The Uyghurs of China now live in a huge open-air prison camp

A cultural genocide is taking place in China against the country’s Uyghur minority. Aggressively monitored by Chinese authorities and under constant threats of arrest or torture, these Turkish-speaking people in China’s far west now exist in the world’s first real-world digital dictatorship.

It is no exaggeration to say that the entire province of Xinjiang, an area only slightly smaller than Alaska, has been turned into a vast open-air detention center by the Chinese Communist Party. As author Nury Turkel explains in his new book, No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs, every neighborhood in Uyghur towns, large and small, now has its own hastily erected “makeshift police station,” manned by “low-ranking police officers.” are assistant police officers who have more muscular muscles than actual law enforcement officers.” The neighborhoods themselves are surrounded by manned checkpoints where those wishing to leave the country must squint at a camera for a retinal scan before departing.

Each neighborhood is further divided into small “grids” of 15 to 20 families, each assigned a “grid monitor”. As the author writes, each observer is tasked with spying on their neighbors and reporting suspicious or prohibited activities – such as Islamic practices such as refusing to eat pork or fasting during Ramadan – to the authorities.

Then there are the Monday morning flag-raising ceremonies, which are compulsory to attend. As the red flag of communist China is raised, Turkel, who is ethnically Uyghur, writes, party officials “chanted slogans about the greatness of the party and its general secretary, Xi Jinping, and the need for Uyghurs to renounce their belief in anything else.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the podium during the unveiling of the new Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is credited with being the architect of the current crackdown on the Uyghurs, which has employed a variety of high-tech surveillance methods to monitor their every movement.
Getty Images


In his book, Turkel tells the story of a young woman named Zumrat, who recalls with shudders the first time she was forced to renounce Islam.

“The party apparatchik who chaired the meeting called out to the assembled Uyghurs: ‘Is there a God?’

The shocked crowd paused before replying “No.” They had to – members of the neighborhood watch checked their reactions as they stood around the flagpole. Frightened, Zumrat moved her lips, but didn’t actually utter the words that denounced her faith the first time.

“Who is your new god?” The leader of the meeting called.

“Xi Jinping,” the crowd dutifully sang back.

Later, when Zumrat came home, she prayed to Allah for forgiveness.

Uyghur men walk in front of the Id Kah Mosque, China's largest mosque.
The Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang dates back to 1442 and is the largest mosque in China and a powerful symbol of Uyghur Islamic history and culture. Hundreds of other Uyghur mosques have been destroyed by Chinese authorities.
Getty Images

But these “old-school” methods of surveillance, most of which have existed in one way or another since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, are just the beginning. The technology explosion has given Xi Jinping ways to monitor the population using artificial intelligence — AI — that the late Chairman Mao could only fantasize about.

The mechanics of how surveillance works are absolutely terrifying. In recent years, Turkel says, every adult Uighur has been summoned to his local police station to “subject to a barrage of scans, tests and examinations… [including] Retinal scans and fingerprints…blood or hair samples…for DNA profiles.” They also had to “read from a set text for forty-five minutes so their voices could be recorded and identified so the spies could use listening devices parked outside people’s homes.” were, knew who was speaking”.

Finally, they are also forced to walk, speak, smile and frown in front of a series of cameras. The point is to train the AI ​​program to identify each and every Uyghur on surveillance video, which the AI ​​can now do even when a person’s face is turned away from the camera. Her gait gives her away.

Chinese police hustle Uyghur women protesting on a street.
Chinese police shove Uyghur women during a street protest in Xinjiang. Uyghurs could be arrested by Chinese police for practicing their Islamic faith, which is now banned.
Getty Images

But this clever AI deployed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is not ready yet; it can tell immediately if a man’s beard is a little too shaggy or a woman’s dress is a little too long. These are signs that a Uyghur man or woman might be secretly practicing their faith; If they are identified, the AI ​​surveillance systems will send an arrest warrant to the printer at the local police station. From there, the police take over, take the suspects for interrogation, tie their hands, feet and neck into a so-called “tiger chair” and ask them, for example, whether they believe in the Communist Party or in God. The wrong answer – “I believe in God” – leads to torture and imprisonment.

The communist authorities have also included smartphones in their surveillance network. As the author writes, all Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang have been asked to download an app with the terrifying name Clean Internet Security Soldier. This allows the AI ​​to play “I Spy” with your phone, monitoring every detail of your life for signs of “suspicious activity”.

