Monday, October 8, 2018

“I still have some old textbooks in my house that have stories about those people.”

-Uyghurs search for missing relatives in Kashgar, August 3, 2009
Frank Bienewald / LightRocket / Getty Images
  Ekhmet whispered suddenly, “I still have some old textbooks in my house that have stories about those people.”  By the time I had figured out a way to look at these ancient books without endangering the safety of their owner, it had become clear that the oldest among the books had been published only slightly more than 10 years ago.  “All textbooks published before 2009 were confiscated more than a year ago,” Ekhmet clarified.  “They just went from house to house and took everything that we hadn’t managed to burn ourselves.”  He managed to hide a couple of the textbooks he had used at university, but he had to destroy the truly old ones--the punishment for keeping them was up to seven years in a prison camp.
  New teams of “active citizens,” usually composed of police officers or members of the Communist Party along with at least one Uyghur, are another change in Xinjiang life.  They regularly visit Uyghur families to ask, as my new acquaintance put it, “strange questions,” and to search houses for forbidden books and other objects.  These searches can last several hours — or several days.  “They come by whenever it’s convenient for them,” Ekhmet said. “ They come by any time at all.  About a year ago, they started to talk about Islam more and more often; they would ask if we read the Koran.  And then, about a year ago, when they took the books and people we knew started disappearing, it became clear that a lot of this had to do with our points.”
The loyalty point system, which is officially called a “social credit system,” was announced in China four years ago.  No one knows exactly how the system works, but it is known that people’s ratings are calculated using the entire mass of information that the government gathers about its citizens.
10-8-18       Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a "routine" trip to The Hague in April when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.
"There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists' trip to The Hague in April," Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on October 8 after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.
"They weren't hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding."
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on October 8 to the Netherlands' ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.
Dutch defense officials last week released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents' botched attempt to break into the OPCW.

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