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As stigma around the countrys health crisis starts to fade, some care facilities are at the forefront of devising ways to support a super-ageing society

For the millions of Japanese people living with dementia, diagnosis is often the beginning of a journey into a life of seclusion.

When dementia is covered by the media, it is in the form of news about experimental therapies, or reports on the latest police campaign to encourage older people to surrender their driving licences.

The voices of people living with the condition in ever rising numbers among an ageing population are often missing from the public debate.

About 5 million Japanese people have Alzheimers or other forms of dementia

About 5 million Japanese people live with Alzheimers and other forms of dementia, and 7.3 million or one in five people aged 65 or over will be affected by 2025, according to government estimates. Most live at home, cared for by relatives, 40% of whom warned they could not continue as caregivers due to stress and the impact on household finances, according to a 2015 survey.

There are signs of change, however. The city of Matsudo, east of Tokyo, won recognition at home and abroad for its groundbreaking approach to dementia several years before the national government released its orange plan a 22.5bn yen (160m) programme to hire more specialists, improve early diagnosis and expand community-based care in 2015.

Matsudo made dementia a public health priority almost a decade ago, raising awareness of the condition among residents as well as businesses that regularly come into contact with older people. Several times a month, volunteer dementia supporters wearing bright orange bibs patrol neighbourhoods to distribute leaflets with information about dementia services and, occasionally, to help people in distress.

Activities at this care home include exercise sessions, games and music therapy

In the Sapporo and Eniwa areas of Hokkaido, Japans northernmost island, the Megumi-no-ie and Komorebi-no-ie group homes cater for a total of 36 people with dementia.

Here, food and general care are provided, but residents are also encouraged to take a leading role in their daily routines, whether it be gardening, preparing meals, food shopping or cleaning. Some sell vegetables they have grown to give them a sense of financial independence.

Fumiko Ito, 69, ran a restaurant-bar with her husband for three decades. Ito, a resident of the care home in Eniwa, recalls that her husband, who died seven years ago, was married when they met. I met him at my friends bar. I was drinking there and so was he He was sitting behind me and he pushed me from behind and said: Hi. It was love at first sight. I was 18 or 19. He was 10 years older than me.

It is predicted that one in five people aged 65 or over will be affected by dementia by 2025

I often think about him and often dream about us together he died from cancer, Ito says. He had a really difficult time coping with that. I sometimes think about that.

Asked what makes her worry, she replies: My health. I hope to stay fit for a long time I hope to stay here with my friends and have a happy life here. And what makes her happy? I like food. Im happiest when Im sharing good food with friends.

Itos fellow resident, 89 year-old Masanori Nohara, says he can be forgetful, but claims he doesnt give a damn about the state of his health. I sometimes forget things, he says. I know about dementia, but I dont think I have it. He recalls the joy he felt when he qualified as a joiner in his early 20s. I became an apprentice when I was 18 and trained for four years. I was really happy when I qualified, he says.

Being able to use the skills he learned as a young man can be a source of comfort. I feel like Im getting old when Im tired but if Im still working I dont feel like that. I can still work and I still have my tools, so if possible I still want to work as a joiner.

I feel happy when Im sharpening knives, because thats what I used to do. When I sharpen other peoples knives they look very happy, because they cut better. And Im happy because I can make other people happy. It also reminds me of my work.

Residents are encouraged to do tasks that help them to preserve a sense of individuality

As a boy, Koichiro Furuta dreamed of becoming a professional sumo wrestler, but abandoned the idea due to family pressure to take over his fathers rice paddies.

Now 84 and living at the Eniwa facility, Furuta describes living with dementia as bearable. Im getting old so its natural to forget things, but I am OK I dont really have a problem with my memory.

But he struggles to remember his age, and says he sometimes forgets the names of his family members, including his grandchildren. There arent that many things I enjoy now, he says. I often cut the weeds in the garden, and because I used to be a farmer I take an interest in the weather.

Furuta, who hasnt farmed for at least a decade, adds: I have no concerns right now, but I worry about being able to get enough water for my rice fields in the future.

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Once a campus fundamentalist who hid his sexuality, today Bagia Arif Saputra helps others find harmony in Indonesias capital

When Bagia Arif Saputra was growing up in a university town near Jakarta, becoming a jihadist seemed a natural choice for young men like him, who were steeped in the teachings of Islamic fundamentalism. Less easy was reconciling this identity with his sexuality.

I was living a double life, says Saputra. I would go to the campus mosque, try to focus on my prayers and find myself checking out a guy and thinking, Nice ass. And then immediately, Astaghfirullah [God forgive me]! So then I would have to redo my prayers. It was a vicious cycle.

Saputra, now 34 and openly gay, recounts this serenely at the meditation centre he runs in the centre of the Indonesian capital. As a mindfulness expert who spent his formative years in student jihadist circles in conservative West Java, his life has combined two vastly different currents of modern Indonesia since its transition to democracy in 1998: the rise of religious piety and fundamentalism, and the explosion of a young, globalised middle-class.

At the Golden Space meditation centre, in a high-rise apartment block, Saputra says he first attracted wider attention when he started appearing on the Indonesian lecture circuit as an ex-closeted gay jihadist who found his dream job.

The mere fact of openly identifying as gay in Indonesia, where in recent years the LGBTQ+ community has faced a rise in hateful political rhetoric , raids, and potential criminalisation, seemed remarkable.

My parents definitely cried and were upset with my choice, he says, recalling coming out to his family in June 2015, during Ramadan. But they still love me and today we have a great relationship.

Saputra grew up in Bandung, a university town three hours east of Jakarta that is known both for its lively cafe culture and as a hotbed of fundamentalism. He went to a pesantren, a traditional Muslim boarding school, and then to the Indonesia University of Education.

In college, he felt adrift and was soon recruited to the Tarbiyah movement, the student wing of an Indonesian Islamist party modelled on the Muslim Brotherhood. This provided him with a sense of belonging.

He adopted the mannerisms of Salafis, puritanical Muslims who seek to revive the traditions of Quranic times: wearing ankle-length trousers and an untrimmed beard, refusing to shake hands with women, forgoing music and TV. At the time Indonesian Islamists were gripped by the Palestinian intifada and they stayed up late plotting to fight jihad alongside those they considered their Muslim brothers.

I was ready to die, says Saputra. Becoming a jihadist seemed like an easy way to go straight to heaven.

Some of the older boys were later recruited to Jemaah Islamiyah, the Indonesian affiliate of al-Qaida.

But Saputra was becoming tormented by the clash between his fundamentalist peer group and his suppressed homosexuality. No matter how hard I tried to pray the gay away, it didnt happen, he says.

He eventually withdrew for a different reason. His parents were upset by his growing disinterest in school and he realised he had gone too far for even his pious Muslim family. At one point, he says, he had even reprimanded his mother for wearing a hijab that was too short.

He left the group, graduated and headed to Jakarta, where he plunged into the underground gay scene.

There, he spent his nights with lonely strangers and days on a carousel of corporate jobs. And he started calling himself an atheist.

Then in February 2015 a friend gave him a week-long meditation course that changed his life. He studied with Umesh Nandwani, a Singapore-based meditation practitioner and Golden Space founder who, Saputra says, was one of the first people to recognise that he was gay.

I dont know how he knew, but he unlocked something within me, Saputra says.

