A totalitarian surveillance city in China should be a warning to us all

By Bill Drexel 
June 22, 2020 at 2:28 p.m. EDT

Bill Drexel was a 2018-2019 Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he researched Chinese state surveillance.

Large red X’s smeared across the doors of each home. Transformers ripped from their sockets. A lone child’s tricycle, abandoned in the street.

It was around 10:30 one night in the fall of 2018 when I fumbled around the darkness of Kashgar’s historic Yarbeshi neighborhood, famous for being the last authentic holdout of traditional Kashgari culture. Locals and recent travel blogs had both assured me that, although guards blocked foreigners’ entry to Yarbeshi during the day, I would find a vibrant night market if I snuck in after 10 p.m. Instead, I was confronted by evidence of a mass disappearance.

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