China’s Tightened Measures of Stability Control in Xinjiang
Since the Karamay fire in 1994, state authorities in China have issued censorship instructions to control news and online discussion regarding Xinjiang. Ethnic Uyghur population and other Turkic Muslim minorities, who make up nearly half of the provincial population, have been subject to intensified measures of social control in the name of public order. According to The Economist, the ways in which local leaders uphold stability maintenance range from installation of satellite tracking-devices on all vehicles in one part of the province, to the ban on “abnormal” beards, face veils or full-body coverings, and “naming of children to exaggerate religious fervor”.
On July 10th, residents in the Tianshan District of the capital city Urmuqi were forced to install spyware on their mobile phones. The surveillance application called Jiangwang (or “Web Cleansing”) intends to “prevent [them] from accessing terrorist information”, reported HongKong Free Press.
The measure of social media filtering is consistent with other controls over digital activities in minority regions, such as prolonged network shutdowns that have been recurring in the area. Response from local cadres in Tibet provided defense for the outage: “the difficulty of installing Internet and its high cost”, according to New Republic. Yet, the goal of innovative policies has been to identify and purge dissent.
The current appointment of Chen Quanguo, who was the former party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), aims to pacify social unrest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Thus, the central government places extraordinary emphasis on stability by restricting the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
Aided by the central government’s subsidies, the region spent more than half of its own income on recruitment of police forces and surveillance in the first half of 2017. Under a recent policy to counter extremism, minorities who are suspected of politically unreliable activities, such as texting WeChat messages that contain sensitive information, are held and reeducated at “Professional Education Schools” and “Counter Extremist Training Centers”, reported Human Rights Watch. While china has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that prohibits arbitrary detention, detaining and forcibly indoctrinating minorities without invoking a legal basis to justify the deprivation of liberty perpetuates minorities’ feelings of alienation and risks local insurgencies the policies aim to contain.