Within four months of completing the course, he had become a dedicated practitioner himself and had come out to most of the people in his life. Nandwani recruited him to open Golden Space Jakarta in late 2016 and today he oversees 15 trainers.

Meditation is still something new for Indonesians, says Saputra. Some of them think its a religious practice and is part of Hinduism or Buddhism. I have to explain to them that its non-religious and that anyone can benefit from it.

At least one in five Indonesians are now middle class, according to the World Bank, and they are concentrated in Java and particularly in Jakarta. While meditation studios are still scarcer than in the holiday island of Bali, those in the capital are riding the wave of Jakartas burgeoning wellness industry.

Saputra, who met his partner of eight months at a meditation class, says that despite his own positive experiences since coming out, it is still not easy to be gay in Indonesia.

Most of my gay friends here are not open, and with good reason. One of them had to undergo an exorcism when his parents found out, he says. Closeted people often come up to him after speaking engagements, from teenagers to married men, and confess that they are torn about their identity.

I try to lead by example, he says. To plant the seed that there is a possibility of being openly gay in Indonesia and having a good life.

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The Flight of the Conchords star, who is guest curating the New Zealand festival, reflects on his career and the cost of compromise

Although hes one of Wellingtons best-known pop cultural exports as a musician, songwriter, actor and comedian nobody makes a fuss when Bret McKenzie arrives in a central city cafe.

Fuss wouldnt be entirely unwarranted. McKenzies portrayal of a particular type of socially awkward, deadpan New Zealander helped put the countrys dry humour on the map. And the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords in which he performs with Jemaine Clement so enraptured Hollywood that he could still be there if he wanted to, churning out season after season of the acclaimed TV show of the same name.

Their comedy was deeply strange, and audiences couldnt get enough. Ten years on the pair can still fill an arena as McKenzie puts it with just two little guitars and a xylophone.

Yet McKenzie is happier away from Los Angeles and out of the spotlight. He is inconspicuous his ideal state in a cafe in New Zealands capital, raincoat on thanks to a torrential summer downpour.

He prefers the quiet bustle of home to the bright lights of Hollywood. Next year he is bringing his surreal sensibilities to a local crowd, again from behind the scenes, as a guest curator of the biennial New Zealand festival.

It was so weird

A strange taste of celebrity at the beginning of his career put me off being famous early on, McKenzie says. A few years before Flight of the Conchords blew up in the northern hemisphere, he landed a small role three seconds, to be precise as an unnamed elf extra in Peter Jacksons first Lord of the Rings film.

Hes still not sure how but his silent turn was spotted by Tolkien fanatics, who called him Figwit (an acronym for Frodo is great who is that??!), gave him a website, some slightly disturbing fan art and an unexpected moment of global fame. A story about the Figwit phenomenon appeared on the cover of USA Today.

At the height of Figwit-mania, McKenzie was invited to an event run by the Scottish Tolkien Society. His university friend Taika Waititi now a film-maker of Jojo Rabbit and Thor: Ragnarok fame went too, as a sort of bodyguard. He got really into it, dressed up as Gandalf, says McKenzie, who did not wear a costume.

When he and Clement travelled to the Edinburgh fringe festival to perform as Flight of the Conchords, they found that those Tolkien fans had flown in from around the world to attend the shows. The fans were lovely and tickets sales to Lord of the Rings enthusiasts paid their rent in Edinburgh. But, McKenzie says: It was so weird.

Such was his popularity that he was upgraded (slightly) in two later films in the Tolkein franchise. But the flashpoint of fame had taken its toll. When he and Clement found the spotlight with Flight of the Conchords, he says: I was quite held back in connecting with fans, I think, as a result of that.

Flight of the Conchords perform live in London in 2018. Photograph: Colin Hutton for HBO

He now travels to the US only for meetings, returning to his wife and three children in Wellington.

Ballet, bowling and Boris Johnson

McKenzie grew up in the capital, the son of Deirdre Tarrant, a decorated New Zealand ballet teacher and dance company founder. By the time he hit high school he was taking ballet classes four days a week.

The physical acumen learned from dance meant he also excelled at cricket. But he felt compelled to add his own flair. I would practice ballet in the outfield while I was waiting for fielding, he says. And then when Id run in to bowl, I was a fast bowler but sometimes I would do sort of a pirouette on my run to distract the batter.

At 14 he gave up ballet for music, channelling his obsessive energies into hours and hours of practising drums. In Wellington, a small city in a country of fewer than 5 million people, where work for artists is hard to come by, McKenzie learned from his mothers success. She was all about doing a lot of different things to turn it into an income, he says. I learned that pretty early on how to compromise to pay the bills.

Since his career took off he has also learnt the importance of doing things his own way. I spent quite a few years trying to do things the Hollywood way, he says. Im learning that, actually, its fine to not do it that way.

That sometimes includes walking away which he and Clement did from the Conchords after two seasons of the Emmy-winning HBO show and talk of a third in the offing.

But it also sometimes means skewering expectations. Pitch meetings, for example, often involve delivering dry proposals to executives; no singing, for example, and no dragons, says McKenzie who is very keen on dragons. Doing things the McKenzie way means bringing a slice of Wellingtons experimental theatre scene he describes shows he worked on in the 1990s as ludicrous and bonkers to Hollywood studio lots in the hope of winning over staid suits.

Last year he produced a lo-fi, immersive theatre installation on a Warner Bros soundstage in an attempt to get the green light for a film project a fairytale musical, set in New York and drawing on his perennial influences of Labyrinth, The Muppets and The Princess Bride. A friend of McKenzies, playing the moon, spoke to the audience with her head through this moon thing; McKenzie was part of a three-piece band dubbed the Sleepless Knights, wearing rented suits of armour.

They loved it! They were like, What the hells going on here? They were into it, says McKenzie. The project was approved.

For the New Zealand festival, McKenzie is planning a week-long programme featuring local music, an outdoor adventure for families and performances by the Netherlands clowning group Slpstick, which he says is just a really good time.

Hes also writing songs for a new musical to be performed at the festival, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, based on a novella by the US author George Saunders in collaboration with Londons National Theatre. Saunders work, like McKenzies, is surreal and blackly funny, and McKenzie says the Orwellian parable conjures up shades of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

The character of Phil becomes president, and hes this idiot and his brain keeps falling off, he says.

McKenzie has half of the shows tunes left to compose and a matter of weeks in which to finish them, but writing funny songs, he says, still feeds him spiritually.

Theres something about it thats addictive, he says. Its sort of enlightening and it makes me feel connected to the universe.

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Annual event marred by accusations of bullying, backstabbing and racism as womens leaders call for pageant to be scrapped

The South Pacific nation of Tonga is in uproar after its annual beauty pageant was marred by accusations of bullying, backstabbing and racism, prompting calls by womens rights leaders for the pageant industry to be abandoned altogether.

The countrys Miss Heilala pageant descended into chaos on Friday when the outgoing winner had her microphone cut in the middle of a speech and another woman was allegedly racially abused while delivering the keynote speech.

At the annual event, at which one young female contestant is crowned Miss Heilala and becomes Tongas contender for the Miss South Pacific pageant, the outgoing winner gave a speech detailing alleged bullying and lack of support from the competitions organisers over the last year that left her a shell of a person.

Kalo Funganitao, who is a law student at Auckland University, said she and her mother were cheated, lied to, backstabbed and just generally mistreated during her tenure, though she did not specify exactly what happened to her.

