The “Regulations on the Construction of Public Safety” will come into force on January 1, 2022. Surveillance will be further increased through the grid system.
by Guo Yun
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which its non-Han inhabitants prefer to call East Turkestan, is the most tightly surveilled area of China, yet the CCP feels it is not enough. From January 1, 2022, new “Regulations of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on the Construction of Public Safety” will come into force. They were adopted at the 28th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th People’s Congress of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on September 28, 2021, and published in the last month of October. An official commentary was published on October 13.
Similar regulations had been promulgated in 1994, and revised twice in 1997 and 2009. However, the commentary makes it clear that President Xi Jinping personally indicated that new and stricter regulations are necessary.
The Regulations include an interesting definition of priorities for public safety in Xinjiang. Before fighting ordinary crime, robbery, and corruption, of which there is no shortage in the region, the first priority calls to “accurately deepen the special fight against violence and terrorism in accordance with the law, crack down on and prevent ethnic separatist forces, evil terrorist forces, religious extremist forces, and other illegal and criminal activities that endanger national security.”
The second priority is combating “gangs and evil organizations,” whose definition is broad enough to include any group not approved by the CCP. The third priority is to “control illegal religious activities, illegal religious propaganda, and illegal religious network transmission in accordance with the law, and continue to promote de-radicalization.” The fourth priority is to “carry out anti-xie-jiao propaganda and education, prevent and crack down on various xie jiao organizations, and perform a good job in the re-education and transformation through education of citizens connected with xie jiao.”
The third priority indicates the crackdown on Islam and “re-education” (called “de-radicalization”) of Muslims. The fourth deals with a different religious “problem.” It confirms that, as it happened in other parts of China, during the COVID-19 pandemic new religious movements banned as xie jiao, including Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God, notwithstanding all the surveillance, in fact increased the number of their members. They were able to offer spiritual comfort in a time of crisis and religious explanations why disasters happen in this world that were obviously missing in the official propaganda. In the eyes of the CCP, more repression was thus needed.
Having established that fighting “separatism” and “illegal” religion is the top priority in XUAR, the Regulations explain how public safety should be improved in Xinjiang from 2022.
As the commentary explains, a key article of the Regulations is article 30, which call for a full implementation in the XUAR of the grid system. Bitter Winter published last April an article explaining what the grid system is, and how it is used to control, among other things, religion.
Hailed as the most effective system of social surveillance in the world, the grid system aims at controlling every building, every home, every apartment, every citizen, 24 hours per day every day. Cities and towns are divided into blocks, or groups of blocks, each of them roughly resembling a square whose sides have a length of 100 meters (328 feet), although adjustments are made to account for the distribution of buildings and for lawns and vacant lots.
Each grid has a grid manager with assistants, a grid police officer, a grid supervisor, a grid CCP secretary, a grid legal worker reporting to the local prosecutor, a grid firefighter, and from 2021, even a grid officer in charge of controlling that no person in the grid is involved with illegal religion or xie jiao. The system was created for the cities, but is gradually being extended, with geographically larger grids but a similar organization, to rural areas, as it will happen also in Xinjiang.
Although the philosophy of the grid system is that technology cannot replace surveillance by human beings, the XUAR Regulations duly mention the use of artificial intelligence and call for further increasing the presence of video camera surveillance, despite the fact that reportedly the XUAR already has the highest percentage of surveillance cameras per citizen in the world.
The Regulations, following national guidelines, also call for increased control of media reports about the XUAR, crackdown on information not directly controlled by the CCP, stricter control of the Internet, and severe punishment of officers who would be lazy or not deliver the expected results.
In short, the Regulations show that, no matter how bad the situation in Xinjiang is, it can always become worse.