Chinese authorities are reportedly using an app to monitor Muslims in Xinjiang and see if they match 36 'person types' deemed as dangerous

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  • Chinese authorities are using an app to monitor residents in the western Xinjiang region and flag them to officials as dangerous, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Thursday.
  • Researchers at HRW said they obtained a copy last year of a mass surveillance app used by police in Xinjiang – home to an estimated 13 million Uighur Muslims as well as other Muslim minority groups that are subjected to unprecedented surveillance measures.
  • As part of the detection process, the app classifies suspects based on 36 “person types” that are marked as suspicious, HRW said. That information is then used to alert authorities or prompt an investigation.
  • Xinjiang is one of the most heavily policed regions in the world, and residents are monitored by tens of thousands of facial recognition cameras and surveillance phone apps.

Chinese authorities are using an app to monitor residents in the western Xinjiang region and flag them to officials as dangerous, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Thursday.

Researchers at HRW said they obtained a copy last year of a mass surveillance app used by police in Xinjiang, which is home to an estimated 13 million Uighur Muslims as well as a other Muslim minority groups that are subjected to unprecedented surveillance measures. Researchers said the app was publicly available when they downloaded it in early 2018, and the app’s source code indicated its first iteration was released in December 2016.

According to the report, the app compiles data about Xinjiang inhabitants, including their blood type, height and information about their electricity use, and warns government officials and police officers when it detects a suspicious person.

As part of the detection process, the app classifies suspects based on 36 “person types” that are marked as suspicious, HRW said. While the report doesn’t go into detail on all 36 personas, it explained on some occasions the code makes specific reference to figures or activities specific to Xinjiang. For example, the app references “followers of Six Lanes,” which is said to relate to followers of certain religious scholars in Xinjiang who are considered threatening.

The app is also said to flag people who have gone on the Hajj, or religious pilgrimage to Mecca, without government permission. In the past, authorities have outfitted Muslims embarking on the Hajj with GPS trackers in order to keep tabs on their activities while abroad. Muslims have also been forced to pledge loyalty to the communist party before being allowed to leave Xinjiang for the Hajj.


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The app is part of a larger system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), which is the main program used for the mass monitoring of Xinjiang residents, the report said. IJOP is said to gather information from gas stations, police checkpoints, CCTV cameras and schools, and uses the information to alert authorities.

Using the app, authorities in Xinjiang can prompt an investigation, the results of which are then sometimes logged into the app for future reference, according to HRW.

The Xinjiang region has become a hotbed for tension, as residents are consistently monitored by tens of thousands of facial recognition cameras and surveillance phone apps.

China has been criticised for its alleged detention of more than 1 million Muslims in Xinjiang, where reports of physical and psychological abuse have surfaced. Last year, the UN called out China’s practice of racial and ethnic profiling that disproportionately target the Uigher community, and urged the country to shut down its use of detention centres in the region.

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