The below article was published by WUSA9/ ABC, photo credit: screen grab via WUSA TV
While the suspected spy balloon attracted headlines in America, protesters say surveillance is the norm for Uyghurs in China
WASHINGTON — The suspected spy balloon that soared across the country put Chinese surveillance top of mind for Americans this week.
But for Uyghurs, a minority group with roots in the territory now under Chinese control, being under surveillance is nothing new.
“We have cameras all over, even in our houses, they’ve been surveilling us,” said Dr. Aziz Sulayman, the Foreign Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, in reference to Uyghurs currently living in China.
Dr. Sulayman helped lead a protest Sunday in DC’s Lafayette Square, denouncing the Chinese government and its treatment of Uyghurs.
This week, Dr. Sulayman’s group was not the only one raising the alarm about Chinese surveillance.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, condemned “spying operations over the United States, over sensitive military installations” carried out by the Chinese government.
In an increasingly-rare show of Washington bipartisanship, New Jersey Democrat, Senator Cory Booker, said “we have a real problem with China on a number of issues, from their human rights violations to their violations of international business law to even the challenges we’ve had with them on overt spying.”
The focus on Chinese intelligence efforts this week was largely driven by the discovery of that suspected spy balloon over the United States. It was ultimately shot down by U.S. aircraft off the South Carolina coastline on Saturday.
For Uyghurs, though, it was just another reminder of the conditions many of their friends and relatives in China currently endure.
“The surveillance is not new to us, we have been surveilled for a long time,” said Dr. Sulayman.
According to him, Chinese authorities use surveillance tools to persecute Uyghurs and other minorities.
Now he hopes the newfound public focus on the issue will pressure both domestic and international leaders to “protect the Uyghur people and the Kazakh and other Turkic people in East Turkistan,” said Dr. Sulayman, referring to the Xinjiang region of China by its traditional Uyghur name.