cover image In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony

In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony

Darren Byler. Columbia Global Reports, $15.99 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-1-73591-362-9

Byler, a professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University, debuts with a disturbing and extensively documented portrait of China’s “extrajudicial mass internment program” against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. Drawing on interviews with former detainees, including a University of Washington student imprisoned for accessing her university Gmail account during a visit home, Byler details how the Chinese government has used facial recognition software, biometric data collection, smartphone scanners, and other surveillance technologies to place more than one million people in labor camps where they are beaten, starved, and stripped of their cultural heritage and religious practices. Delving into the history of Xinjiang, Byler analyzes how anti-Muslim discrimination fueled civil unrest in the early 2000s and sparked a rise in “pious Islamic practice,” which led to the government’s brutal “reeducation” campaign. Orwellian details abound, including automated surveillance systems that force detainees to “sit absolutely still for most hours of the day,” and a network of police checkpoints, private security contractors, and neighborhood watch units that identify and detain “pre-criminals.” Byler also offers a damning study of the links between Silicon Valley and Chinese companies “tied to egregious human rights abuses.” Enriched by the author’s dogged reporting and deep empathy for the victims, this is an authoritative account of a real-life dystopia. (Oct.)