Zarina Zabrisky
Sep 30, 2019 · 8 min read

Abridged translation/excerpts from “The Clockwork Mandarin” by Konstantin Salomatin and Shura Burtin, published in the Russian Reporter

Designer unknown (佚名) 2013, The Chinese dream, Zhongguo meng (中国梦), Publisher: Wang Xin (王鑫)

The 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, celebrated with a pompous military parade and speeches of greatness, is the appropriate day to remind the world that since 2017 the Chinese government carries out the systematic genocide of the ethnic minorities by imprisoning, killing, torturing, and subjecting to chemical experiments millions of innocent people. According to some researchers, there are about one and a half million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other minorities in prison and concentration camps. In a monstrous twist, the Chinese authorities added cutting-edge software programs, “neural networks” and biometric data to the extermination techniques of the totalitarian states of the past. What you are about to read is not sci-fi: it is the reality of a communist society, in which an individual is sacrificed in the name of the collective, conformism rules and human life has no value.

Original Chinese Cultural Revolution Propaganda Posters. Left: Chairman Mao 1971 “Long Live the Great Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought!” From the Internet archives.


In Xinjiang, Chinese authorities use mass DNA collection and facial recognition cameras to monitor ethnic minorities, mainly Uyghurs and Kazakhs. It is total surveillance: every conversation is recorded. Streets are patrolled by police vans. Barbed wire is everywhere: schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and gas stations. Every three hundred meters there is a checkpoint — a concrete booth, more barbed wire, police, military — and long lines of Uyghurs. To enter public facilities, such as hospitals, banks, parks, or shopping malls, or to refuel the car, Uyghurs and Kazakhs must pass a metal detector and two checkpoints, operated by the AI called IJOP.

The “neural network” was created by the People’s Liberation Army of China as part of its new digital military doctrine, C4ISR, and is now part of the National Vigilance program, which is planned to cover China with a tracking technology network. From 2017, all Muslims within the age range 12–65 are required to undergo comprehensive biometric and DNA tests, including photographs of the face and body taken from several angles, blood tests, fingerprints, eye retina scans, hair samples, and voice recordings. At each checkpoint, the AI takes 3D photos, scans IDs and belongings, and, based on all the combined data, either allows the person to pass or alerts and instructs the police on the course of action: interrogation, detention for further investigation or an immediate arrest. There is no presumption of innocence. A 100-point scale is applied to define the degree of threat. Uighurs and Kazakhs automatically receive 10 points, people in the age range 15–55 receive another 10, believers — another 10, etc.


Kazakh and Uyghur residing in Xinjiang are often forbidden to leave the assigned areas and can not visit Kazakhstan, one of the 27 countries on the list of Muslim countries banned to visit. They are forced to reside at the place of “registration”; their passports are confiscated. In order to leave the residential block assigned as their place of residence, they must interact with the special device connected to the government software, IJOP.

There is no privacy or safety at home either. Video cameras connected to IJOP are installed inside the apartments, as well as in the streets. These cameras are equipped with the facial recognition software, able to identify Uyghurs and track and report any “unusual” behavior, for instance, gathering of a few Uyghurs at the place where only one is registered. According to the official data, in 2020 China will use 626 million monitoring cameras.

All information gathered by the cameras is analyzed by IJOP. In addition, the police frequently conducts late-night searches, checking phones, computers and books (print materials in the Uyghur language are banned just as beards, national dress and the use of Muslim names) and about one million of Chinese civil servants from other regions reside with Uyghur families in their homes for up to six months making daily reports via online forms.


All Muslim residents are required to install and use a surveillance phone app called Jingwang. The app scans and reports the user’s activity — contacts, reading, writing, geolocation — to IJOP. Using the cellphone without the app, turning it off or using another person’s cellphone is prohibited. Police officers and local government officials are required to use an additional app for surveilling the residents. This app has a list of 36 suspicious activities, including owning too many books or excess food supplies, using more electricity than standard, etc. The policemen are overloaded with work but if they fail to use the app they can be, in turn, reported and sent to camps.


The neural network combines all the data received from various resources — cellphone apps, police apps, cameras, checkpoints, police reports — and creates multidimensional profiles that combine biometric and medical data (including fertility, mental and chronic conditions), family connections, work and study notes, financial history, etc.

Every morning, IJOP sends messages to police stations reporting all prohibited or dangerous activities in the area, along with the further instructions for punitive actions.

Systematically and efficiently, the Chinese government is erasing the cultural identity of Uyghur people. Xinjiang lives in fear. The shops and restaurants owned by Uyghurs are mostly closed. The remaining establishments have locked doors and iron bars on the windows. 10% of the adult population is missing. “He went to study” became the code phrase for “he is in prison.” Children of those arrested cannot live with relatives and are taken to orphanages instead.


