Since the start of the 2010s, the Chinese government has implemented highly advanced technologies for both on- and offline surveillance of its Muslim population in the northwestern Chinese province Xinjiang. Besides severely affecting the freedom of Uyghurs (and other ethnic minorities) living within the Chinese borders, this tightening of control is subsequently being felt among Uyghur refugees living in diaspora. This diaspora has nevertheless been characterized as politically active, especially within the online sphere (Clothey & Koku, 2017; Kuşçu, 2014). This research further investigates this claim and shows how Uyghur forced migrants perceive and make use of social media technologies for engaging in diasporic political activism. This thesis relies on a qualitative research methodology through a combination of ethnographic participant observations and in-depth interviews. On the collected interview data, a thematic analysis has been conducted to explore the perceptions and practices of the participants in relation to social media technologies. The findings show that Uyghur political activism evolves around different target audiences, namely in-group, out-group and institutional, through various strategies, namely information politics, identity politics and cultural brokerage, to incite change within both the host and home country. Furthermore, the research reveals an ambivalence in the perception of participants towards social media, namely that they perceive them as both inherently untrustworthy, as well as being the most important source of information and means for political activism. The study has ultimately shown that through their online activism, Uyghur diasporans deploy their own cultural resources to symbolically resist the Chinese cultural, social and political oppression. Accordingly, the data revealed how Uyghur political activists perceive the promotion of their cultural identity as essential for engaging Dutch citizens with the Uyghur cause.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, culture, society, Digital diaspora, political activism, authoritarian governance, China, Uyghur
Thesis Advisor A. Paz Alencar
Persistent URL
Series Media, Culture & Society
M. Franken. (2019, June 15). Exploring the Role of Digital Technologies in Uyghur Political Activism. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from