Shortly after she started criticising the pageant, Funganitaos microphone was cut and loud music was played over the top of her speech. Despite the fact she could no longer be heard by the crowd, some of whom were jeering, Funganitao yelled: I am not done! and continued speaking, as her mother and brother joined her onstage.

Enough is enough and I will not tolerate any more fakeness! she said. If you have the guts to attack a person as a group in such a cowardly way, then you can deal with the consequences when she shares her experience with the entire world!

A statement released on behalf of Tonga Tourism Association said it was regretful that Funganitao chose to publicly air concerns harboured over the past year.

The fiery scene was not the only moment of drama of the night. The special guest at the event, Leoshina Mercy Kariha, who won the Miss South Pacific pageant in December, was reported to be the subject of a racist attack yelled from the crowd during her keynote speech.

While Kariha, who comes from Papua New Guinea, was speaking, a member of the crowd reportedly yelled that she was black, ugly and disgusting.

In a statement after the event, Kariha confirmed that a comment by one individual in the VIP area was made and that is something that is never nice to hear. But she said that since her arrival in Tonga she had been treated with so much dignity and respect.

Miss South Pacific pageant winner Leoshina Mercy Kariha responds on Facebook to reports that she was the subject of a racist attack while giving her keynote speech.

In a statement, the festival and Tonga Tourism Association said: The audiences alleged bullying and racist reaction to the speech from Miss Pacific Islands, as well as to that of the former Miss Heilala is deeply regretted, adding they did not condone any form of bullying or racism and takes this allegation very seriously.

Womens rights leaders from across the Pacific said a rethink of the entire pageant industry was needed.

The whole issue of bullying, sexual harassment has been ongoing throughout [the history of the pageants], said Shamima Ali, the director of Fiji Womens Crisis Centre.

Ali said the pageants encouraged the objectification of women and there were other platforms that could encourage female empowerment that did not involve women competing with one another on their beauty.

And then the whole idea of beauty, its the western idea of beauty, she said. You dont get Pacific women who have big bottoms and big breasts and are a different colour. Usually the preferred is the fairer woman with the slim body and straighter hair and made up to the nines, its really not the Pacific idea.

Betty Blake, director of the NGO Maa Fafine Moe Famili Tonga, said the beauty pageant had had its day.

Its gone out of date, we shouldnt do that any more … To me, as a gender advocate I believe its not fair, it doesnt treat our girls properly and give them the dignity and the respect, she said. If you look at it, its almost like the program is exploiting young girls, but in a manner that might be looked at as OK.

Both Blake and Ali said there were huge issues facing women in Pacific nations, which have some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world, that should be the focus of gendered activities, rather than pageants.

There are more important issues, Ali said. The time is up for this.

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Software extracts emails, texts and contacts and could be used to track movements

Chinese border police are secretly installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors and downloading personal information as part of the governments intensive scrutiny of the remote Xinjiang region, the Guardian can reveal.

The Chinese government has curbed freedoms in the provincefor the local Muslim population, installing facial recognition cameras on streets and in mosques and reportedly forcing residents to download software that searches their phones.

An investigation by the Guardian and international partners has found that travellers are being targeted when they attempt to enter the region from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

Border guards are taking their phones and secretly installing an app that extracts emails, texts and contacts, as well as information about the handset itself.

Tourists say they have not been warned by authorities in advance or told about what the software is looking for, or that their information is being taken.

The investigation, with partners including Sddeutsche Zeitung and the New York Times, has found that people using the remote Irkeshtam border crossing into the country are routinely having their phones screened by guards.


Edin Omanovi, of the campaign group Privacy International, described the findings as highly alarming in a country where downloading the wrong app or news article could land you in a detention camp.

Analysis by the Guardian, academics and cybersecurity experts suggests the app, designed by a Chinese company,searches Android phones against a huge list of content that the authorities view as problematic.

This includes a variety of terms associated with Islamist extremism, including Inspire, the English-language magazine produced by al-Qaidain the Arabian Peninsula, and various weapons operation manuals.

However, the surveillance app also searches for information on a range of other material from fasting during Ramadan to literature by the Dalai Lama, and music by a Japanese metal band called Unholy Grave.

Another file on the list is a self-help manual by the American writer Robert Greene called The 33 Strategies of War.

About 100 million people visit the Xinjiang region every year, according to Chinese authorities. These include domestic and foreign tourists, and most enter from elsewhere in the country.

The Irkeshtam crossing is Chinas most westerly border and is used by traders and tourists, some following the historic Silk Road.

There are several stages to crossing, and at one travellers are made to unlock and hand over their phones and other devices such as cameras. The devices are then taken away to a separate room and returned some time later.

The iPhones are plugged into a reader that scans them, while Android phones have the app installed to do the same job.

It seems that in most cases the app is uninstalled before the phone is returned, but some travellers have found it still on their phone.

It is unclear where all extracted information goes and for how long it is stored.

While there is no evidence that the data is used to track people later in their journeys, the information it collects would allow the authorities to locate someone if used together with details of the phones location.

The app as it appears on Android phones. Photograph: Sddeutsche Zeitung

It appears with the default Android icon and the words (Fng ci); the term has no direct English translation, but relates to bees collecting honey.

The Guardian spoke to a traveller who had crossed the border to Xinjiang this year with an Android phone and was disturbed to see the app installed on his phone.

He said he had been asked to hand over his phone at the checkpoint, and it had been taken into a separate room. He and all the other travellers at that checkpoint had also been asked to hand their pin numbers to the officials, and had waited about an hour to have their phones returned.

The app icon, right

At no point were they told what was being done to the phones.

He had been told by an international travel agent and by tourist information in Kyrgyzstan that something would happen with his phone at the border.

We thought it was a GPS tracker, he said. [The travel company] was pretty sure we were going to have this thing put in.

He checked his phone when it was handed back and found the app immediately.

There was another checkpoint about two hours away and I was thinking that maybe they had downloaded things and they would have all of their analysts going through it all while we were travelling, and then maybe they [would] send people back when they got to the next place.

The traveller said he had not been asked to hand over the phone at any other point during his visit, nor when he departed from China. He said he had not been concerned about carrying the phone with him, as there was so much overt surveillance in the region. He added: I dont like it. If they were doing it in my home country I would be aghast, but when you are travelling to China you know it might be like this.

All of the installations confirmed by the Guardian and its partners were on Android phones, but travellers report that iPhones were also taken by officers.

Omanovic said: This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive and draconian in the world.

Modern extraction systems take advantage of this to build a detailed but flawed picture into peoples lives. Modern apps, platforms and devices generate huge amounts of data which people likely arent even aware of or believe they have deleted, but which can still be found on the device.

Maya Wang, China senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: We already know that Xinjiang residents, particularly Turkic Muslims, are subjected to round-the-clock and multidimensional surveillance in the region.

What you have found goes beyond that. It suggests that even foreigners are subjected to such mass and unlawful surveillance.

The use of the app came to light after travellers took their phone to reporters in Germany.

Analysis of that software by the Guardian, Sddeutsche Zeitung, Ruhr-University Bochum and the German cybersecurity firm Cure53 suggested it was designed to upload information such as emails on to a server at the border office.

The Chinese authorities were contacted for comment but there was no reply by the time of publication.

Previously the Chinese government has defended its hi-tech surveillance of citizens in Xinjiang, saying it has improved security in the region.

