While it may sound like something from an Orwellian story, government officials were sent to live with Uyghurs in their homes in Xinjiang so that they could watch them and ask questions about their lives and political views. That is currently the reality for families in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Toward the end of last year, Xinjiang authorities mobilized more than a million cadres to spend a week living in homes of predominantly Muslim families, reported Human Rights Watch (HRW). The majority of those families live in the countryside.
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“The cadres meticulously document their activities, including by submitting reports of the homestays with accompanying photos,” said HRW in a media release.
“Some of these photos and videos can be found on the Wechat and Weibo accounts of the participating agencies, which show scenes of cadres living with minority families, including in the most intimate aspects of domestic life, such as cadres and family members making beds and sleeping together, sharing meals, and feeding and tutoring their children,” said the rights group.
“None of these videos or photos are posted by the visited families, and there is no indication that they consented to having them posted online.”
The ‘home stay’ in Xinjiang has been extended
Early this year, Xinjiang authorities extended this “homestay” program and now cadres spend at least five days every two months in the families’ homes. There is no evidence to suggest that families can refuse such visits, said HRW.
As part of their time with families, the cadres conduct political indoctrination and explain the Chinese Communist Party’s policies toward Xinjiang. Meanwhile, families are obligated to tell cadres about their lives and political views.
HRW said that these homestay visits are part of the government’s increasingly invasive “Strike Hard” campaign in the region, which is home to 11 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities.
— Afraid Canvas (@AfraidCanvas) May 18, 2018
News of the homestays comes amid an increase in repressive policies in the region that include the indefinite detaining of over tens of thousands in unlawful “political education” centers and the setting up of mass collection of DNA and voice biometrics from individuals between the ages of 12 and 65.
Reasons why such measures have been put in place are to “safeguard social stability” and to “fight terrorism.” In recent years, state-run media has reported sporadic bomb and knife attacks by so-called terrorists in the province and elsewhere in China.
While there have been some reports of Uyghurs joining radical groups abroad, such as the Islamic State, critics say the Chinese government is overstating the threat from the Uyghurs.
In the past several decades, there have been high levels of immigration from China’s Han majority to the province. The Han now make up nearly 40 percent of the province’s population of 19 million.
— Abdugheni Sabit (@AbdugheniSabit) May 18, 2018