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Missing in China

As the world honors the labor force, commemorating the Chicago Haymarket affair in 1886, China impertinently shows its oppressive measures to eradicate any voice of protest or dissent. Six university students who wanted to work on May 1st/International Labor Day alongside regular laborers vanished in China. CNN tried to reach out to the missing students only to find that their phones were off. Missing persons and detentions of activists have become commonplace under oppressive schemes. Left-wing students have been detained across China because of their involvement in worker protests and demonstrations. Even those from Beijing's prestigious Peking University were blacklisted.

On May 4th, 1919, a student protest in Beijing set off a historic movement known as the May Fourth Movement, which objected the Treaty of Versailles as an imperialistic humiliation, and subsequently marked the modernization of China. Upon the 100th anniversary of mass student protests against the former Republican Chinese government, how ironic it is to see disappearances of Chinese civilians. Even more notable is that “missing in China” occurs not only at this juncture, when student activism rises, but also has taken place in various parts of the country for quite some time.

China’s minority Muslim Uighurs have been the targets of persecution in China. Xinjiang police use a mobile app to track citizens, and some of China’s giant technology companies are associated with a mass surveillance system. Human Rights Watch noted that China’s surveillance is sophisticated. The app uses facial recognition technology from a company affiliated with Alibaba Group Holding to match faces with photo identification and pictures on different documents. The app also takes other data points into consideration, monitoring electricity and smartphone use, as well as personal relationships to political and religious affiliations to flag suspicious terroristic activities.

The U.S. State Department says more than 1 million Uighurs are being held in camps in Xinjiang. Human Rights Watch said that “data doors” at checkpoints are just means to obtain information from cell phones. The police app communicates with a database known as Integrated Joint Operations Platform, or IJOP, to collect data, file reports and prompt investigations. It provides a communication system for officials via voice, email and telephone calls, and uses Baidu map functionality for geolocation.

China has been criticized for its alleged detention of more than 1 million Muslims in Xinjiang. Among various reports of physical and psychological abuse and forced labor camps, the UN has condemned China's practice of racial and ethnic profiling that disproportionately targets the Uighur community. It seems, though, the country needs to also curb its use of oppressive schemes across its populations.







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