The Guardian worked with Sddeutsche Zeitung, NDR, the New York Times and Motherboard (part of Vice)

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As Japans capital welcomes immigrants and prepares to host the Olympics, 2019 could be the year the worlds largest megalopolis goes truly global

On a warm May evening in the narrow alleys of Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) next to the Kabukicho district of Tokyo, tourists perched on stools study English-language menus offering skewers of grilled meat and vegetables. Others crowd into the garish, glowing Robot Restaurant, a cavernous hall of flashing neon and dancing animatronic figures, or snap selfies in front of the giant replica head of the citys sci-fi nemesis, Godzilla. In neighbouring Shibuya they drive convoys of go-karts through the streets wearing costumes bearing a suspicious resemblance to Mario, Luigi and the other Mario Kart characters. (Last week Nintendo successfully sued the MariCar company for copyright infringement for the second time.)

After many decades as a famously impenetrable city to visitors, Japans capital is finally beginning to face outward. Tourism, particularly from China but also western countries, rose to record levels last year, and next summer the city will slide open its doors for the Olympics and Paralympics. The country has relaxed its restrictive immigration rules, a move that promises to transform Tokyo. The capital is already dotted with co-working spaces, artisanal coffee shops, international brand boutiques and the other accoutrements of a global city.


What is Guardian Tokyo week?

As Japan’s capital enters a year in the spotlight, from the Rugby World up to the 2020 Olympics, Guardian Cities is spending a week reporting live from the largest megacity on Earth. Despite being the world’s riskiest place with 37 million people vulnerable to tsunami, flooding and due a potentially catastrophic earthquake it is also one of the most resilient, both in its hi-tech design and its pragmatic social structure. Using manga, photography, film and a group of salarimen rappers, we’ll hear from the locals how they feel about their famously impenetrable city finally embracing its global crown

By many sensible measures, it met that criteria long ago. It is the worlds largest megalopolis, by far, with 13 million people in the central wards and a greater metropolitan area home to 37 million (Delhi is second with 27 million). It boasts the worlds largest metro economy, with a GDP bigger than that of New York and London, and is home to more global company HQs than any other city. Its public transport network, cleanliness, low crime rate and cuisine are unrivalled.

Visitors to the Roppongi Hills commercial complex take selfies and pictures of the Tokyo skyline. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

By other reckonings, however, Tokyo remains slightly out of step with its global cousins. Women remain rare in senior business and government positions, restaurants still fill with carcinogenic cigarette smoke and an alarming number of Tokyo citizens die from overwork.

The city has embraced international consumer culture, but Tokyo isnt diverse, at least not in the way London or New York are, says Christopher Harding, senior lecturer in Asian history at Edinburgh University and author of Japan Story: In Search of a Nation. All over Tokyo you have film, TV, music, shopping, gaming and so on that feels opened up and cosmopolitan, while underneath, attempts to open up in terms of diversifying the population and shifting the attitudes of local Japanese about who belongs and who doesnt havent really got anywhere.

This year, however, may be Tokyos great tipping point, with genuine transformation into a more open city taking on an air of inevitability, both for demographic and business reasons.

In Shinjuku, the Tokyo ward where Kabukicho is located, you could see this wave of change first-hand in January on Coming-of-Age Day, when people who turned 20 in the previous 12 months celebrate reaching adulthood. Around 45% of new adults were of foreign origin, and non-Japanese now make up just over 10% of the wards total population, according to the ward office. By contrast, foreign nationals make up just under 2% of Japans total population, according to a 2018 survey by the internal affairs and communications ministry.

Mario Kart-style go-kart racers on the street in Tokyo. Photograph: Hendrik Nolle/Alamy

The changing face of the typical Tokyoite will continue. Last year, Shinzo Abes conservative government relaxed immigration laws to open the countrys doors to up to 345,000 workers over the next five years.

The decision was less a sea change in traditional resistance to immigration and more of an ad hoc response to the tightest labour shortage in decades, as the number of Japanese people of working age continues to shrink.

While immigrant workers are being dispatched to the regions to work in creaking industries such as agriculture and fisheries, Tokyos service sector is also snapping them up. The city now has 551,683 foreign residents, or 3.98% of the population, compared with 2.44% in 2000.

population growth

It has also taken the lead in promoting diversity. In 2015, Shibuya ward became the first place in Japan to issue certificates recognising same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage, allowing same-sex couples to rent apartments together and granting them hospital visitation rights. Even as the national government remains resistant to legalising same-sex marriages, 20 municipalities in Japan have followed Tokyos lead with partnership systems.

The Olympics, too, may have a profound effect, if the first time the city hosted the event is any indication.

In what has been described as the greatest urban transformation in history, the 1964 Games saw a period of mass investment in infrastructure, water and sewage systems. In the five years leading up to the torch relay, 10,000 new buildings appeared in the capital, as well as five 5-star hotels, two new subway lines and a monorail from Haneda airport to the city centre. The Olympics also marked the debut of Japans greatest contribution to high-speed travel: the Shinkansen bullet train.

The Miyakezaka underground highway interchange in Tokyo under construction a few months before the 1964 Olympics. Photograph: Koichiro Morita/AP

This helped transform Tokyo from a diseased backwater where only 25% of houses had flush toilets into a global megalopolis, says Robert Whiting, author of Tokyo Underworld. Next years Games, he says, will help the world see what a global city Tokyo has become.

Peter Matanle, a senior lecturer at the School of East Asian Studies, Sheffield University, says: The 1964 Olympics was a huge boost in terms of opening up Tokyo to foreign visitors. One thing that it did was also to make Japan and Tokyo more accessible for other Asians in particular, as many had bad feelings towards Japan. The Olympics helped to build a new era for Japan as a peaceful country in Asia, as much as in the rest of the world.

The steep curve of development sparked by that sporting event may have levelled out, but the momentum of change extends to the sector for which Tokyo is perhaps best known: its restaurant scene.

Tokyo can now lay claim to being the most global restaurant city on Earth. It has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city. Some of its Italian and south Asian restaurants are as authentic as their more established Japanese, Korean and Chinese counterparts.

It wasnt that long ago that requests for vegetarian dishes would be met with puzzlement, occasionally bordering on disdain, but that is changing, says the chef and food writer Yukari Sakamoto. The Michelin guide helped put Tokyo on the international map, she says. Of course, Japan has always had a huge variety of excellent cuisine, but many travellers who had not considered coming to Japan are now coming because of the Michelin guide.

There are, of course, countless tales of customers making culinary gaffes with behaviour that is considered downright rude: making reservations only to not show up, pondering over a bowl of noodles when there are other people waiting to be seated. And spare a thought for the legendary sushi chef Jiro Ono, who looked on in horror as a group of tourists devoured delicate slices of raw fish but left the oblongs of vinegared rice on their plate. They were politely asked to leave.

Tourists at the Edo-era Asakusa Kannon Temple. Photograph: Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bafflingly, Tokyo has failed to keep up with advances in urban cycling made by other cities around the world, despite the huge number of residents who ride bikes on pavements for short trips.

Blue arrows to guide cyclists along Tokyos streets cant conceal faults in the citys cycling infrastructure, says Byron Kidd, who runs the Tokyo By Bike blog.

I had assumed, he says, after the uptick in cycling and awareness of cycling infrastructure generated by the London 2012 Olympics, that Tokyo would follow suit and develop a world-class cycling infrastructure, the supposed goal of all Olympic host cities. But cyclists are still viewed as an annoyance, as getting in the way of other road users.

