Anyone who has ever traveled abroad in a foreign land can tell you just how valuable it is to have a GPS tracker by your side. One minute, you think that you know exactly where you’re going… only to quickly realize that you don’t, and now you’re lost. The language barrier prevents you from getting the help that you need from other people, but that isn’t necessarily a problem. Using your GPS tracker, you can get to exactly where you wanted to go in the safest way possible, all without missing a beat of your enjoyable trip.

GPS Tracking Device

But bringing along that GPS tracker is something that you did on purpose. It was a decision you made — it’s not something that was forced on you at any point. It certainly wasn’t a requirement of your home country’s government.

These are luxuries that not all people around the world share. Case in point: GPS tracking devices have recently become a requirement for Chinese Muslims traveling on their pilgrimage to Mecca. The problem is that they don’t actually have a say in the matter.

The Situation With the Chinese Government: What You Need to Know

This particular news story began on July 27, when the Islamic Association of China published a series of photographs showing a group of religious pilgrims on a trip to Mecca. Interestingly, every single one of them was wearing a visible GPS tracking device. It was quickly revealed that the Chinese government is actually forcing them to do this in an effort to better monitor their whereabouts whenever they’re outside of the country.

The Wall Street Journal immediately reached out to officials in Beijing for comment, and those parties claimed that the GPS tracking devices “are for the safety of the travelers themselves.” They also noted that the tracking devices contain cards with “personal, identifying information” to help make sure that two people cannot swap GPS devices or that the devices cannot be exchanged in any way.

In a report that was issued a few days later, one scholar said that this is clear evidence that the Chinese government considers Muslims “to be at risk of dangerous behavior.” That’s the only way that their constant monitoring makes sense — if the government is seeing them less like normal, everyday citizens and more like criminals who are in a constant state of parole.

This is just another in a long, long line of examples of times when China has come under scrutiny from human rights organizations around the world. Specifically, they’ve taken a large amount of criticism directed at their treatment of the Uyghurs — the majority Muslim ethnic group that is based out of the Xinjiang Province.

According to a report that ran in The Wall Street Journal, only a select few Muslims per year are ever actually granted the right to leave China in the first place — whether they’re making their sacred pilgrimage to Mecca or not is totally irrelevant at that point.

People were quick to point out that there are several legitimate, practical applications of GPS tracking devices like these — though probably none that would apply in this particular context. The devices would be helpful to guarantee that people don’t get lost when they’re traveling abroad, for example, especially in a complicated region that they’ve never been to before. The explanation of Chinese officials doesn’t really hold any water, however, as this requirement is currently not extended to any other ethnic minorities or even other tour groups who are traveling around the world.

Equally distressing is the fact that authorities in Xinjiang have recently been forcing Uyghur women to marry Han Chinese men — clearly in an effort to “gene wash” the group by reducing the overall population. Other concerning reports have shown that Uyghur women are regularly accosted in the streets.

At this point, one thing is clear: This is a situation that is only going to get worse before it gets better. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on moving forward, particularly if you’re already concerned about these and other types of reports that are coming out of China on a frustratingly regular basis.