Chinese Government Is Building A Surveillance System That Will Target, Track Foreign Journalists, Students
from the if-you-can't-beat-'em,-maybe-it's-time-to-start-physically-beating-t dept
The Chinese government is truly, undeniably, utterly evil. Anyone saying otherwise has something to sell (most likely to the Chinese people or their government). Private companies and public entities alike have kowtowed and capitulated rather than face the ferocity of the easily angered government and/or risk losing access to a marketplace containing a few billion people.
China has embraced its own version of capitalism to create the leverage it now wields against those who offend it, no matter where else in the world they might be located. It sees even more opportunity in ultra-lucrative Hong Kong and has taken direct control of the region. It refuses to acknowledge Taiwan’s existence as a separate country and demands apologies from world leaders and professional athletes when they make the “mistake” of acknowledging yet another lucrative region China wishes to directly control.
It has rolled out multiple layers of oppression to keep its citizens in line, starting with pervasive widespread surveillance that ties into “citizen scores” that limit opportunities for those the government believes aren’t patriotic enough. It is engaged in the erasure of its Uighur Muslim population, utilizing concentration camps, disappearances, brutality, and a war of attrition designed to eliminate these “unwanteds” completely in the coming years.
Is China irredeemable? I guess it all depends on what you think of redemption. The underlying basis of Christianity is that no one is completely irredeemable (even if far too many Christians seem to believe certain people are). Our penal system, in a much more half-hearted way, conflates punishment with rehabilitation, as if the best way to turn your life around is to see it destroyed. China isn’t a Christian nation, so that ends that part of the speculation. And China most likely believes people can be punished into contrition, which will “redeem” them while allowing the state to remain intact. Can China ever be anything than increasingly worse versions of itself?
Sanctions and public condemnation haven’t had any effect. The Chinese government isn’t too big to fail. Nothing ever is. Just ask the former USSR (which, unfortunately, is resembling its old self more and more every day.) But it is too big to care what anyone else thinks. The first step towards redemption is realizing you need to be redeemed. Will China ever reach that starting point?
It seems unlikely. The government likes things the way they are. And its vision for the future is the elimination of any roadblocks to complete power. But it still struggles to control the narrative, despite constantly finding new ways to limit the spread of information it doesn’t approve of and its rewriting of even very recent history to excise anything that might suggest the state is immoral, fallible, or dangerous to the citizens it oversees.
Which brings us to this, which isn’t the worst thing China has done. Instead, it’s just another example of the Chinese government tossing aside concerns about its public image. Press freedoms are practically nonexistent in China. And now the government is planning to actively target journalists who refuse to play by its rules.
Security officials in one of China’s largest provinces have commissioned a surveillance system they say they want to use to track journalists and international students among other “suspicious people”, documents reviewed by Reuters showed.
A July 29 tender document published on the Henan provincial government’s procurement website – reported in the media for the first time – details plans for a system that can compile individual files on such persons of interest coming to Henan using 3,000 facial recognition cameras that connect to various national and regional databases.
The surveillance apparatus is already in place. The county has millions of surveillance cameras everywhere. All these cameras need are a certain form of “smarts” — one that lets the government identify and track undesirables. The government has already asked Chinese tech companies to give it AI capable of seeking out Uighur Muslims. Now, it wants a system that can see past facemasks and eyewear to positively identify journalists and foreigners it wants to keep track of. And it wants the system to be responsive and fast, capable of performing searches of recorded footage for images matching uploaded images or biometric attributes.
It’s going to throw a lot of money and personnel at this “problem,” grading targets on a scale that will easily indicate how much the Chinese government wants journalists or international students deported, disappeared, silenced, or otherwise punished.
The system will be operated by at least 2,000 officials and policemen, and specifies that journalists will be divided into three categories: red, yellow, green, in decreasing order of risk, according to the tender.
Different police forces covering all of Henan, whose 99 million inhabitants makes it China’s third-largest province by population, will be connected to the platform in order to spring into action in the event of a warning being set off, the tender explains.
Warnings will be set off if a journalist while in Henan registers into a hotel, buys a ticket, or crosses the provincial border, according to the tender.
“Suspicious persons must be tailed and controlled, dynamic research analyses and risk assessments made, and the journalists dealt with according to their category,” the tender reads.
All of this will be perfectly legal when it finally goes into use. The Chinese government has spent the last several years rewriting and expanding its national security laws to justify actions it takes against critics, activists, journalists, and dissidents. It has thrown “fake news” into the mix to grease the wheels for direct targeting of press outlets.
And it’s not just for locals. The Chinese government was unhappy with foreign news coverage of flooding in the country earlier this year and engaged in harassment of reporters covering the disaster. Not coincidentally at all, the proposal paper also lists “foreign journalists” as targets of this surveillance, which suggests the government wants to be able to eject members of the press from other countries the moment their reporting starts contradicting the government’s narrative.
This is ugly and it’s right out there in the open. The tender documents were perhaps never meant to be seen by outsiders, but the details show the government is seeking ways to destroy everything but the party line. No one really needs any more evidence the Chinese government is evil. But somehow, entities that should want to have nothing to do with it play by its rules and apologize publicly when they break them. Maybe China can’t be stopped. But the deference shown to it with alarming frequency certainly needs to.