The ongoing crackdown by the Xi administration in the Xinjiang region has been described as an effort to “re-engineer” the Uyghur identity and as a form of “cultural genocide.” Officially launched in 2014, the steadily intensifying crackdown has mostly targeted Xinjiang’s predominately Muslim Uyghur minority, and has included limits on Islamic dress, the banning of religious customs, and the promotion of practices forbidden in Islam. The campaign has been fueled by the application of cutting edge technology—including surveillance and AI-driven profiling—culminating in a mass detention program where an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs have been or are being held in a series of internment camps.
Meanwhile, across the Himalayas, a violent crackdown on the Muslim-majority region of Indian Kashmir—justified by the Modi government on economic grounds, and criticized by rights groups as an attack on Islam amid rising Hindu nationalism—began last month. At The Nation Nithin Coca identifies similarities in the two campaigns, including the two regions’ similar status as “de facto modern colonies,” rising nationalism, the focus on Islam, and the use of Chinese technology:
“The current Kashmir shutdown, and in particular the turning off of the Internet and communications, is awfully similar to the one in Xinjiang post-2009 riots,” [see CDT coverage] James Millward, a professor at Georgetown University and an expert in Central Asian history, said. “One wonders if [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is taking a page from the Chinese book there.”
[…] “Kashmir and Xinijang have many parallels,” Ovais Sultan Khan, a human rights activist and director of Future Council, a Delhi-based think tank, said. “Uighur Muslims are facing genocide by the Chinese state, and both India and China are using their own tactics to oppress Uighur and Kashmiri people.”
[…] Not surprisingly, over the past decades, both regions have seen waves of militarism, conflict, and repression. More recently, though, it is the rise of global ethno-nationalism, a phenomenon seen in the West too, that is driving more fierce state-led oppression.
[…] In Kashmir, surveillance technology, some of it possibly sourced from the very companies enabling Chinese repression in Xinjiang, are creeping in. While the Xinjiang model is still the cutting edge of the digital authoritarian state, Kashmir may not be that far behind. Hikvision, a Chinese state-controlled company and one of the world’s largest developers of sophisticated CCTV surveillance systems, had contracts with Chinese police in Xinjiang, and is now exporting technology to India, according to a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment. […] [Source]
Coca continues to note that currently, “the best hope for Kashmir lies in the fact that India has not yet gone as far down the authoritarian path as China. There remains a civil society, albeit one under increasing pressure, some free press, and a supposedly independent judicial system[.]”
As the Chinese-developed surveillance technology being piloted in Xinjiang spreads throughout China and to other nations, the AP’s Dusan Stojanovic reports that nations vulnerable to human rights abuse are increasingly adopting the technology:
The cameras, equipped with facial recognition technology, are being rolled out across hundreds of cities around the world, particularly in poorer countries with weak track records on human rights where Beijing has increased its influence through big business deals. With the United States claiming that Chinese state authorities can get backdoor access to Huawei data, the aggressive rollout is raising concerns about the privacy of millions of people in countries with little power to stand up to China.
“The system can be used to trail political opponents, monitor regime critics at any moment, which is completely against the law,” said Serbia’s former commissioner for personal data protection, Rodoljub Sabic.
[…] While facial recognition technology is being adopted in many countries, spurring debate over the balance between privacy and safety, the Huawei system has gained extra attention due to accusations that Chinese laws requiring companies to assist in national intelligence work give authorities access to its data.
As a result, some countries are reconsidering using Huawei technology, particularly the superfast 5G networks that are being rolled out later this year. […] [Source]
The Trump administration last week announced a decision to blacklist 28 Chinese companies, including several AI companies and state security bureaus. Western firms, including some based in the U.S., have been accused of “lending expertise, reputational credence, and even technology to Chinese surveillance companies.” See also a map of the increasing international reach of 12 key Chinese tech firms from The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, and “The Global Expansion of AI Surveillance” report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.