Amidst China’s ongoing accusations of human rights violations and persecution of Uyghurs, another shocking claim has emerged alleging that women belonging to Muslim ethnicities are being held for using WhatsApp. A new book titled ‘In The Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony’ claims that these women have been detained for months for cyber ‘pre-crimes’ such as using a school Gmail account and WhatsApp. According to the book, these ‘violators’ are labeled as ‘pre-criminals’ by the authorities.
A report by Business Insider cites the case of Vera Zhou, a student at the University of Washington who was detained by the Chinese authorities for using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to log into her school Gmail account and submit homework. Afterward, Zhou was sent to a ‘re-education’ class and forced to wear a uniform with neon green stripes. Her holiday season and the new year of 2018 were spent in the same cell. Zhou was released from that cell after six months, but under certain conditions. Her first condition was to stay in her local neighborhood, and her second was to report regularly to a ‘social stability worker’.
In the book, not only Zhou but also 11 other Muslim women were identified by the authorities as extremist ‘pre-criminals’. According to China’s internet security law, network operators must share users’ personal information with authorities. Another woman was detained for downloading WhatsApp while a third was detained after allowing several other people to use her ID to set up their SIM cards, according to the book. The authors of the book write that all three women were victimized by China’s high-tech surveillance system.
Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang have been rebuked for the harsh treatment they have received from China. It has been reported that Beijing initiates mass detention camps for ethnic minorities and interferes with their religious activities. As well as that, it also abuses its citizens, including prison sentences. Beijing denies vehemently that it is engaging in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang despite mounting evidence.