Monday, June 21, 2021

TikTok Shuts Down American Teenager for Exposing Uyghur Persecution

The Chinese government likes to silence any criticism against it, whether it comes from its own citizens or people from outside the country. An American teenager was recently banned from the Chinese app TikTok after she posted a video about Beijing’s persecution of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.


TikTok for a social cause


When 17-year-old Feroza Aziz came to know about the atrocities being committed against the Uyghurs in China, she decided that something had to be done to let the world know about it. Aziz decided to post a video about the topic to TikTok. However, there was a problem — since the company was from China, her video would be taken down by its censors as soon as it was posted. To get over the censorship, Aziz came up with an ingenious idea.


She created a 40-second video that she disguised as a makeup tutorial while educating viewers about the plight of the Uyghur community. The idea worked and the video soon went viral, getting over 1.4 million views and about half a million likes. “I knew that if I start with a makeup tutorial, then people would want to watch. I then realized that I should use this idea of disguising my video because it will reach out to more people without TikTok [finding] out that I am talking about China’s corrupt government,” she said to Hong Kong Free Press.


TikTok is censoring content according to Chinese guidelines. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)
TikTok is censoring content according to Chinese guidelines. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)


When the company realized that the video had nothing to do with makeup and she was speaking against the Chinese government, they banned Aziz’s account. According to the teenager, she was unable to post on the social media platform for over a month. TikTok initially rejected her claims, stating that Aziz’s account was active. They pointed out that one of her previous accounts was banned after it contained a video of Osama bin Laden.


“Another account of hers — including the eyelash video in question — [was] not affected and the video continues to receive views… TikTok does not moderate content due to political sensitivities,” a company spokesperson stated (ABC News). However, the company eventually admitted that her account was banned and announced that they had reactivated it. The video was apparently removed for about 50 minutes due to “human moderation error” and has been reinstated.


Eating pork


In a bid to “assimilate” the Uyghur Muslim community into the Han majority, the Chinese government is now forcing people from the ethnic minority to consume pork, an item that is forbidden to eat according to Islamic beliefs. Abstaining from pork is seen as a sign of extremism by the state. In Xinjiang, authorities are reportedly hosting “Eating Together” events where pork is included in the meals under the guise of an “ethnic unity food.”  


China is making Uyghurs eat pork. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)


“In October 2018, a photo was posted online by the government of Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Maralbeshi (Bachu) county, which portrayed a Uyghur village head eating a piece of pork and calling on other Uyghurs to join him. The photo was taken down shortly after publishing,” according to Radio Free Asia.


The local Xinjiang administration is also said to be focusing on turning the region into an important pig breeding center in the country. China has seen a massive drop in its pig population in recent times due to the swine fever epidemic that has also led to a spike in pork prices.

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Max Lu
Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.

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