How China used a network of surveillance to intern over a million people and produce a system of control previously unknown in human history
Novel forms of state violence and colonization have been unfolding for years in China’s vast northwestern region, where more than a million and a half Uyghurs and others have vanished into internment camps and associated factories. Based on hours of interviews with camp survivors and workers, thousands of government documents, and over a decade of research, Darren Byler, one of the leading experts on Uyghur society and Chinese surveillance systems, uncovers how a vast network of technology provided by private companies―facial surveillance, voice recognition, smartphone data―enabled the state and corporations to blacklist millions of Uyghurs because of their religious and cultural practice starting in 2017. Charged with “pre-crimes” that sometimes consist only of installing social media apps, detainees were put in camps to “study”―forced to praise the Chinese government, renounce Islam, disavow families, and labor in factories. Byler travels back to Xinjiang to reveal how the convenience of smartphones have doomed the Uyghurs to catastrophe, and makes the case that the technology is being used all over the world, sold by tech companies from Beijing to Seattle producing new forms of unfreedom for vulnerable people around the world.