China Surveillance Extends to Muslims Going to Hajj

China Surveillance Extends to Muslims Going to Hajj

Chinese Muslims going to Makkah this year for Hajj are wearing devices that allow the Chinese government to track their position during the spiritual journey, and this has been criticized by human rights activists.
“This is yet another way of persecuting Muslims for practicing their religion, by suggesting that they require to be monitored rather like criminal suspects or persons serving a suspended prison sentence,” Eva Pils, a China human rights expert at King’s College London, told The Wall Street Journal.
The devices came to the public after the state-run China Islamic Association published photos of Chinese Muslims at the Beijing airport departing for Makkah in Saudi Arabia in recent days wearing customized “smart cards” on blue lanyards around their necks.
The devices, which include a GPS tracker and personal data, are designed to ensure the wearer’s safety, according to the association.
The state-run Global Times highlighted usage of the Makkah tracking devices Tuesday, saying they were being used by fewer than a third of the 11,500 Chinese Muslims making the pilgrimage.
“They are piloting and trialing it, likely with an eye on expanding it,” said Adrian Zenz, a lecturer at the European School of Culture and Theology who studies China’s policies for Muslims and Tibetans.
Ma Lijun, a legal representative for the device’s manufacturer, Beijing Fengjiang Technology Co., said it’s unclear if the cards will be used more broadly in the future.
“It depends on what the China Islamic Association decides,” he said.
China routinely cracks down on its Muslim citizens – most of them belonging to the Uighur Turkic ethnic group, mainly based in the Xinjiang province.
A statement from the US State Department last week accused China of detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims in “political re-education” centers and other facilities in its northwest.
China legal expert Jerome Cohen says the detentions are possibly the largest outside the criminal process in China since the Maoist “anti-rightist” campaign of the 1950s.


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