If you buy more groceries than usual, the AI ​​will alert the police that you may have unregistered guests, and your house will be searched. If you buy more gas than usual, the police will come by and ask where you are going.

The infamous "Tiger chair" Torture device that binds its victims hands, feet and neck. The chair is often used by Chinese authorities during violent interrogation sessions.
The infamous “Tiger Chair” torture device that binds its victims hands, feet and neck. The chair is often used by Chinese authorities during violent interrogation sessions.
Human Rights Watch

In Zumrat’s case, she made the mistake of texting a friend the common Islamic phrase “peace be upon you.” “Shortly thereafter, a security officer approached her and informed her that the Arabic expression was now banned. She has to stick to the “local language” – the new official name for Mandarin… Next time, the official warned, it won’t be so easy for her.”

Chinese “Big Brothers”

But Beijing is not content with scanning Uyghur retinas before they are allowed to cross the street, or tracking a Uyghur’s every move on their own cell phones. Many Uyghur families have been forced to allow communist agents to stay with them – and spy on them in their own homes. According to Turkel, CCP documents show hundreds of thousands of police, military, or security agents were planted in this way.

Uyghur family in front of their house, Minfeng, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.
The destruction of the traditional Uyghur family has been at the heart of China’s effort to wipe out the Uyghurs. Some families have been forced to let Chinese officials into their homes to live with, spy on and even abuse them.
Corbis via Getty Images

These Han Chinese “Big Brothers” — who pretend to be “relatives” using fictitious kinship terms — prohibit the use of the Uyghur language in the home, try to bribe the children into betraying their parents, and are often abusive mothers and their daughters.

Turkel tells of a woman who “stabbed her ‘relative’ to death after the man sexually abused her and her [12-year-old] Daughter. She could not go to the police to report the sexual abuse because the state was complicit. … The woman and her daughter disappeared without a trace.”

This abuse continues even when the Uyghur husbands still live in the household, as the husbands are often afraid to intervene. When a woman complained to her husband that her Chinese “relative” was urging her to have oral sex, Turkel said, “the man was appalled and insisted there was nothing they could do. The Chinese had broken this Uyghur’s dignity to the point that he was unwilling to protect his own wife, the mother of his child.”

Supporters of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement rally outside the British Embassy.
Protests have been held around the world to raise awareness of the plight of Uyghurs. While many Uyghurs have managed to flee China and find refuge in the west, neighboring Muslim nations have not been so welcoming.
Getty Images

While the Uyghurs are held hostage in their own homes, their history, language, culture and religion are being systematically erased in their ancient homeland. As the author writes, the Uighur language, which is closely related to Turkish, is no longer taught in local schools and books on Uighur history are now banned. Centuries-old mosques and shrines are being leveled by the hundreds and possession of a Koran is a crime. And while ethnic Han Chinese women in Xinjiang and elsewhere are being encouraged by the party to have more babies, Uyghur women are being told to have fewer — with contraception, sterilization and even abortion being forced on them.

The Wrath of Han

As a longtime observer of China, it is clear to me that the party’s goal is not just to turn the surviving Uyghurs into atheists and CCP members. But to give them one entirely new identity as Han Chinese. The same CCP that tried to erase history during the Cultural Revolution is now hacking the brains of an entire people. This is far worse than forced assimilation: it is genocide in slow motion.

Thanks to Turkel, we know who commissioned this CCP version of Germany’s infamous “Final Solution”. It came from none other than the biggest Big Brother of them all, Xi Jinping himself. As early as 2014, Xi visited Xinjiang and declared that “no mercy should be shown” to the Uyghurs. Since then, the party has become increasingly ruthless.


Uyghurs don’t have an easy time escaping the huge prison that was once their home. Rather than show sympathy for the plight of their fellow believers, regional Muslim countries have proved all too willing to deport fleeing Uyghurs back to China, where they face imprisonment or even execution if they dare leave. Even oil-rich sheikhdoms fear the wrath of possible Chinese retaliation.

Paradoxically, the only place where Uyghurs are truly protected is in Western countries, specifically the United States, which was founded by those who champion religious freedom and have declared that what is happening to Uyghurs is “genocide.” For this reason, the author of No Escape, reflecting on his own escape from China’s tyranny, decided that “America was the only safe place for me.”

Steven W. Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Pandemics. The Uyghurs of China now live in a huge open-air prison camp


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