China’s continues to repress Uyghurs as Beijing bans social media apps for the ethnic group

Authorities in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region have banned Uyghurs from using social media apps including TikTok and tools to circumvent censorship, according to a recent report by Radio Free Asia (RFA) where it quoted a video released from the Chinese police.

China observers say this could be the beginning of another major crackdown on the region’s 11 million mostly Muslim Uyghurs.

RFA said in the report that a video notice about the ban was released April 8 by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a state-run economic and paramilitary organization also known as Bingtuan. 

This Bingtuan (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps) has played a key role in suppressing the Uyghurs, as per reports.

RFA reported, quoting the video, that violators face arrest, a fine of 15,000 yuan ($2,100) and a 40-point deduction under China’s social credit system, which affects people’s access to credit and business opportunities.

According to the RFA report, people of the ethnic group are forbidden from downloading and using Chinese-made TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and YouTube, as well as buying and selling on the cryptocurrency platform Bitcoin.

This is not the first incident. Besides banning Uyghurs from accessing various social media and other apps, China blocked multiple apps, which gave a platform to people to discuss political and human rights topics such as atrocities against Uyghurs, in the past.

The incidents of human rights abuse and Uyghur oppression in the autonomous Xinjiang region are being continuously reported. 

According to RFA, by 2016, Chinese police had forced people in the region to install government surveillance apps on their mobile phones and computers. 

The year that followed saw massive arrests of Uyghurs and other Muslim group people based on their activities on WeChat platform of China.  

Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based investigative journalism group that specialises in fact-checking and open-source intelligence, reported in 2019 that “there is systematic repression and imprisonment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, and the destruction of cultural and religiously significant Islamic buildings in this province may be a further part of this ongoing repression.”

According to reports, the Xi Jinping government in China has arbitrarily detained more than a million Muslims in re-education camps since 2017, and most of the detainees are Uyghur. 

Beyond the detentions, Uyghurs in the region have been subjected to intense surveillance, forced labour, and involuntary sterilizations, among other rights abuses, reports said.

The activities of Uyghurs, who are outside the detention camps, are closely monitored by the Chinese authorities. 

According to a USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) report, besides the state surveillance agencies, Uyghurs’ neighbours also watch them closely as the Chinese government, under the “Unite as One Family” programme, has stationed an estimated one million Han Chinese citizens in Uyghur households for mandatory homestays to monitor and report on their activities.

“Uyghurs can not refuse this in-person monitoring,” the report said.

Multiple reports claimed that not only Uyghurs living in Xinjiang, also the Uyghurs who are staying in exile are being monitored by Chinese agencies and their social media platforms are under the surveillance of China’s hacker groups.

Meanwhile, Beijing has long forced Uyghurs to work in Xinjiang, and under a government programme known in Uyghur as hashar, Uyghurs in rural areas were forced to work in public works projects. 

The USHMM reported, quoting some researchers, that a network of factories being built within and near detention camps in Xinjiang, and Uyghurs have no real choice but to work in these factories, often for low or no wages.

Besides, Uyghurs are being transferred in large groups to work at factories throughout the country.

In addition, the Chinese government is reportedly carrying out a policy of forced assimilation against Uyghurs with an aim to erase the Turkic ethnic group’s culture and their ability to express their unique identity, reports said.

According to investigation reports released by the UN and other human rights agencies, under the pretext of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies, the Chinese government, under President Xi Jinping, has committed grave human rights violations, and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.








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