‘Watched the whole time’: China’s surveillance state grows under Xi Jinping

BEIJING: When Chen Picking up the phone to vent his anger at being taken for a parking ticket, his messages on WeChat have reduced the number of daily posts on China’s largest social network.
But shortly after taking a stand against the “simple” traffic police in June, he realized he had come under the radar of the communist country’s comprehensive surveillance apparatus.
Chen quickly deleted the post, but officers tracked him down and detained him within hours, accusing him of “insulting the police”.
He was locked up for five days for “inappropriate statements”.
His case – one of thousands recorded by a dissident and covered by the local press – shows a pervasive follow-up that characterizes life in China. nowadays.
Its leaders have long taken an authoritarian approach to social control.
But since the President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he refrained from the relatively whirling social movements of the turn of the century, using a combination of technology, law and ideology to squeeze political dissent. ant and prevent threats to his rule.
Claiming to target criminals and to preserve order, social control measures have been countered by dissidents, activists and religious minorities, as well as ordinary people – such as such as Chen – was judged to have exceeded the limit.
The average Chinese person today spends nearly every waking moment under state surveillance.
Research firm Comparitech estimates the average Chinese city has more than 370 security cameras per 1,000 inhabitants – making them the most surveyed places in the world – compared with 13 in London or 18 in 1,000 in Singapore.
The nationwide “Skynet” urban surveillance project has emerged, with cameras capable of recognizing faces, clothes and ages.
“We’re being watched all the time,” one environmental activist, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
The Communist Party’s grip is most apparent in the far western region of Xinjiang, where facial recognition and DNA collection have been rolled out on predominantly Muslim minority groups under the in the name of counter-terrorism.
The Covid-19 pandemic has sped up China’s surveillance framework, with citizens now being tracked on their smartphones via an app that determines where they can go based on green codes. tree, yellow or red.
Regulations introduced in 2012 have closed the loopholes that allow people to make purchases SIM cards without indicating their name and government-mandated identification for tickets on virtually all forms of transport.
There is no respite online where even shopping apps require registration with a phone number attached to an identity document.
Wang, a Chinese dissident, told AFP under a pseudonym because of safety concerns, recalling some time ago Xi when the censors were unaware and “it’s really common to tell jokes about (former Chinese president) Jiang Zemin on the internet”.
But the Chinese Internet – behind the “Great Firewall” since the early 2000s – has become an increasingly tightly controlled space.
Wang runs a Twitter account that has tracked thousands of cases of people being detained, fined or punished for speaking out since 2013.
Thanks to the real-name verification system as well as the cooperation between the police and social media platforms, people have been punished for a lot of crimes online.
Platforms like Weibo employ thousands of content moderators and automatically block politically sensitive keywords, such as tennis star Peng Shuai’s name after she accused a high-profile politician of attacking sex work last year.
Cyber ​​authorities are proposing new rules that would force platforms to monitor comment sections on posts – one of the ultimate ways for people to voice their grievances online.
Many of the surveillance technologies being used have been adopted in other countries.
“The real difference in China is the lack of independent media and civil society that can provide meaningful criticism of innovations or point out their many flaws,” said Jeremy. Daum, from the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, told AFP.
Mr. Xi has reshaped Chinese society, with the Communist Party stipulating what citizens “must know, feel, think and say and do”, said Vivienne Shue, professor emeritus of contemporary Chinese studies degree at Oxford University, told AFP.
Young people are forced to stay away from foreign influences, with the government banning international books and banning tutoring companies from hiring foreign teachers.
Idealism even extends to fashion, with broadcasters censoring tattoos and earrings on men.
“What bothers me more than anything is not censorship itself, but how it shapes people’s minds,” said Twitter owner Wang.
“With dissenting information removed, every website becomes a cult where the government and its leaders must be worshipped.”


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