South Africa: How China's Persecuted People Are Paying the Price for Joburg's Sense of Security


On 8 July 2019, 22 member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council petitioned China to end the 'arbitrary', 'large-scale' detention and 'widespread surveillance' of its religious communities. But the very surveillance tech tried and tested on China's Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Catholics is now being deployed en masse throughout Joburg by SA company Vumacam - for safety's sake. And while a hot debate rages over South Africans' privacy, persecuted people halfway around the world are truly paying the price for this technology.

A world where the traffic police can suddenly stop your car and inspect your cellphone without a warrant. A place where you can be sent to a detention camp for having WhatsApp installed on it. A town where you can be classified as "suspicious" if you use your back door too often, don't socialise with your neighbours often enough, or use more electricity than usual. Here, any number of seemingly ordinary behaviours can land you on the police's radar, sparking an investigation into your personal life, often with dire consequences.

This is the Chinese province of Xinjiang, aka the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. China's last census (in 2010) counted 22 million people here, with around 45% being...

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