Uyghur Video Is Preview of China's Tyrannical Vision for Entire World: Senator

Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn has warned that footage from China purportedly showing detained Uyghur prisoners being sent to re-education camps is an example of the kind of high-tech authoritarianism Beijing is using to crush any opposition to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.

The drone footage—taken last year—went viral on social media over the weekend, showing what appeared to be hundreds of bound and blindfolded men sat in rows at a Chinese train station, likely in the restive western province in Xinjiang—home to the Muslim minority ethnic groups being persecuted by the CCP.

With their heads shaved, wearing blue vests, and closely guarded by Chinese security forces the men can be seen being led off a train—presumably during a transfer to or from a detention center.

The footage prompted outrage online, as well as among lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Among them was Blackburn, who is a prominent critic of the regime in Beijing and has been involved in legislation seeking to punish Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and downgrade U.S. relations with China.

"The Chinese surveillance state being used to send Muslim Uyghurs to concentration camps is a preview of the electronic tyranny they one day seek to impose on the entire world," Blackburn wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening.

Her tweet came hours after the Chinese ambassador to the U.K. dismissed concerns about the footage and the persecution of Uyghur and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang, which human rights groups have said amounts to cultural genocide.

Shown the footage during an interview on the BBC, Liu Xiaoming said: "I do not know where you get this videotape," continuing, "sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners, in any country." Liu then said that the Uyghurs "enjoy peaceful, harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups of people," claiming: "We treat every ethnic group as equal."

China is believed to have imprisoned some 1 million people in the Xinjiang camps, where detainees are reportedly forced to undergo indoctrination and prove their loyalty to the CCP. Former inmates have described a wide range of human rights abuses taking place in inhumane conditions.

Outside, authorities have enforced close control through a high-tech surveillance state. Residents are watched closely for any perceived sign of disloyalty to the CCP, observed via advanced telecommunications and facial recognition software underpinned by invasive inspections by security agents.

Meanwhile, authorities have been demolishing Muslim cemeteries and mosques to erase local identity and disperse any opposition to the regime.

Beijing has tried to frame the re-education camps as vocational training centers for minority groups, claiming there are no human rights abuses taking place there.

It has also argued they are necessary to combat Islamist and separatist terrorist groups, which have launched multiple deadly attacks in China. Critics, however, say the camps and vast surveillance infrastructure is disproportionate to the threat.

China, Uyghur, Xinjiang, Marsha Blackburn, human rights
This photo taken on June 3, 2019 shows police officers patrolling in the old city area in Kashgar, in China's western Xinjiang region. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images/Getty