Even in Southeast Asia, Uighur Muslims Are Under Surveillance. Here’s How China Does It.

Even in Southeast Asia, Uighur Muslims Are Under Surveillance. Here’s How China Does It.

Muslim Uighurs living overseas say they can’t seem to escape China’s long arm of surveillance and that Southeast Asian governments have been mostly silent.

A mysterious Chinese couple approached Singaporean entrepreneur Marcella Goh* at a hotel in Bangkok earlier this year. The pair introduced themselves as “Brother and Sister Lei,” Goh said, and had one request: to gain information about Goh’s husband Mehmut*, a successful accountant who moved to Singapore in 2010. Born and raised in Australia, Mehmut is a Uighur Muslim with family members and relatives in the autonomous northwestern Chinese territory of Xinjiang.

“I didn’t think much of it at first,” recalled Goh, a 37-year-old mother of two. “I just assumed they recognized me as Mehmut’s wife because he is very prominent here.”

But what happened next, she said, made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.

“They spoke to me in thick mainland Chinese accents and started asking blunt questions about Mehmut’s job and recent movements,” she said.