“Ends justify the means” or “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” These are some things people say when it becomes too bothersome to wrestle with difficult moral issues. Unfortunately, it is never pleasant to be held accountable or mistreated based on ethnicity and some demographics. This, however, did not stop China from implementing some severe security measures aimed at Uighurs people.
Smartphones are a necessity
Uighurs are a minority group of Muslims in northwest China and there are around 12 million of them. Chinese police require Uighurs to carry IDs and smartphones and they will check if the face matches the one in the ID. Now carrying your ID is a standard requirement, and police can check you, but having an increased level of scrutiny for a minority group is getting out of hand. Police can request their phone that needs to be handed unlocked and scanned, and in case the scanners pick up they are mission an ID or a smartphone the police is immediately alerted. It is absurd to be required to carry a smartphone on you.
Now you cannot be charged or fined for not carrying a smartphone but it seems that police have the right to detain you if you don’t comply with these rules. Moreover, even if they comply they can still get into trouble. Police have a right to take you into a camp that really resembles a prison and conduct further studies of your phone data.
Why is China doing this
As you probably know already, China uses its own digital products rather than relying on foreign technology. So messenger, google play store, etc. all have their Chinese counterpart sort of speaking that the citizens use instead. One of the most common methods for exchanging messages was WeChat, and Uighurs are using it differently from the Chinese. Instead of messaging one another they tend to send images, gifs, and audio messages, which is why the government became suspicious. Written language is easier to decipher, whereas figuring out secret codes from going over voice clips and gifs is a lot difficult.
In other words, the government is using these technologies as monitoring tools, and because they were unable to monitor these users they deemed them untrustworthy and dangerous. Research suggests that these messages were primarily an exchange of cultural information among peers but due to the well-established Muslim stereotypes China justifies their security measures as the war on terror.
Suppression of identity
It seems that the options here are pretty clear. Uighurs either have to comply with Chinese policy or use the phones and chats as China dictates. Which means communicating in Chinese and not using your own language, or enduring constant surveillance and detainment. Of course, there is always a third option which is to leave everything behind and move elsewhere if conditions allow it.
China is clearly overstepping the boundaries of privacy here, but we must also bear in mind that it is their country and their government. All we know is that there is a lot of political turmoil when it comes to China’s leadership, but if the majority of citizens support them, then we have no right to tell them how to run things in their own backyard. It’s easy to put the entire blame on the government, but if the majority of citizens applaud those decisions then they are just as responsible. So the question is, why are living in a political climate that does not suit you?