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The landscape of Xinjiang province in western China is dotted with political-indoctrination camps where Muslims and ethnic minorities are sent to be moulded into model socialist citizens.

The declining number of mosques allowed to remain open are fitted with security cameras and facial-recognition technology. Members of the Uyghur minority are terrified of using the traditional Muslim greeting for fear of being detained and sent for indoctrination.

These details of Beijing’s campaign to stamp out Islam, reported last week by The Globe and Mail, illustrate the degree to which China ruthlessly controls its citizens.

By 2020, the government plans to have fully implemented a “social credit” system that will use CCTV cameras and smartphone apps to track virtually every moment of its citizens’ lives, grading them for trustworthiness. Poor performers will be locked out of jobs or have trouble getting loans.

This growing Orwellian nightmare is blurred somewhat by the country’s parallel economic boom. Totalitarian dictatorships usually immiserate their people; China’s has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

The Canadian government has shown some needed wariness toward Beijing of late, criticizing China for its mass detention of Muslims at the United Nations last week and pulling back from its push for a comprehensive free-trade deal with the country.

Outside of Ottawa, though, Canadian institutions continue to get burned by co-operating with Chinese state actors. The Globe reported recently that Canadian academics have collaborated with Chinese researchers who have military ties on projects that could bolster Beijing’s armed forces. And a major securities-fraud case is now at risk because Canadian authorities appear to have relied excessively on evidence gathered by Chinese investigators, who are known to use threats and torture to elicit testimony.

We can’t erect a wall between ourselves and the world’s second-largest economy. But Canada must always be clear-eyed about what it’s dealing with: a regime that is obliterating the freedoms of its citizens in ever-more frightening ways.

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