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Monthly Archives: October 2022

Chinese Surveillance of the Uyghers

Uyghur

In a New York Times video analysis conducted by Muyi Xiao about the Chinese surveillance systems, they portray a higher amount of security precautions in the Xinjiang province, where the majority population is Uyghur. This poses many questions about the true motivation behind the Chinese security systems, and what purposes they are truly serving. The Chinese government has affirmed that the sole reason for these systems is to prevent crime. In reports obtained from the Chinese government, there are propositions of reaching a level of security that would be able to predict and prevent future crimes before they happened, before the crime was committed. Although this idea has yet to be confirmed of being realized, the prospect of the possibility is important to remember.

It is common knowledge that the government of China maintains heavy surveillance on its citizens, with millions of cameras within China’s borders - security surveillance unlike any other in the world. This fact is often brought up in debates over the Chinese government and the power dynamic they have with the United States, and what they have done with this power, putting into question of what the intentions are of the Chinese government with this surveillance and how those intentions play into the freedoms and rights of its people, as the surveillance doesn't stop at just cameras, but goes as extensive as regulating the internet - something never thought possible. The use of surveillance to regulate and monitor certain groups of people, specifically the Uyghurs, has been called into question, bringing the United States into the conflict with the government's commitment to aid in maintaining proper Human Rights as a part of the United Nations Rights Association.

Although this issue may seem to be an isolated issue from within China, the prospect of maintaining human rights has brought in outside organizations and countries, mostly due to the prolonged mistreatment and blatant denial of oppression of the Uyghurs they are receiving from the Chinese government.

The United Nations Human Rights Association is one such organization that has become thoroughly involved and invested in the treatments of the Uyghurs in China. To provide some background of the United Nations Human Rights Association and what they have done for the Uyghurs, on a draft resolution presented on Monday September 26th 2022, support for the Uyghurs was provided by Britain, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, along with the United States. All of these countries showed support of the President of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa, as he called for justice and aid for his people in China. However, this issue is not a new one. In fact, the Uyghurs have been struggling for independence since 1949, and have never succeeded in gaining full independence from China, and are not a recognized country. Thus the conflicts have continued even until today, with the Uyghurs still struggling for their freedom.

The United States has taken steps in an attempt to show that they do not condone what China is doing to the Uyghurs through a shift in traded goods. Through the USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement) North America has attempted to refrain from the purchasing and trading of goods made through slave labor or forced labor. Examples such as the United States lifting tariffs and buying a higher percentage of Canadian solar panels shows one of the ways that the United States separates itself from products produced by forced labor, as China is the largest supplier of solar panels in the world. The United States has also “intercepted more than 1,400 shipments of goods made with forced labor from a variety of countries, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection” as reported by Robert Fife from the Globe and Mail. This effort by the United States has been recognized, and pushed as an example for the rest of North America and the world, accentuated through an example of the United States pushing Canada to follow suit with their signing of the USMCA. However, Canada has been slow to follow through with their agreement. They have repeatedly overlooked forced labor products, valuing the price of the product rather than the source of the product. The United States has criticized Canada for this, and has continued to push for a change in economic behavior. In additional efforts of the United States, there has been legislation proposed to Congress urging the government to support investigations of the activities and violations in Xinjiang.

However, these actions do not come without their consequences. The rising tensions between China and the United States has led to a surge in Taiwaniese companies relocating themselves primarily out of Mainland China, out of fear and anticipation of military conflict between the Chinese and the United States. The Taiwanese businessmen and companies realize if China goes to war, they will be in the center of that conflict, both geographically and in relation to the connection between the United States and China, and the United States continued criticism of the Chinese government's actions regarding the Uyghurs. These precautions and change in Taiwanese economic flow has affected the way the United States can approach this Chinese conflict, as the United states “wants to support Taiwan’s continued economic health and vibrancy” as best as possible, and not put its people at risk according to Scott Kennedy in his report CSIS Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics. 

From China's perspective, China fully denies these accusations, saying that they are “illusions'' and that the United States has gathered false information. The Chinese embassy's spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, argued that the United States and the other Western Powers are “using the United Nations Human Rights Council as a tool for political manipulation” and a way to get further involved in the Chinese governments affairs instead of for the rights and freedoms of the Chinese citizens and the Uyghurs. In addition, the Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang sheds some light about the Uyghur situation, explaining that the Chinese government is not oppressing them, instead the Chinese have anti-terrorism establishments for “criminals” and people who are showing signs of acts of terrorism - admitting to attempts to reform the minds of people who are suspected to be supportive of terrorist organizations in organized neighborhoods. These “neighborhoods” are to train people in language and law, and to make it more possible for them to get jobs and live normal lives according to Qin Gang. This perspective of the Chinese Ambassador is strikingly different from what the United States claims is being conducted in the “neighborhoods”, with claims of genocide and forced labour, the residents – men, women, and children – not knowing when they will be released or what is going to be done to them in the future.