By contrast, in a country where disability activism is in its infancy, wheelchair access is an achievement in which the local authorities can take some pride.

Japan has this image of being inaccessible, but in fact Tokyo is much better on access than a lot of people give it credit for its certainly at the better end of cities in Asia and North America, says Josh Grisdale, who runs the Accessible Japan website. People from Europe come here and say its much easier to get around than back home.

Grisdale, a web designer who has lived in Tokyo for more than a decade, says public transport compares favourably with his home city of Toronto. Station staff are ready with ramps to help wheelchair users on and off trains, and more than 95% of stations now comply with a law requiring them to have lifts from the street directly to the platform.

A bullet train travels through central Tokyo. Photograph: Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy

Tokyos hotels and restaurants have work to do, though. Only 0.4% of hotel rooms are wheelchair-accessible. Grisdale, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, describes as inadequate a new requirement for new hotels with more than 50 rooms to make at least one of them barrier-free.

Eating out is a huge issue because laws on accessibility dont apply to smaller restaurants and there are lots of those in Tokyo, he adds. Ive been turned away numerous times, then spent ages looking for somewhere else. They could have portable ramps that could be opened up without too much inconvenience.

Many of the challenges facing Japan are not confined to the capital: the lack of women in senior positions in the public and private sector, the relatively new phenomenon of child poverty, the scourge of karoshi death through overwork and the threat posed by natural disasters.

As it prepares for the coming spotlight as a venue for the Rugby World Cup this autumn and as Olympic host next year, some of the more manageable anomalies are likely to be eradicated, with wider free wifi coverage, more international cashpoints and a concerted attempt to make a dent in the frustratingly resilient language barrier. There is also a growing desire for more green spaces, and for smoke-free restaurants a demand the government has gone some way to addressing, although the measures have not received universal support.

These embellishments will only add to Tokyos status as a global city, according to Mark Schreiber, an American writer who has lived here since 1966.

Tokyo is a lot more international than Seoul and Beijing, he says. Look at the multilingual signs and announcements at rail stations and aboard trains. Most of these services were already in place even before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games. You have to remember that from the Middle Ages, Tokyo was a place that absorbed outsiders, and most Tokyoites come from somewhere else. Its fairly inclusive as far as Asian cities go.

People march in Tokyo as part of the Torikoe-jinja shrines annual June festival. Photograph: Sergi Reboredo/Alamy

Harding says: I can imagine Tokyo becoming quite a bit more diverse in the next few decades. Japans bureaucracy is backing it, and the story of Japans past 150 years is that its bureaucrats almost always get what they want in the end. I could see quality of life improving too. The result would be more like London than New York the latter was built on immigration from the beginning, whereas London wasnt, and Tokyo wont be. I could imagine Tokyo becoming a bilingual city, even.

Ultimately, as Japan grapples with a looming demographic crisis, the opening up of Tokyo may become inevitable as a matter of survival.

Theres a belief here that businesses will go under unless they attract foreign tourists, says Kei Ono, chief manager in the business planning section at Kabukichos Shinjuku Prince hotel, where as many as 40% of guests are from overseas.

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Nearby, inside a basement bar through a door with a sign imploring English speakers to Dont warry, be happy! Shingo Shibamoto, a member of a Kabukicho business association and owner of an okonomiyaki restaurant, says outward-facing neighbourhoods such as Kabukicho which, though home to the citys red-light district, also attracts as many as a quarter of a million people every day to around 4,000 bars, restaurants, cafes, pachinko parlours and video arcades are the future of an open Tokyo.

This has always been a place for outsiders to come and live and work, he says. Traditionally it attracted Chinese and Korean people, but now theyve been joined by people from south-east Asia. I think our neighbourhood has a genuinely global appeal. And as older people who have been here for decades hand their businesses over to younger generations, the pace of change will only increase.

Guardian Cities is live in Tokyo for a special week of in-depth reporting. Share your experiences of the city in the comments below, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #GuardianTokyo, or via email to

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Its an open-air show about life in Lijiang long ago, using Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a backdrop

Last autumn, I travelled with a group of friends from Malaysia to Yunnan province in China. It is a beautiful region, significantly less polluted than cities such as Beijing and rich in mountains, lakes, rice terraces and gorges. We visited Shangri-La City, Dali, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Lijiang national park, where I took this shot.

We were there for a day. We spent the morning seeing the sights of the park, and in the afternoon we went to watch the Impression Lijiang show. It is an open-air theatre performance of song and dance by one of the top directors in China, Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers). It depicts daily life in the area a long time ago. The actors are cast from the Naxi, Bai, Yi and other local ethnic minority tribes.

This shot of a staged performance is unusual for me. I dont usually work with concepts. I consider myself a casual hobbyist. I take photographs wherever I am: at home in Kuala Lumpur or abroad. I like to travel, and I shoot whatever I find. The older I get, the more I am drawn to shooting people and telling stories.

The performance is quite unusual, too, an open-air show on a large-scale set designed to mimic the red clay earth of the region, and which uses as its backdrop the real 3,100-metre peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It is a big production with real horses, effects to create fog and mist, and a singing cast, a soundtrack of traditional music. The story is narrated over the speakers in Mandarin, with subtitles running on an LCD screen at the bottom of the stage, just out of shot.

The audience was huge: there are so many tourists in China. We were sitting to the side, so I got up to move closer to the VIP section in the middle to be able to shoot this composition. I ignored the guards. Luckily, they didnt carry me away. I just smiled, held out my hands and took a few pictures on my phone.

I often shoot on my smartphone. Im quite old now. I have been taking photographs for over 30 years, and sometimes carrying around a heavy camera hurts my back. Besides, phones are really good nowadays, especially if you have bright light. This was a bright, overcast afternoon perfect, really, for taking photographs.

I had been waiting for something, a scene that would sum up how I felt about the show. And this was it: the pattern, the rhythm of the workers, the way they draw a zigzag line as they traipse up the slope. And then the colours, too, that red hue of the ground.

This part of the show depicted the harvest: the workers are carrying crops in their baskets. I loved how orderly it all was, the harmony and balance on display. It showed discipline, teamwork, coordination and cooperation. It spoke to me of humanity, and being together. I think that makes this a good photo for corporate training! People have asked for my permission to use it in the context of public speaking, and I always say yes. Beyond work life, it speaks to family and to society.

Usually, my work is documentary. I go for scenes from real, daily life. Villagers in rural Yunnan gathered around a fire pit to warm themselves before going to work on an autumn morning. A girl in a red top paddling in a white boat on a still river, in Kashmir. Worshippers in the light and shadow of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Festivals, celebrations, traditions anything that puts an emphasis on mood and emotion, as well as story.

This is a mysterious image eye-catching, certainly, but also eye-opening, I hope. For me, photography has the power to move souls and bring changes to our life. My friends and I came away from that show, and that place, with a sense that harmony was still possible: that, in contemporary life, if we put aside our differences and work towards the common good, we can live harmoniously with each other. That is why I titled this image Synergy of Humanity.

I shared it on Instagram and a lot of people asked how I managed to capture such a scene. My answer is always I was just lucky enough to be there.

EC Tongs CV

Born: Kota Bharu, Malaysia, 1969.

Trained: Self-taught.

Influences: Steve McCurry, Alex Webb, Vineet Vohra.

High point: Being shortlisted in the culture category for the 2019 Sony world photography awards.

Low point: None worth remembering!

