China's latest move to plant spies in Uighur households is out and out repression
In the movie, V for Vendetta, set in a dystopian United Kingdom, two characters discuss how keeping a Quran could be seen as a seditious act by the government. One of them is a revolutionary, the other a TV host who has a “14th century copy of the Quran”. The scene, though from fiction, could well have been a telling commentary of present day Islamophobia, in particular, and authoritarian governments’ handling of anything that they deem unsuited to or challenging the narrow, exclusionary narrative they use to exercise control over their populations. The ongoing persecution of the Uighurs in China by the government seems to be mirroring the horrors talked about in V for… .
The Chinese government views the Turkic-speaking Uighurs, concentrated in the Xianjing region, with unreserved suspicion. With the region bordering some Central Asian nations, Pakistan, Afghanistan, as well as India and Russia, China views the Islamic beliefs of the Uighur as ‘extremism’ and as a threat to its security and national integrity. Apart from spot-checks, China enforces strict surveillance with facial recognition software. Now, it intends to keep an eye on Uighurs round the clock, in the one place where their privacy should have been most sacrosanct—their homes. Under its ‘Pair up and Become One’ initiative, the Chinese government is putting Han Chinese affiliates of the regime in Uighur households to stay as ‘relatives’ . These spies report to the state in a scenario where any behaviour other than what the Chinese government has prescribed—the state wants the Uighurs to give up Islam and live ‘secular’ (read atheistic) lives—could invite severe curbs on personal and family liberty. Such repression breeds a climate of intolerance that then spills over.