The news out of Xinjiang, China’s western region, this summer has been a steady stream of Orwellian horrors. A million people held against their will in political reeducation camps. Intelligence officials assigned as “adopted” members of civilian families. Checkpoints on every corner and mandatory spyware installed on every device.
The targets of this police state are China’s Muslim Uighur minority, whose loyalties the central government has long distrusted for both nationalist and religious reasons. An already uneasy relationship deteriorated further in 2009, when Uighur protests led to violent riots and a retaliatory crackdown. Hundreds died in the clashes or were disappeared by security forces in their aftermath. Since then, a handful of deadly terrorist attacks outside of Xinjiang itself have served to justify increasingly heavy restrictions on the group’s rights and freedoms.