Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. Photo: Reuters

‘Orwell would be proud’: US defence chief says China is a ‘21st century surveillance state’ that represses Muslim minorities

  • US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the Communist Party was ‘using artificial intelligence to repress Muslin minority communities’
  • The Chinese government has ramped up personal surveillance in Xinjiang over recent years

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that China’s Communist Party had created a surveillance state that uses artificial intelligence to repress Muslim minorities and pro-democracy demonstrators.

China has faced an outcry from activists, scholars, foreign governments and UN rights experts over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uygur minority and other Muslim groups who call Xinjiang home.

“As we speak, the Communist Party of China is using artificial intelligence to repress Muslin minority communities and pro-democracy demonstrators,” Esper said during a speech in Washington.

“In fact, the party has constructed a 21st century surveillance state with unprecedented abilities to censor speech and infringe upon basic human rights,” Esper added. “George Orwell would be proud.”

Orwell’s 1984 novel features a “Big Brother” government that spies on its citizens and forces them into “doublethink”, or simultaneously accepting contradictory versions of the truth.

The Chinese government has stepped up personal surveillance in Xinjiang in recent years, including the construction of an extensive video surveillance system and smartphone monitoring technology.

China says Xinjiang is its internal affair, and the issue there is not a religious or ethnic one, but about preventing terrorism and separatism.

‘Get out, China’: Indonesian Muslims protest against treatment of Uygurs

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong has been embroiled by more than seven months of turmoil sparked by a now withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent to China for trial.

The protests, including mass marches, petrol bomb attacks and battles on university campuses, have since morphed into a broader revolt against authorities and strong-arm Chinese rule.

Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.