Yet even for those who have escaped China, surveillance and intimidation have followed. As part of a massive campaign to monitor and intimidate its ethnic minorities no matter where they are, Chinese authorities are creating a global registry of Uighurs who live outside of China, threatening to detain their relatives if they do not provide personal and identifying information to Chinese police. This campaign is now reaching even Uighurs who live in the United States.
A few months ago, Barna, who lives in a major U.S. city and requested that her real name not be revealed, received an odd message from her mother, who lives in China. Barna’s mother asked her to send her U.S. car license plate number, her phone number, her U.S. bank card number, and a photo of her ID card. Barna’s mother said that China is creating a new ID card system that includes all Chinese, even those who are abroad.
Since her mother was located in China and they were talking via WeChat, a Chinese chat app permitted by China’s internet regulator since it gives authorities access to messages and phone calls, Barna knew that their conversation was likely being monitored. So she told her mother that she did not have a car in the United States and that she only uses her Chinese bank card, though her mother knows this isn’t the case.