Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of Northwestern China are living in a police state like no other on earth. Using counter-terrorism as a pre-text, Chinese authorities have rounded up over a million Uighur men and women, forcing them into what they call “re-education centers.” Men and women are arrested, seemingly for minor offenses like growing a beard, or having foreign contacts, or sometimes for no reason at all. They languish in these detention centers indefinitely.
Outside the prison walls there is also a mass experiment in population control: authorities use facial recognition technologies, spyware and other high tech means to instill fear in Uighurs. What we know about conditions in those camps and life in Xinjiang has come largely from reports of human rights organizations.
It is extremely rare for a journalist –let alone a western journalist — to access Xinjiang to report on human rights abuses on the ground. But that is exactly what my guest today, Isobel Yeung, did. Posing as a travel blogger, Isobel Yeung, surreptitiously filmed a documentary for Vice News that aired in June on HBO. The documentary provides a visceral sense of the dystopian police state that Xinjiang has become for its Uighur population. It also exposes one consequence of the mass roundups of Ughur men and women, which is the orphaning of children who Isobel Yeoung discovers are placed into their own kind of re-education centers, posing as kindergartens.