Top tip: Dont go crazy buying the most expensive equipment right away. The more photos you take, the better youll know about what kind of camera to get when its time to upgrade. Much more important are your creative skills and knowledge of camera settings.

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The long read: Smartphones and the internet gave the Uighurs a sense of their own identity but now the Chinese state is using technology to strip them of it

In mid-2017, Alim, a Uighur man in his 20s, returned to China from studying abroad. As soon as he landed back in the country, he was pulled off the plane by police officers. He was told his trip abroad meant that he was now under suspicion of being unsafe. The police administered what they call a health check, which involved collecting several types of biometric data, including DNA, blood type, fingerprints, voice recordings and face scans a process that all adults in the Uighur autonomous region of Xinjiang, in north-west China, are expected to undergo.

After his health check, Alim was transported to one of the hundreds of detention centres that dot north-west China. These centres have become an important part of what Xi Jinpings government calls the peoples war on terror, a campaign launched in 2014, which focuses on Xinjiang, a region with a population of roughly 25 million people, just under half of whom are Uighur Muslims. As part of this campaign, the Chinese government has come to treat almost all expressions of Uighur Islamic faith as signs of potential religious extremism and ethnic separatism. Since 2017 alone, more than 1 million Turkic Muslims, including Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and others, have moved through detention centres.

At the detention centre, Alim was deprived of sleep and food, and subjected to hours of interrogation and verbal abuse. I was so weakened through this process that at one point during my interrogation I began to laugh hysterically, he said when we spoke. Other detainees report being placed in stress positions, tortured with electric shocks, and kept in isolation for long periods. When he wasnt being interrogated, Alim was kept in a tiny cell with 20 other Uighur men.

Many of the detainees had been arrested for having supposedly committed religious and political transgressions through social media apps on their smartphones, which Uighurs are required to produce at checkpoints around Xinjiang. Although there was often no real evidence of a crime according to any legal standard, the digital footprint of unauthorised Islamic practice, or even a connection to someone who had committed one of these vague violations, was enough to land Uighurs in a detention centre. The mere fact of having a family member abroad, or of travelling outside China, as Alim had, often resulted in detention.

Most Uighurs in the detention centres are on their way to serving long prison sentences, or to indefinite captivity in a growing network of internment camps, which the Chinese state has described as facilities for transformation through education. These camps, which function as medium-security prisons and, in some cases, forced-labour factories, attempt to train Uighurs to disavow their Islamic identity and embrace the secular principles of the Chinese state. They forbid the use of the Uighur language and instead offer drills in Mandarin, the language of Chinas Han majority. Only a handful of detainees who are not Chinese citizens have been fully released from this re-education system.

Police on patrol in Kashgar, in the Xinjiang region. Photograph: Tom Phillips/The Guardian

Alim was relatively lucky: he was let out after only two weeks. (He later learned that a relative had intervened in his case.) But a few weeks later, when he went to meet a friend for lunch at a mall in his home city, he had another shock. At a security checkpoint at the entrance to the mall, Alim scanned the photo on his government-issued identification card, and presented himself before a security camera equipped with facial recognition software. An alarm sounded. The security guards let him pass, but within a few minutes he was approached by police officers, who then took him into custody.

Alim learned that he had been placed on a blacklist maintained by the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (Ijop), a regional data system that uses AI to monitor the countless checkpoints in and around Xinjiangs cities. Any attempt to enter public institutions such as hospitals, banks, parks or shopping centres, or to cross beyond the boundaries of his local police precinct, would trigger the Ijop to alert police. The system had profiled him and predicted that he was a potential terrorist.

There was little Alim could do. Officers told him he should just stay at home if he wanted to avoid detention again. Although he was officially free, Alims biometrics and his digital history were being used to lock him in place. Im so angry and afraid at the same time, he told me. He was haunted by his data.

Chinas version of the war on terror depends less on drones and strikes by elite military units than facial recognition software and machine learning algorithms. Its targets are not foreigners but domestic minority populations who appear to threaten the Chinese Communist partys authoritarian rule. In Xinjiang, the web of surveillance reaches from cameras on buildings, to the chips inside mobile devices, to Uighurs very physiognomy. Face scanners and biometric checkpoints track their movements almost everywhere.

Other programmes scan Uighurs digital communications, looking for suspect patterns, and flagging religious speech or even a lack of fervour in using Mandarin. Deep-learning systems search in real time through video feeds capturing millions of faces, building an archive that can supposedly help identify suspicious behaviour in order to predict who will become an unsafe actor. Actions that can trigger these computer vision technologies include dressing in an Islamic fashion and failing to attend nationalistic flag-raising ceremonies. All of these technological systems are brought together in the Ijop, which is constantly learning from the behaviours of the Uighurs it watches.

In her recent study on the rise of surveillance capitalism, the Harvard scholar Shoshana Zuboff notes that consumers are constantly generating valuable data that can be turned into profitable predictions about our preferences and future behaviours. In the Uighur region, this logic has been taken to an extreme. The power and potential profitability of the predictive technologies that purport to keep Xinjiang safe derive from their unfettered access to Uighurs digital lives and physical movements. From the perspective of Chinas security-industrial establishment, the principal purpose of Uighur life is to generate data, which can then be used to further refine these systems of surveillance and control.

Controlling the Uighurs has also become a test case for marketing Chinese technological prowess around the world. A hundred government agencies and companies from two dozen countries, including the US, France, Israel and the Philippines, now participate in the highly influential annual China-Eurasia Security Expo in Urumqi, the capital of the Uighur region. The ethos at the expo, and in the Chinese techno-security industry as a whole, is that Muslim populations need to be managed and made productive. Over the past five years, the peoples war on terror has allowed a number of Chinese tech startups to achieve unprecedented levels of growth. In just the last two years, the state has invested an estimated $7.2bn in techno-security in Xinjiang. As a spokesperson for one of these tech startups put it, 60% of the worlds Muslim-majority nations are part of Chinas premier international development project, the Belt and Road Initiative, so there is unlimited market potential for the type of population-control technology they are developing in Xinjiang.

Some of the technologies pioneered in Xinjiang have already found customers in authoritarian states as far away as sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, CloudWalk, a Guangzhou-based tech startup that has received more than $301m in state funding, finalised an agreement with Zimbabwes government to build a national mass facial recognition programme in order to address social security issues. (CloudWalk has not revealed how much the agreement is worth.) Freedom of movement through airports, railways and bus stations throughout Zimbabwe will now be managed through a facial database integrated with other kinds of biometric data. In effect, the Uighur homeland has become an incubator for Chinas terror capitalism.

There was a time when the internet seemed to promise a brighter future for Chinas Uighurs. When I arrived in Urumqi in 2011 to conduct my first year of ethnographic fieldwork, the region had just been wired with 3G mobile data networks. When I returned in 2014, it seemed as though nearly all adults in the city had a smartphone. Suddenly, Uighur cultural figures who the government subsequently labelled unsafe, such as the pop star Ablajan, developed followings that numbered in the millions.

