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New investigation explores China's surveillance of a Muslim minority group

NEW YORK -- A new investigative report explores China's surveillance program targeting Uighurs, a Muslim minority group living in the Xinjiang province.

"Spy For Us – Or Never Speak to Your Family Again" was written by BuzzFeed reporter Megha Rajagopalan. She explained to CBS News that the Chinese government fears Uighurs will be part of separatist threats.

"In the past, China has dealt with terrorist attacks that they've blamed on Uighur militants, and there are credible reports of Uighurs going to fight with extremist groups in Iraq and Syria," she said. "But by and large what we're seeing here is the collective punishment of literally millions of ethnic minorities in China for the actions of a small handful."

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A BuzzFeed investigation looks into China's surveillance program in the Xinjiang province.

CBS News

Rajagopalan reports thousands of Uighurs are being targeted, even when they leave the country, and many are forced into so-called "reeducation camps" for reasons as small as having contact with friends or family members who live overseas.

"Certainly speaking to a journalist is reason enough for you or your family to be sent to one of these camps," she said.

In Xinjiang, Rajagopalan says there's been a rise in what she calls "techno authoritarianism," which is a combination of human policing, DNA databases and technology like facial recognition. She says there is even airport-style security before people can go into shopping malls.

China's Ministry of Public Security did not respond to BuzzFeed's request for comment. However, Rajagopalan says there has been some pushback from the international community, including the U.S.

"I think as awareness continues to grow about this issue, and frankly, as these abuses continue to grow in scope, which in all likelihood they will, I think the hope of these Uighur groups is that there will be a greater response from the international community," Rajagopalan said.