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China’s use of high-tech surveillance to oppress and monitor Uighur Muslims is the “future of religious oppression” Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, has warned. During a webinar discussing the religious persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, and its implications for the wider religious community, Brownback said that the tactics used against Uighur Muslims represent the “cutting edge of religious persecution.” Estimates suggest that as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims have been subject to internment camps in Xinjiang, where they are taught to be secular citizens who will never oppose the ruling Communist Party. Though they live in a remote region, China is employing its “aggressive technology” to oppress Uighurs, including sophisticated cameras, facial-recognition technology, and collecting DNA samples.

Brownback said “They’ve got technology and surveillance cameras virtually everywhere,” he noted. “They’ve collected genetic data on most of the Uighurs in the region so they can be tracked on the internet, and they also have facial recognition systems. They could theoretically close all the concentration camps and the people would still live in a virtual police state. My great concern is not only what it does to the Uighur people, but also that these systems will be replicated in other authoritarian regimes around the world,” he stressed. “We’ve got this huge global battle going on between democracy and dictatorships at present, and dictatorships have been doing pretty well lately. China deploys its resources very effectively and shrewdly and craftily to get countries, particularly Muslim countries, to remain quiet under threat.”

Brownback predicted that China’s methods represent “the future of religious oppression,” adding that eventually, religious minorities are “going to be oppressed by a system where they can’t live and work in the society and continue to practice their faith.” “They will be denied access to public transport, unable to register their kids in schools and unable to get an apartment because they are registered in the system as a religious adherent,” he said. “And that’s what’s happening today in Xinjiang to the Uighur Muslims. And that is a threat to all of us. We need to aggressively push back.” “It’s the way of the future if we don’t stop this. You can say, ‘That’s a long way away, it’s not my religion, and it’s going to be fine.’ But this stuff is coming if we don’t get on and stop it early.”

The webinar also touched on the issue of forced labor among the Uighur community, as new research indicates the party is forcing Uighurs to work in textile factories, tainting supply chains in the U.S. Nury Turkel, a Uighur American attorney born in Xinjiang revealed that forced labor has been “part of Uighur life” for as long as he can remember. “It’s one way the Chinese used to repress the Uighur religion and culture,” he said. “When you buy anything made in China, if it’s a textile cotton product, you should do your due diligence. Stop buying any cotton or textile products coming from China. He urged the U.S. government to pass the Forced Labor Prevention Act which would prohibit goods made with forced labor from entering the U.S. It also instructs the U.S. government to impose sanctions on foreigners who employ forced labor of Uighur minority groups.

Turkel said the “conduct by the Chinese government” may rise to the level of crimes against humanity. He identified key elements that define such crimes, according to international law: the act must be part of a widespread systematic attack; the attack must be against a civilian population; and the attack must be launched on discriminatory grounds, including religion and ethnicity. Brownback said the U.S. should urge its allies to join them in placing sanctions on China, restricting Chinese companies’ access to U.S. technology. “These things matter more in concert,” he said. “I think we need to continue to call it out for what it is taking place … I hope we continue to sanction more of those companies.”

Source: Christian Post