by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Chinese officials are developing high-tech mechanisms to monitor and suppress religious believers as an alternative to physical detention camps, according to a senior United States diplomat.
“The big one that really concerns me is their use of advanced technologies,” Ambassador Sam Brownback, the State Department’s lead official for international religious liberty issues, told the Washington Examiner. “So they’ll have less people locked up probably in the future but more people under oppression by uses of cameras and artificial intelligence and social credit systems, where they will be controlling you.”
Those tactics might help Beijing obscure the repression targeting minorities such as the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang, where the regime has established mass detention facilities that U.S. officials liken to the “concentration camps” of Nazi Germany. Brownback is emphasizing, through an international ministerial on religious freedom, that the repression will be as severe as it is invisible.
“If you want to operate in their society, you will not be able to practice your faith,” he said in an interview before the launch of the third annual ministerial this week.
The ministerial is being hosted this year by Poland, although the coronavirus pandemic spurred a decision to hold the forum virtually. The annual series of international religious freedom ministerials was launched by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018, but State Department officials have attempted to establish it solidly enough that the idea won’t be regarded in diplomatic circles as a pet project of the former Kansas Republican lawmaker.
“We thought it was very important to get other countries to step to make it an enduring practice,” Brownback said when explaining why Poland is hosting the event. “I think that the global push for religious freedom is launched.”