Database Entry: How China Turned a City Into a Prison
Surveillance Use of technology

How China Turned a City Into a Prison

April 10, 2019
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Every 100 yards or so, the police stand at checkpoints with guns, shields and clubs. Many are Uighurs. The surveillance couldn’t work without them.

Muslim minorities line up, stone-faced, to swipe their official identity cards. At big checkpoints, they lift their chins while a machine takes their photos, and wait to be notified if they can go on.

The police sometimes take Uighurs’ phones and check to make sure they have installed compulsory software that monitors calls and messages.

Surveillance cameras are everywhere. In streets, doorways, shops, mosques. Look at this stretch of street. We counted 20 cameras.

In this little shop, dozens of locals come every day to buy samsa, a baked pastry filled with mince. Here too, and in nearly every shop, cameras are watching.

Chinese companies are earning a fortune selling this surveillance technology. They make it sound like a sci-fi miracle allowing the police to track people with laser precision.

But spend time in Xinjiang and you see that the surveillance state acts more like a sledgehammer — sweeping, indiscriminate; as much about intimidation as monitoring.

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