Can something as poweful as technology control and persecute millions of people? Probably, yes. This is what has been happening for years to the people of the Uyghurs, a minority of Turkic-speaking ethnicity professing Muslim religion, which today represents the majority of the population in Xinjiang, a region of North-West China. After a long history full of tension with the Chinese government, the situation worsened abruptly with Xi Jinping, the current President of the People's Republic of China, who claimed Uyghur people to be responsible for some terrorist attacks; these have been closed into places called "training centers" which appear rather as real concentration camps. The Chinese government has long tried to keep the existence of such places hidden, denying the truth in several occasions, even before the United Nations, stating that they were fake news. Thanks to the testimonies of people who have personally crossed the gates of these prison camps, the atrocities inflicted to the Uyghurs have been disclosed. In fact, when the evidence emerged, the Chinese government had to admit their existence, but claimed they were for "educational purpose" and strictly for higher training. Among the millions of Uyghurs detained, there are also innocent people who deny any adherence and approval of Islamic terrorism, but despite that are kept as prisoners anyway because the government suspects their future danger.
In this context technology is playing a fundamental role through mass surveillance systems, based on the installation of thousands of cameras at every corner of the streets and/or shops, combined with real-time facial recognition systems. A huge amount of datas are collected from smartphones every day thanks to apps that help the Chinese government to access to personal information. The attack against this ethnic group has affected mainly women, as proven by the increase of sterilization - from tens to thousands of operations- in the Xinjian region. All these elements have lead the most authoritative organization for the protection of human rights to consider the Uyghur people victims of the greatest mass internment since WWII, serious enough to be called genocide. These persecutions have forced the Uyghurs to flee to other countries, where they currently live, but because of this flight they are considered "criminals" and whoever has had contact with them, is considered him/herself a potential terrorist.The West, Europe and the democratic countries are doing very little about it.
The disengagement for the Uyghur people and their mistreatment can be explained by economic interests, such as the "Silk Road" (a huge strategic plan that involves the construction of new infrastructures connecting Asia, Africa and Europe). This great economic-commercial link between the West and China would be a primary reason for non-action. This violent practice should shake many consciences. Antonine Griezmann -an important French football player- protested by quitting a rich sponsorship with a Chinese technological giant; a small step that probably won't ensure him many followers nor a prize for solidarity.
Translated by Valeria Pasquali