Most unsettling, from the perspective of the state, unsanctioned Uighur religious teachers based in China and Turkey also developed a deep influence. Since Maos Religious Reform Movement of 1958, the state had limited Uighurs access to mosques, Islamic funerary practices, religious knowledge and other Muslim communities. There were virtually no Islamic schools outside of government control, no imams who were not approved by the state. Children under the age of 18 were forbidden to enter mosques. But as social media spread through the Uighur homeland over the course of the last decade, it opened up a virtual space to explore what it meant to be Muslim. It reinforced a sense that the first sources of Uighur identity were their faith and language, their claim to a native way of life, and their membership in a Turkic Muslim community stretching from Urumqi to Istanbul. Rather than being seen as perpetually lacking Han appearance and culture, they could find in their renewed Turkic and Islamic values a cosmopolitan and contemporary identity. Food, movies, music and clothing, imported from Turkey and Dubai, became markers of distinction. Women began to veil themselves. Men began to pray five times a day. They stopped drinking and smoking. Some began to view music, dancing and state television as influences to be avoided.

The Han officials I met during my fieldwork referred to this rise in technologically disseminated religious piety as the Talibanisation of the Uighur population. Along with Han settlers, they felt increasingly unsafe travelling to the regions Uighur-majority areas, and uneasy in the presence of pious Turkic Muslims. The officials cited incidents that carried the hallmarks of religiously motivated violence a knife attack carried out by a group of Uighurs at a train station in Kunming; trucks driven by Uighurs through crowds in Beijing and Urumqi as a sign that the entire Uighur population was falling under the sway of terrorist ideologies.

Workers walk by the perimeter fence of an education centre in Xinjiang. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

But, as dangerous as the rise of Uighur social media seemed to Han officials, it also presented them with a new means of control. On 5 July 2009, Uighur high school and college students had used Facebook and Uighur-language blogs to organise a protest demanding justice for Uighur workers who were killed by their Han colleagues at a toy factory in eastern China. Thousands of Uighurs took to the streets of Urumqi, waving Chinese flags and demanding that the government respond to the deaths of their comrades. When they were violently confronted by armed police, many of the Uighurs responded by turning over buses and beating Han bystanders. In the end, more than 190 people were reported killed, most of them Han. Over the weeks that followed, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young Uighurs were disappeared by the police. The internet was shut off in the region for nearly 10 months, and Facebook and Twitter were blocked across the country.

Soon after the internet came back online in 2010 with the notable absence of Facebook, Twitter and other non-Chinese social media applications state security, higher education and private industry began to collaborate on breaking Uighur internet autonomy. Much of the Uighur-language internet was transformed from a virtual free society into a zone where government technology could learn to predict criminal behaviour. Broadly defined new anti-terrorism laws, first drafted in 2014, turned nearly all crimes committed by Uighurs, from stealing a Han neighbours sheep to protesting against land seizures, into forms of terrorism. Religious piety, which the new laws referred to as extremism, was conflated with religious violence.

The Xinjiang security industry mushroomed from a handful of private firms to approximately 1,400 companies employing tens of thousands of workers, ranging from low-level Uighur security guards to Han camera and telecommunications technicians to coders and designers. The Xi administration declared a state of emergency in the region, the peoples war on terror began, and Islamophobia was institutionalised.

In 2017, after three years of operating a hard strike policy that turned Xinjiang into what many considered an open-air prison which involved instituting a passbook system that restricted Uighurs internal travel, and deploying hundreds of thousands of security forces to monitor the families of those who had been disappeared or killed by the state the government turned to a fresh strategy. A new regional party secretary named Chen Quanguo introduced a policy of transforming Uighurs.

Local authorities began to describe the three evil forces of religious extremism, ethnic separatism and violent terrorism as three interrelated ideological cancers. Because the digital sphere had allowed unauthorised forms of Islam to flourish, officials called for AI-enabled technology to crack down on these evils. Party leadership began to incentivise Chinese tech firms to develop technologies that could help the government control Uighur society. Billions of dollars in government contracts were awarded to build smart security systems across the Uighur region.

The turn toward transformation coincided with breakthroughs in the AI-assisted computer systems that the public security bureau rolled out in 2017 and brought together in the Ijop. The Chinese startup Meiya Pico began to market software to local and regional governments that was developed using state-supported research and could detect Uighur language text and Islamic symbols embedded in images. The company also developed programmes for automating the transcription and translation of Uighur voice messaging. The company Hikvision advertised tools that could automate the identification of Uighur faces based on physiological phenotypes. Other companies devised programmes that would perform automated searches of Uighurs internet activity and then compare the data it gleaned to school, job, banking, medical and biometric records, looking for predictors of aberrant behaviour.

The rollout of this new technology required a great deal of manpower and technical training. More than 100,000 new police officers were hired. One of their jobs was to conduct the sort of health check Alim underwent, creating biometric records for almost every human being in the region. Face signatures were created by scanning individuals from a variety of different angles as they made different facial expressions; the result was a high-definition portfolio of personal emotions. All Uighurs were required to install nanny apps , which monitored everything they said, read and wrote, and everyone they connected with, on their smartphones.

A police officer checks the identity card of a man as security forces keep watch in a street in Kashgar. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Higher-level police officers, most of whom were Han, were given the job of conducting qualitative assessments of the Muslim population as a whole providing more complex, interview-based survey data for Ijops deep-learning system. In face-to-face interviews, these neighbourhood police officers assessed the more than 14 million Muslim-minority people in Xinjiang and determined if they should be given the rating of safe, average, or unsafe. They determined this by categorising the person using 10 or more categories, including whether or not the person was Uighur, whether they prayed regularly, had an immediate relative living abroad, or had taught their children about Islam in their home. Those who were determined to be unsafe were then sent to the detention centres, where they were interrogated and asked to confess their crimes and name others who were also unsafe. In this manner, the officers determined which individuals should be slotted for the transformation through education internment camps.

Many Muslims who passed their first assessment were subsequently detained because someone else named them as unsafe. In thousands of cases, years of WeChat history was used as evidence of the need for Uighur suspects to be transformed. The state also assigned an additional 1.1 million Han and Uighur big brothers and sisters to conduct week-long assessments on Uighur families as uninvited guests in Uighur homes. Over the course of these stays, the relatives tested the safe qualities of those Uighurs who remained outside of the camp system by forcing them to participate in activities forbidden by certain forms of Islamic piety, such as drinking, smoking and dancing. They looked for any sign of resentment or any lack of enthusiasm in Chinese patriotic activities. They gave the children candy so that they would tell them the truth about what their parents thought.

All of this information was entered into databases and then fed back into the Ijop. The governments hope is that the Ijop will, over time, run with less and less human guidance. Even now, it is always running in the background of Uighur life, always learning.

In the tech community in the US, there is some scepticism regarding the viability of AI-assisted computer vision technology in China. Many experts Ive spoken to from the AI policy world point to an article by the scholar Jathan Sadowski called Potemkin AI, which highlights the failures of Chinese security technology to deliver what it promises. They frequently bring up the way a system in Shenzhen meant to identify the faces of jaywalkers and flash them on giant screens next to busy intersections cannot keep up with the faces of all the jaywalkers; as a result, human workers sometimes have to manually gather the data used for public shaming. They point out that Chinese tech firms and government agencies have hired hundreds of thousands of low-paid police officers to monitor internet traffic and watch banks of video monitors. As with the theatre of airport security rituals in the US, many of these experts argue that it is the threat of surveillance, rather than the surveillance itself, that causes people to modify their behaviour.

Yet while there is a good deal of evidence to support this scepticism, a notable rise in the automated detection of internet-based Islamic activity, which has resulted in the detention of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, also points to the real effects of the implementation of AI-assisted surveillance and policing in Xinjiang. Even western experts at Google and elsewhere admit that Chinese tech companies now lead the world in these computer-vision technologies, due to the way the state funds Chinese companies to collect, use and report on the personal data of hundreds of millions of users across China.

