|Life goes on, but it’s a different life. You’re being pushed to go out, and you’re being pushed not to go out. People throughout the region live in intimidation and fear. Every day, they feel as if they’re just waiting for their turn to be detained.
Bluhm: How far does the control of people’s day-to-day life in the region go?
Sidik: What happened to me in September 2016 is typical. Everyone in the city was asked to submit to a full medical exam, where we had to give a blood sample, have iris scans and facial scans, give a voice sample, and have images of our faces taken from various angles. That year, the government started collecting this information from all Uyghurs.
Before then, there was no gate at the apartment building where I lived with my family. People could come and go freely. But now, we all had to scan our faces and eyes before being allowed to enter the building.
After the scans, only one person is supposed to go through the gate. One time, another person came in through the gate behind me without doing the scans, so the police came to my home and asked me who that person was, why she was in the building, and so on.
On top of our building, there is a huge machine for recording audio. It recognizes the voice samples of everyone who lives in the building. For example, a teenager from the building was in the inner courtyard one day, asking why Uyghurs couldn’t wear their traditional hats anymore. He was just hanging out with some other young people from the building, with no adults or police officers around. The next day, he was taken into the police station. The machine on the roof had heard and recorded him.
Each home also has a QR code mounted inside. Every time the security service comes in, they scan the code. I asked them what the code was, and they said it had all the information about the household: Who lives there, what we watch on TV, what we talk about, who visits us, and so on. It was all in the QR code.