China’s ruling Communist Party has dispatched 1.1 million local government workers to infiltrate and spy on ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
The initiative, dubbed “Pair Up and Become Family,” aims to monitor the living rooms, dining areas, Muslim prayer areas, weddings, funerals and other intimate events of ethnic minorities as part of a homestay program.
Government workers live with assigned families every two months for five days at a time.
“The government is trying to destroy that last protected space in which Uighurs have been able to maintain their identity,” said Joanne Smith Finley, an ethnographer at England’s Newcastle University.
Uyghurs who have taken refuge in Turkey believe the initiative aims to push them into distancing themselves from Islam toward a more secular lifestyle.
Any deviation from the lifestyle prescribed by Chinese President Xi Jinping can be dubbed by authorities as extremism.
Persons in the presence of these spies posing as faux relatives cannot pray or wear religious dress.
Abdulahir Yunus, who lives in China’s Urumqi city, said: “They cannot pray. Praying at home, or even reading the Quran, could put the whole family at risk.”
“Their aim is to assimilate Uyghurs. The Chinese want us to eat like them, sleep like them and dress like them.”
Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group which makes up around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, has long accused China’s authorities for cultural, religious and economic discrimination.