The Global Implications of “Re-education” Technologies in Northwest ChinaJune 08, 2020
This process affects every aspect of their lives not only due to mass detentions, but also because of the way biometric and data surveillance systems supporting the camps have been used to monitor and transform their behavior . . . despite potential gaps in purported knowledge and technical capability, the ubiquity of checkpoints and cameras make Turkic Muslims modify their behavior in their daily life and reorient their activities around ideals promoted by state authorities. The technologies begin to create a new reality.
People who were not immediately detained were nevertheless ordered to go to local police stations and clinics to submit blood and DNA samples have their irises, faces and fingerprints scanned and a unique voice signature recorded. One Kazakh woman told me, “The village government leader told us openly that those who refused would be taken to the re-education camps.” This biometric data was then added to their citizenship file as part of a new “smart” ID card system. Once this system was fully implemented by the end of 2017, it became impossible for Uighurs and Kazakhs to enter a bank or shopping mall without having their face scanned and matched to the image on their ID at fixed checkpoints. Han people were often waved through these checkpoints without a scan, particularly in Turkic Muslim majority areas. The Kazakh woman told me, “On average, over the span of a single day, I had my ID and face scanned more than 10 times.”