The Han officials I spoke with during my fieldwork in Xinjiang often refused to acknowledge the way disappearances, frequent police shootings of young Uighur men, and state seizures of Uighur land might have motivated earlier periods of Uighur resistance. They did not see correlations between limits on Uighur religious education, restrictions on Uighur travel and widespread job discrimination on the one hand, and the rise in Uighur desires for freedom, justice and religiosity on the other. Because of the crackdown, Han officials have seen a profound diminishment of Islamic belief and political resistance in Uighur social life. Theyre proud of the fervour with which Uighurs are learning the common language of the country, abandoning Islamic holy days and embracing Han cultural values. From their perspective, the implementation of the new security systems has been a monumental success.

A middle-aged Uighur businessman from Hotan, whom I will call Dawut, told me that, behind the checkpoints, the new security system has hollowed out Uighur communities. The government officials, civil servants and tech workers who have come to build, implement and monitor the system dont seem to perceive Uighurs humanity. The only kind of Uighur life that can be recognised by the state is the one that the computer sees. This makes Uighurs like Dawut feel as though their lives only matter as data code on a screen, numbers in camps. They have adapted their behaviour, and slowly even their thoughts, to the system.

Uighurs are alive, but their entire lives are behind walls, Dawut said softly. It is like they are ghosts living in another world.

Some names have been changed. A longer version of this article first appeared in Logic, a new magazine about technology

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Monster hits by K-pop bands and Spanish-speaking rappers show its not necessary to sing in English to conquer the world, says Caroline Sullivan who writes about music for the Guardian

A band has attained a certain stature when its world tour consists of an imperial sweep through four continents, with just half a dozen concerts in each. The South Korea-based girl group Blackpink are currently midway through just such a jaunt next month, they arrive in Europe to play six dates (London and Manchester included).

Remarkably, this high-visibility procession is the first time the K-pop quartet have toured outside Korea or Japan; more remarkable still, theyve released just one album and a scant handful of tracks and while theyve made English-language videos, most of their material is in Korean or Japanese. Nonetheless, theyre adored by a worldwide fanbase, for whom language is no barrier. Recent industry figures underline the strength of the global music market, with some suggesting the place of the English language at the forefront of pop is diminishing.

Blackpink, whose most streamed single, Ddu-du Ddu-du, has had 735m views on YouTube, are the latest manifestation of what is looking like a baseline change in how pop is conveyed. Until recently, English was its lingua franca, and to sing in any other language relegated an artist to the second tier, successful only in their own region, unless they had a rare border-crossing novelty hit.

But in 2018 a bubbling linguistic pot came to the boil when worldwide breakthroughs by the K-pop boybands BTS and Monsta X, and Spanish-speaking rapper/singers J Balvin, Ozuna and Bad Bunny, all of whom make a point of performing in their own languages, upended convention. Blackpinks album became the first by a female K-pop group to reach Americas top 40 chart, and the most streamed song globally of 2018s last quarter was DJ Snakes Spanish-language Taki Taki. The idea that the public would listen only if they understood the lyrics? Wrong, it turned out.

The boyband BTS Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Whats more important is the feel of the tune as it spills out of a smartphone, not to mention the relatability of the artist (Ddu-du Ddu-du, for instance, asserts that Blackpink are pretty and savage, and if youre a 13-year-old Blink as fans call themselves whats not to love?). Even without the boost provided by the 40 million Americans who speak Spanish as their first language, Colombian Balvin and Puerto Ricans Ozuna and Bad Bunny would likely have made headway in the US by dint of releasing consistently exciting music. (Though Balvin has been spreading himself thin, collaborating with the likes of Liam Payne and David Guetta on tracks that are more marriages of brands than musical love matches.)

And Indias huge industry could be the next to see its artists claim new territory, writes Tim Ingham of Music Business Worldwide: Spotify is expected to launch in the territory in the coming weeks, with a heavy focus on striking up relationships with local artists. The firm recently inked a global content licensing deal with Indias biggest label, T-Series, which also happens to be the owner of the worlds second largest YouTube channel, with over 60.5 billion plays of its videos to date.

So, its farewell, then maybe to English as pops primary force. Perhaps it was inevitable: there are 7.5 billion people in the world, and only 5% 360 million are native Anglophones, meaning that it has ben punching far above its weight. The globalisation of pop feels, as do so many current cultural shifts, like a necessary redressing of the balance, and not an unwelcome one: having reviewed sold-out London shows by BTS and Monsta X last year, I can verify that you dont need to understand Korean to get it. (It helps that their music, and that of Blackpink, is an instantly recognisable tumult of electronic pop with rappy bits the musica franca of every teenager in the world.)

And yet not so fast. In listening to music, there are times when, for English speakers, only English will do. Its rhythms and intonations suit particular genres, notably rock and the singer-songwriter strand of indie, where wordplay and apt turns of phrase often crop up. Theres no real substitute, especially in gloomy moments, for listening to some familiar song and feeling that the songwriter knew exactly how you felt when they wrote those twisty little couplets. English might be ceding some of its supremacy, but the music businesss centre of gravity is still the US and the UK, and Anglophone musicians wont be turfed out of a job for a while yet.

Caroline Sullivan writes about rock and pop for the Guardian

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Cameras were set up in hair dryer holders and wall sockets in 10 cities, say prosecutors

Police in South Korea have arrested two men for secretly filming 1,600 hotel guests and streaming the footage live online, in the latest voyeurism scandal to hit the country.

The suspects, who have not been named, set up secret cameras in 42 rooms at 30 hotels in 10 South Korean cities between November last year and the start of this month, media reports said.

The arrests come a week after singer and TV celebrity Jung Joon-young admitted he had secretly filmed himself having sex with women and sharing the footage online without their consent.

Jung said he had shared footage of several women in a group chatroom whose members allegedly included Seungri, a K-pop star who is facing allegations that he ran an illegal prostitution ring out of Seoul nightclubs. Seungri has retired and vowed to clear his name.

The suspects in the latest case went to extraordinary lengths to install the cameras, the cyber investigation unit at the Seoul metropolitan police agency alleged.

Mini-cameras with 1mm lenses were found in digital boxes, hair dryer holders and wall sockets. More than 800 illegally filmed videos were livestreamed via a server based overseas.

By the time the site was taken down this month, the suspects had earned 7m won ($6,200 USD) from 97 people who paid a monthly fee to access the material, the Korea Herald said.

Two other men are being investigated in connection with the allegations.

Police said there was no evidence the hotels were aware that their guests were being filmed without their knowledge.

South Korea is battling an epidemic of molka secretly filmed videos of a sexual nature that target women in public places such as toilets and changing rooms, but also in their own homes.

The rise in cases prompted tens of thousands of women to take to the streets of Seoul last summer to demand longer sentences for perpetrators. The authorities responded by increasing patrols of the citys public toilets a measure campaigners say is ineffective.

Police reported 6,470 cases of illegal filming in 2017, compared with 1,353 cases in 2012, the national police agency said. But many offenders are ordered to pay modest fines and in most cases the crime goes unpunished.

The hotel spycam suspects face up to five years in prison and a heavy fine for distributing illegal videos. The police agency strictly deals with criminals who post and share illegal videos as they severely harm human dignity, a Seoul police agency official told the Korea Herald.

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