Many have slammed the practice as outright automated racism. Uighur Muslims are also required to provide the government an insane amount of biometric data from fingerprints, DNA samples, voice samples, and even their blood types. Uighurs are constantly harassed by state agents, and multiple checkpoints throughout the region require the Uighurs to hand over their phones for constant inspection.
A second app called JingWang, similar to Fengcai, is installed in the phones of Uighurs. JingWang functions like Fengcai, but is less aggressive than Fengcai as Fengcai hunts for more types of data.
Currently, the Chinese government classifies the Uighur Muslims as separatists and a threat to the stability of the country. Xinjiang is rich in oil and other resources, and is crucial for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which the government has begun rolling out.
And while it is true that the Xinjiang province is the breeding ground for surveillance technologies, what happens in Xinjiang doesn’t stay there. The Chinese government uses whatever it learns in Xinjiang to spy on the rest of its population.
In a Vice interview, Edin Omanovic from Privacy International stated that “there is an increasing rend around the world to treat borders as law-free zones where the authorities have the right to carry out whatever outrageous forms of surveillance they want.”
“But they’re not: the whole point of basic rights is that you’re entitled to them wherever you are. Western liberal democracies intent on implementing increasingly similar surveillance regimes at the border should look to what China is doing here and consider if this is really the model of security they want to be pursuing,” said Edin.