Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted a forensic investigation into claims that Chinese authorities flag Uighur phones for the presence of 50,000 known multimedia files that are used to flag what Beijing views as extremism, with possession of the Quran enough to trigger a police interrogation.

materials promoting the identity or self-determination of the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim minority in far western Xinjiang, is included on the list of “violent and terrorist” materials alongside violent audio, video, and photos generated by armed organizations like ISIL (ISIS).
Among these groups are the exiled World Uyghur Congress, the separatist East Turkestan independence movement, and the United States government-funded news organization Radio Free Asia.

The papers also include details regarding the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, which are strictly off-limits in China.

Metadata examination of the list revealed that some material designated for review is not political, such as a Chinese travel program recorded in Syria called “On the Road,” readings from the Quran, and Islamic tunes.

“The Chinese government outrageously yet dangerously conflates Islam with violent extremism to justify its abhorrent abuses against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch.

To quote one author, “The UN Human Rights Council should take long overdue action by investigating Chinese government abuses in Xinjiang and beyond.”

The Intercept, a media source located in the United States, obtained 52GB of records from a Xinjiang police database in 2019, but only now have they been made public and the master list analyzed by HRW.

Authorities in the Chinese city of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, have mandated that all locals use a monitoring software called Jingwang Weishi. Travelers visiting Xinjiang may also be asked to install a companion app, Fengcai.

While police claim to be on the lookout for “extremist” content, Human Rights Watch reports that an examination of police records reveals that ethnic Muslims are often labeled as violent extremists for engaging in religious activities.