Police in the Xinjiang region of China rely on a master list of 50,000 multimedia files they deem “violent and terrorist” to flag Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim residents for interrogation, Human Rights Watch reports.
According to the report, a Human Rights Watch forensic investigation into the metadata of this list found that, during 9 months from 2017 to 2018, police conducted nearly 11 million searches of a total of 1.2 million mobile phones in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital city of 3.5 million residents.
The report says Muslims in Xinjiang are flagged as ‘violent extremists’ for simply practising their religion.
“The Chinese government’s abusive use of surveillance technology in Xinjiang means that Uyghurs who simply store the Quran on their phone may trigger a police interrogation,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Chinese government outrageously, yet dangerously, conflates Islam with violent extremism to justify its abhorrent abuses against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” Wang added.