IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 77

prosecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims [22]-
[24]. Prior to 9/11 the Chinese state was more fearful of
a secular nationalist movement among Uyghurs that
could promote national liberation than an Islamic terrorist threat [24]. But since this event authorities have
come to conflate separatism with religious extremism
and violent terrorism, positing the eradication of these
"three evil forces" in Xinjiang as a means of ensuring
social stability [25]. The government's efforts have since
been characterized by large-scale deployment of police
personnel in the region, and more recently through its
deployment of advanced surveillance technologies.
Since 2016 the Chinese government has increasingly
incorporated such technologies into its system of
, Shehui wang
"social grid management" (
ge hua guanli), widely operational in both Tibet and
Xinjiang. The system segments urban and rural communities into geometric zones and through the implementation of cameras with facial-recognition technologies
linked to centralized databases, enables police to systematically observe all activities and quickly identify
persons of interest [26]-[28]. This real-time vision is
undergirded by routine cell-phone checks and complementary biometric identification measures including
forced DNA sampling, voice recording, and fingerprint
and facial scanning of Uyghurs which authorities carry
out on a day-to-day basis [29]-[30]. Chinese technology
companies involved in these initiatives receive funding
from the Chinese government and investors both inside
and outside China to establish research and development labs in Xinjiang and experiment with surveillance
techniques and technologies that are later rolled out on
a nationwide basis [27]-[31].
In August 2015 China adopted the Ninth Criminal Law
Amendment, the precursor to the intensification of surveillance in Xinjiang and the forced imprisonment of large
numbers of Uyghurs and other members of Muslim minority groups. Articles covering new offenses were added and
other clauses changed to grant authorities greater enforcement capabilities to address terrorism [32]. As part of new
,Qu jiduan
"De-Extremification Regulations" (
hua tiaoli) released in March 2017, the surveillance techniques described previously have been deployed in Xinjiang to identify Muslims that exhibit behavior deemed to
be overtly Islamic such as the sporting of long beards,
selecting Abrahamic names for children, and fasting during Ramadan [33]. Individuals identified as being at risk of
"extremism" are detained in large-scale state-run camps
where they undergo forced Chinese language training and
political indoctrination [32]-[34].
The official name given to these centers is as vague as
their purported purpose. The CCP insists its actions are
grounded in a concern for the retraining and reeducation
of extremist Muslims. However, in light of the situation's
DECEMBER 2019

∕

growing international notoriety, Chinese authorities now
seek to obstruct or prevent keyword searches via search
engines by deploying a variety of novel terms for these
camps within their online publications (though most
commonly referred to in official documents as "Vocational Training Internment Camps" and popularly seen in
Chinese and Western media as "re-education centers"
, zai jiaoyu ying) [34]. An upper estimate of
(
1.5 million members of minority groups in the region are
currently thought to be detained in such centers [34],
although recent reports indicate that some number of
detainees have been released back into wider society
[35], a fact nonetheless overshadowed by the government's realization of a high-tech police state in the
region. In September 2018 the United Nations cited the
situation as the largest example of ethnic cleansing in the
world today [36]. Later in July 2019, a coalition of 22
nations signed a letter addressed to the president of the
U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urging China to acknowledge
accusations of grave human rights abuses and close
detention centers. This action was rebuked by 37 countries including China, that defended China's policies and
insisted that accusing countries refrain from "politicizing
human rights" [37].

Reconceptualizing China's Social Credit System:
From Social Credit to Social Trust?
In its quest to control resistant minority groups and
secure the country's border regions, the CCP has come
to rely heavily on the development and implementation
of innovative surveillance techniques and technologies.
The justification for surveillance as a means to protect
against terrorism, an idea first propagated by Western
liberal democracies, is evidently one that the Chinese
state has come to adopt to suit these specific needs.
Moreover, elements of these new surveillance systems are now being replicated on a nationwide basis,
highlighting that the application of new surveillance
practices in China is not isolated to the country's restless border regions or the state's attempt at coercing
minorities to assimilate. China's substantial progress in
developing advanced technologies, in particular Internet control methods, facial and voice recognition
advancements and big data management, has fundamentally impacted what the Chinese leadership
believes it can achieve on both a regional and national
scale. These technologies serve as the fulcrum for
the rollout of a mass "Social Credit System" (SCS
, Shehui xinyong tixi) and the CCP's aspiration to construct a "culture of honesty and integrity"
Chengxin wenhua). The system has a variety
(
of functions, the primary three being that it grants the
CCP enhanced control over businesses operating in

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IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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