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‘When I walked the streets, cameras would recognize me, police would come running’: Uyghur camp survivor testifies

Uyghur homes have a QR code on their doors, so officials can track and trace all activity — job history, religious practices, past writings, family, friends, etc.

Tursunay Ziyawudun
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A Uyghur survivor of the Chinese Communist Party’s concentration camp system in Xinjiang tells Congress how she faced horrendous torture for almost a year, and how iris scans in city cameras alerted the police wherever she went after her release.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, Uyghur concentration camp survivor Tursunay Ziyawudun recalled the graphic horrors she and other women suffered at the hands of the CCP for over 10 months, and how the Chinese government continued to track her every move once she was out.

Tursunay Ziyawudun

“All the women had to be sterilized, or fitted with an IUD. Many young women were crying, screaming when they were told they would be sterilized and could never have children” — Tursunay Ziyawudun, camp survivor

Rape, forced sterilizations, genital electrocution, and other barbaric crimes against humanity occurred regularly in these camps in the Xinjiang region of China, according to her testimony.

Between March and December of 2018, “We were given injections of unknown medications. Every day, we had to endlessly swear loyalty to the Chinese government and reject our faith,” Ziyawudun testified through a translator.

“I was tortured with an electric stick…” — Tursunay Ziyawudun, camp survivor

She added, “Girls would be taken away and only brought back days later. I saw girls lose their sanity because of it. Then, I myself, was taken, along with another woman.

“I was tortured with an electric stick pushed inside my genital tract. I could hear the other woman’s screams in the next room. I knew the guards were raping her. After that, she never stopped crying.

“One time an order came. All the women had to be sterilized, or fitted with an IUD. Many young women were crying, screaming when they were told they would be sterilized and could never have children.

“I left the camp in December, 2018. Before my release, the officials warned me — if I spoke about my experience, there would be heavy consequences.”

“When I walked out on the streets, there were cameras that would recognize me just by my eyes, and then police officers would come out running” — Tursunay Ziyawudun, camp survivor

After having suffered through immense physical and psychological torture for almost an entire year, Ziyawudun, who now lives in the US, recalled how even after she left the camp, she “still did not feel free.”

“The world should not allow genocide to continue in the 21st Century” — Tursunay Ziyawudun, camp survivor

The CCP keeps tabs on the entire Uyghur population through its authoritarian surveillance systems that leverage facial recognition, DNA phenotyping, iris scanning, and more to track and trace its citizens wherever they go.

Ziyawudun experienced this first hand when she visited a city only to be recognized by the cameras, which prompted the police to show up.

“When I walked out on the streets, there were cameras that would recognize me just by my eyes, and then police officers would come out running up to me and saying, ‘You’re somebody who has been in a camp before,’ and would ask to see my ID card and so forth.”

Ziyawudun was physically tortured for almost a year, and the CCP’s psychological abuse continues to this day, even though she was able to escape the country.

Nury Turkel

“The end goal of this [CCP] policy is the destruction of Uyghur culture, traditions, language, and faith” — Nury Turkel, Uyghur Human Rights Project

Testifying in the same hearing, Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) Chairman Nury Turkel went into greater detail on the CCP’s authoritarian use of technology to terrorize concentration camp survivors.

“In China, initially, they started with collecting voice samples, iris scans, DNA samples to build this giant biometric data for the Uyghurs, and that paved the way for using integrated joint operating platforms that Human Rights Watch documented,” said Turkel.

“Now, if you go to any Uyghur homes, they have a QR code on the door, so the officials can scan and find out who lives there, what kind of relatives [are] at home in China and abroad, what kind of profession that they have, the past writings, the job history, everything — even the way that they engage in religious practices.

“And here at home [the US], based on the report that UHRP published in 2019, they’re using telephone messages, video chat to threaten the Uyghur Americans in the homeland here,” he added.

“If you go to any Uyghur homes, they have a QR code on the door, so the officials can scan and find out who lives there, what kind of relatives [are] at home in China and abroad, what kind of profession that they have, the past writings, the job history, everything — even the way that they engage in religious practices” — Nury Turkel, Uyghur Human Rights Project

The UHRP chairman added that the end goal of the Chinese State was to destroy Uyghur culture entirely, and it was accomplishing this through a “21st Century high-tech genocide” that Silicon Valley, and the world at large, continues to turn a blind eye to.

“UHRP has warned for more than three years that the end goal of this policy is the destruction of Uyghur culture, traditions, language, and faith,” said Turkel.

“Simply put, the Chinese State has criminalized being Uyghur. The Chinese State has spent the last four years crushing our culture, language, civilizational accomplishments in poetry, literature, the arts, and theology, architecture, and scholarship.”

“Very soon, anything that can be described as Uyghur in our homeland will be an empty shell, a Potemkin show,” he added.

“This is already a reality given the lackluster international response to this staggering 21st Century high-tech genocide.”

“The United States can and should do more to prevent Silicon Valley and the US universities from cooperating with the CCP or CCP-funded companies selling the so-called ‘Muslim tracking’ facial recognition system being used in this high-tech genocide” — Nury Turkel, Uyghur Human Rights Project

Turkel warned that American tech companies and universities were aiding the CCP’s techno-totalitarian regime through their partnerships and business practices that benefit the Communist regime.

“The United States can and should do more to prevent Silicon Valley and the US universities from cooperating with the CCP or CCP-funded companies selling the so-called ‘Muslim tracking’ facial recognition system being used in this high-tech genocide,” Turkel testified.

According to Turkel, Silicon Valley in particular is aiding the CCP’s “high-tech genocide.”

“I don’t think that Silicon Valley has wakened up to this brutality even in the face of the ongoing genocide. Based on various reports, the Silicon Valley companies are still providing technology — transferring technology,” he said.

“They’re using telephone messages, video chat to threaten the Uyghur Americans in the homeland” — Nury Turkel, Uyghur Human Rights Project

“Silicon Valley needs to step up to the plate. They haven’t really publicly at least, recognized the seriousness of the issue.

“Previously, when they came to testify in Congress, most of the CEOs from the Silicon Valley companies — high-tech companies — dodge the question about, at least, the forced labor aspect of their business practices in China.”

“The Chinese use the Uyghur body, soul, their cities, homes for testing this technology that is now metastasizing” — Nury Turkel, Uyghur Human Rights Project

Turkel echoed the concerns of other witnesses, who had previously testified before Congress, that China was exporting its surveillance technology that it tested on the Uyghurs to other countries.

“What the Chinese have done is to test and use this technology and expanding it, so the Chinese surveillance technology is metastasizing,” said Turkel.

“Reportedly, over 80 countries have either adopted, or are in the process of adopting, Chinese surveillance.

“What does that mean? That is a threat against civil liberty, threat against democracy, threat against international rules-based systems, so this is significantly a dangerous trend that everyone should be literally screaming from the rooftop.

“The Chinese use the Uyghur body, soul, their cities, homes for testing this technology that is now metastasizing,” the Uyghur Human Rights Project chairman added.

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co