony and civility, among others — is intensifying. Content that celebrates money worship, hedonism or individualism is increasingly removed. Material that was acceptable only a few years ago no longer passes muster.

In a few years’ time, today’s youths will have seen less unfiltered content than people even five years older. Without knowing what they don’t know, they’re likely to be more receptive to party doctrine and easier to govern.

“To cultivate a new generation that will shoulder the responsibility of national rejuvenation, we need to resist erosion from indecent culture,” the official Xinhua News Agency wrote in a 2018 commentary that criticized those it called China’s effeminate young male idols. “More important, we need to nurture outstanding culture.”

The New York Times
March 28, 2019
By Reuters

The wife of Meng Hongwei, the missing Chinese former head of Interpol, dismissed allegations by authorities in China accusing her husband of graft.CreditRoslan Rahman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The wife of the missing Chinese former head of Interpol on Thursday dismissed allegations by authorities in China accusing her husband of graft and said his arrest was politically motivated.

China will prosecute former Interpol chief, Meng Hongwei, for graft after an investigation found he spent “lavish” amounts of state funds, abused his power and refused to follow Communist Party decisions, Beijing’s anti-corruption watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, said in a statement sent to Reuters on Thursday by her lawyers, “The press release openly reveals the political nature of Mr. Meng’s case, without addressing the issues concerning our family’s fundamental human rights.”

Interpol, the global police coordination agency based in France, said last October that Mr. Meng had resigned as its president, days after his wife reported him missing while he was on a trip to China.    [FULL  STORY]

The global #MeToo campaign is consistently censored on WeChat in China.

The News Lens
Date: 2019/03/27
By: Global Voices

Credit: VOA / Public Domain

This post was written by the team of WeChatscope, a research initiative led by Dr. King-wa Fu at The University of Hong Kong.

With more than 1.0825 billion individual users, along with more than 20 million registered public accounts, WeChat has the largest number of domestic users and the most extensive coverage of any social media service in China. As such, it has become a chief component of China’s rigorous censorship regime.

In 2017, our team at the University of Hong Kong built a technical web “scraping” system for studying censorship on WeChat’s publicly accessible pages. Throughout 2018, we tracked more than 4,000 public accounts covering daily news and preserved censored posts in a publicly accessible database, WeChatscope. This article is the sixth in a partnership series with Global Voices.

Around the world, #MeToo was one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter in 2018. The global campaign took on different dimensions in dozens of countries, including China. Our data set indicates that online allegations of sexual misconduct were one of most heavily censored topics on WeChat in 2018.    [FULL  STORY]