According to the survivors’ stories, collected by journalists and human right activists in Kazakhstan and other countries, after arrests, people are put in basements or other spaces with no natural light, in rooms divided into small cages, equipped with only stools and overhead lights, with the electric light on around the clock. A typical cell is about ten meters long and very narrow, with eighteen people per room and two people per bed. Inmates are allowed to sleep in two-hour intervals, followed by two hours of being “on duty” shifts during which they are required to sit on plastic chairs. In the afternoon, they are required to sit for 12–14 hours, without moving.

During the interrogations that may last for hours, sometimes days, inmates are chained to the table in uncomfortable positions and not allowed to sleep. In cells, it is prohibited to talk, laugh, cry or turn to other prisoners. There are four cameras in each cell, in each corner, toilet, corridors, etc. The cameras are monitoring and if the rules are violated, the loudspeakers announce the violator by number (names are not used.) However, there are “blind zones” not covered by monitors and prison guards often use such spots to sexually abuse young female inmates.

A minimum prison sentence is three years, but usually, they are 10, 15, 20 years. These sentences are kept in secrecy and cannot be obtained by placing an official request. The camp sentences are usually from one and a half to two years.


There are hundreds of prisons and camps in Xinjiang, and each uses a variety of torture techniques. Punishment for violations may include electric shocks, forced abortions, solitary confinement, food deprivation for an extended amount of time, being beaten with iron bars, shackled for days, months and years, put in a cage that allows only a sitting position, chained to the floor in an uncomfortable position, drowned in a tub, tied to the wall by arms so the inmate is only able to stand on tiptoes, hung on the rack, or held with black bags on the head.

All survivors report forced injections, called “vaccinations.” In camps, injections are given for any violation. There are reports of injections that lead to involuntary erections in males and chemically induced orgies recorded by the cameras. Multiple prisoners die from beatings and torture. Their relatives are informed that a person died from an illness.


According to the multiple reports, there could be up to ten thousand people in one camp. Only the Khorgaz district has three such camps.

The inmates are forced to learn Mandarin and watch documentaries about the Chinese communists. They are required to publicly renounce their own people, praise the Communist party and Chinese law, admit such faults as wearing a hijab, praying, reading the Qur’an, giving children Muslim names, and repeat slogans thanking the party and the President Xi Jinping before meals, sometimes up to a thousand times.

The majority of the people in the camps are peasants. Their crime is not speaking the Mandarin language.

Another group includes violators of the rules: failing to install required apps, leaving the residential block without permission, etc. Crimes might include using banned apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, VPN, having foreign numbers in the contacts, photos of female relatives in hijabs, visiting banned websites, saying a prayer at the funeral, owning the Quran or a quote from it, a prayer rug, Islamic clothes.

The third group is practicing Muslims; they are sentenced to 10–15 and up to 30 years of strict regime, with the Imams getting the longest sentences.

The conditions vary but are invariably inhumane. Nutrition lacks protein and fats and food has a strong medical taste. A meal could be a piece of rice dough and a bottle of water and last only five minutes so finishing the portion is impossible. Toilet use is limited, with group visits only with two minutes allowed for urination and three minutes for defecation. Running overtime is punished by cold water pouring or beating with electro-shockers.


Survivors suffer from memory loss and amnesia, chronic insomnia, panic attacks, headaches, pain in kidneys. Practically all male survivors suffer from impotence and females report the loss of libido, possibly as the result of the injections (chemical castration.)

Talking about camp experiences is strictly prohibited. On release, the former inmates have to sign a document promising to never talk about the camps, meet with journalists and human rights activists, and criticize the Chinese government and are threatened with punishment in case of violations. People who managed to immigrate live in fear and do not share any information or photos on social media.


The Chinese government, following the Communist tradition and the trends set by Lenin and Stalin, is infamous for its disregard for human rights but is sensitive to the global community’s reaction. The reason is not pure vanity: Chinese leaders aspire to build roads and establish trade with Europe and Africa. By imposing economic sanctions, boycotting events in China and preventing China from participating in international sports and cultural events like the Olympic Games, the world governments can put pressure.

Private people can help by sharing the information, flooding the Internet with the facts and demand that their country leaders take action to stop these crimes. The way to stop the genocide is to expose it.


DATABASE OF INMATES — by a Russian linguist Evgeny Bunin

Human Rights Watch. China’s Algorithms of Repression. Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App

The Jamestown Foundation. Xinjiang’s Re-Education and Securitization Campaign: Evidence from Domestic Security Budgets

AP: China treats Uighur kids as ‘orphans’ after parents seized

Bitter Winter: China’s High-Tech Surveillance State: A “Digital Despotism”

The Guardian view on surveillance in China: Big Brother is Watching:

Conversation: “I researched Uighur society in China for 8 years and watched how technology opened new opportunities — then became a trap

China’s Vanishing Muslims: Undercover In The Most Dystopian Place In The World

Watch Video: Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps — BBC News

Watch Video: How China is crushing the Uighurs , The Economist

Zarina Zabrisky

Written by

Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at

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