they’ve hung lots of cameras in mosques. So the Id Kah Mosque is this beautiful, mustard yellow mosque that sits in the center of old Kashgar. It’s the heart of Uighur Islam. And I think I counted more than 200 cameras inside the mosque, trying to capture worshippers who would come and go. And there aren’t many worshippers anymore, of course, because who’s going to go walk in front of those cameras and show their faces? And then that very easily can just go into a database, and then they have a data point. They know that Michael was right outside the Id Kah Mosque at this time. And then when he leaves the Id Kah Mosque, he’ll have to give his ID again. And then when he goes down to the marketplace, he has to give his ID again. And that way, you can build a comprehensive map of where you’re going. If you want to go to the bank, if you want to go to a grocery store, you have to do this. If you want to enter the old city, you have to do it. And so, it effectively just makes it impossible to do anything in this society without constantly giving up your private information to the state and to the police.
They’re making lists of people who would petition the government or complain about the government. But they also have lists of every single person registered to live in that city. So the idea isn’t just to track these small groups. It’s to track everyone, with the idea that if somebody were to get out of line, then you know everything about them to begin with.
So this is — governance by data, governance by mass surveillance, is, in a way, the Chinese model now, and they want to bring it to the world. And what this encourages is authoritarianism, because it uses technology unapologetically to consolidate power by understanding what everybody’s doing and where they are at any given moment.
you walk down a street in city of Kashgar, where we were, you’ll hit a checkpoint maybe every 200 yards. And they’ll stop people, they’ll scan their IDs, they’ll force them to take a photo for facial recognition, and then they’ll move on. But then 200 yards later, you run into another one, and then there’s police everywhere. And then you have cameras hanging from every corner.
every time you leave the hotel — there’s only one way out of the hotel, because the rest of it is surrounded by barbed wire — you have seven secret police following you. And if you talk to anybody, they take down their ID information. So, if you buy a vegetable from a vendor, they take down their information.
And, so, oftentimes, they wonder — well, has my family member died or not? And then you have whole cities that aren’t really sure about the fate of the people around them. In that context, waiting in line at a checkpoint, not knowing if an alarm is going to go off, watching a policeman kind of eyeing him not sure if he’s going to come and stop you, going under a camera, talking to a neighbor who could be an informant — all of these things become fraught and things that are sort of stressful. [emphasis added]