Uighur Muslim Homes in China Get QR Codes as Part of Security Crackdown

QR codes are now being installed on the homes of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region in northwest China, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Sunday.

"Starting from spring 2017, in every home where one enters there's a QR code. Then every two days, or every day, the cadres come and scan the QR code, so they know how many people live here – and starting around then, they would ask [our] visitors, 'why are you here?' In the evenings the cadres would check as well," a former resident from Xinjiang told Human Rights Watch.

This picture taken on June 26, 2017, shows police patrolling as Muslims leave the Id Kah Mosque after the morning prayer on Eid al-Fitr in the old town of Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. QR codes are now being installed on the homes of Uighur Muslim minorities in the region. Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty

Authorities say that the codes, which show details of each inhabitant when scanned, are used to help control the population. In addition to QR codes, the former resident said that officials are collecting DNA, voice samples and are even forcing people to walk back and forth in police stations to record their gait.

"They did take our DNA samples and iris scans when we applied for the passports. For those who can read, they read out from a paper but for those who cannot, they said, 'You can sing a song or tell a story and we will record you'. You aren't in a position to argue with them," another interviewee told the human rights organization.

Around 1 million Uighur Muslims are being held in "political education centers" where detainees are reportedly forced to reject their religious and ethnic identities and are required to recite Chinese laws and policies. Those who refuse to follow the camp's instructions are reportedly denied food, forced to stand for 24 hours or placed in solitary confinement.

Geng Shuang, China's foreign ministry spokesman, said that the government is trying to "promote stability, development, unity and livelihoods" while ending "ethnic separatism and violent terrorist criminal activities." Even though he declined to talk about the report, the official said Human Rights Watch is "full of prejudice," according to Reuters.

China has defended their crackdown in the region, saying that Islamist militants are plotting attacks in Xinjiang and are considered a serious threat.

"The Chinese government is committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang on a scale unseen in the country in decades. The campaign of repression in Xinjiang is a key test of whether the United Nations and concerned governments will sanction an increasingly powerful China to end this abuse," Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told The Independent.