China cracks down on citizens, scans handheld devices for ‘illegal information’
BEIJING, August 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Government surveillance against private citizens is becoming more sophisticated, intrusive, and widespread in China, according to a new report.
Technology originally developed to beef up security against separatist violence in territories such as Xinjiang are spreading to cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, according to a Reuters report published Tuesday.
According to documents obtained by Reuters, 171 police stations in 32 out of 33 official mainland provinces, regions, or municipalities have attempted to purchase handheld devices that can be connected to smartphones and scan their contacts, emails, calendar data, photos, videos, social media postings, and more for “illegal information.”
Originally tested in Xinjiang, the devices have been used in places such as traffic stops and are said to be part of the Chinese regime’s expanding crackdown on the dissemination of dissenting information. Since 2016, more than 129 million yuan ($19 million) has been budgeted or spent toward procuring the tools.
“Right now, as I understand it, only two provinces in the whole country don’t use these,” a sales representative at Zhongke Ronghui Security Technology Co Ltd, one of the companies that produces the scanners, told Reuters. “The smartphone has become the most important source of evidence,” added Wu Wangwei, an engineer at the company that trains police to use the scanners.
The one major caveat is that authorities cannot normally crack the security of the newest smartphone models, thanks to companies such as Apple working to maintain the safeguards of their operating systems.
Even so, such setbacks are generally only temporary, as police manage to “persuade” most users to surrender their passwords. “In China, it’s not wise to refuse,” a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology official told Reuters.
Xinjiang often serves as a testing ground of sorts for spying techniques and technology. Other tools to start there and spread beyond include surveillance camera systems, database software, and smartphone forensics hardware, an unnamed technology ministry official said. Those plans have not officially been made public.
Other “black tech” includes police glasses with built-in facial recognition capabilities, cameras that can analyze the way people walk, and drones.
On Tuesday, Breitbart’s John Hayward called the report a “textbook case of surveillance state mission creep, as techniques devised for what the Chinese government described as a unique emergency situation become part of everyday life.”
Hayward quotes a February Engadget profile of Xinjiang that depicts the region as something out of dystopian science fiction, with “facial-recognition cameras; iris and body scanners at checkpoints, gas stations, and government facilities; the collection of DNA samples for a massive database,” and more, to the point where “family members [are] too scared to speak openly to relatives abroad.”
The surveillance technology is so advanced and pervasive that many live in fear not only of what the government can do, but what they imagine it to be capable of, according to Nicole Morgret of the Uighur Human Rights Project.
The Communist regime’s comprehensive invasion of its citizens’ privacy is just one in a long string of human rights abuses China stands accused of by the U.S. State Department and international watchdog groups. Under President Xi Jinping, the regime also works to suppress Christianity including bans of online Bible sales, and has earned global infamy for forcing women to have abortions for population control.