Recently, The Economist published a short film titled “China: Facing Up to Hyper-Surveillance,” detailing how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses facial recognition technology to advance state control through the abuse of power over its own citizens. The CCP suppresses those who criticize the party and those of different faiths, in the name of “decreasing [the] number of criminal offenses.”
In fact, the CCP’s means of imposing stricter control over the domestic population goes far beyond this. In addition to monitoring the public through the Internet, especially via WeChat, QQ, PayPal and other apps, the CCP also monitors mobile phones, installs chips in ID cards and collects DNA data — every move of the 1.4 billion citizens is under the government’s surveillance. What’s even more troubling is that it has also extended its “sphere of influence” overseas.
The Chinese Communist Party started to implement a real-name registration system for mobile phone users in September 2013. In addition, the CCP has also developed a “mobile electronic fence system,” which allows it to monitor abnormal activities of individuals and groups in targeted populations. Recently, in many provinces, Communist Party officials have even asked people to hand over their mobile devices and install monitoring apps.
This is still not enough. Since early 2013, the Chinese Communist Party started to require all citizens to use “second-generation” ID cards. The second-generation ID card adopts RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. A chip that stores personal information is hidden inside. Using inspection equipment, the information can be extracted and read within 1 meter or more; it can also be exchanged, updated and downloaded through a remote database. Some netizens commented sharply: “Carrying an ID card is just like carrying an invisible “handcuff.”
The Chinese Communist Party also started to collect DNA samples from the entire population with the plan of establishing the world’s largest DNA database. In most states here in the United States, law enforcement officers are only allowed to collect DNA samples from people already arrested for committing crimes. In China under the CCP’s rule, however, from officials and scholars to students and civilians, everyone’s DNA data can be collected forcibly without prior notice. In some parts of China, law enforcement agencies have even archived individual DNA information along with other biometric information, including fingerprints, portraits and voice prints.
According to a report submitted to the CCP’s Public Security DNA Conference in 2018, a provincial public security department has proposed to link the above data with personal information such as online shopping records and recreational habits. According to overseas media reports and investigations (including ones by Ethan Gutmann, David Kilgour and David Matas), many people held in prisons and detention centers have even been forced to undergo blood testing on a regular basis.
Zhang Lin, a well-known democracy movement activist, was detained by the Chinese Communist Party many times and put in notorious detention centers. He said: “The detention center often gives unapproved blood and tissue tests to prisoners. A senior prisoner once told me that the purpose of frequent blood tests is to find matching organs of high-caliber for high-level Party officials. If the right one is found, then the prisoners will be sentenced to death and the organ will immediately be removed.” The United States confirmed allegations such as this by passing H.R. 343 in 2016 to condemn China’s practice of forced organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience.
In addition to tightening social control using data-driven technology, the Chinese Communist Party has developed an effective tool of “turning the people against each other.” In recent years, with the support from CCP, so-called non-governmental organizations such as Chaoyang people, Xicheng aunties and Haidian netizens have played an indispensable role in implementing its policy of “maintaining stability.”
In China, teachers teach in classrooms equipped with cameras, and they face the danger of being reported by students at any time. Teachers, at the same time, are also mandated to report students who want to access their right of “freedom of speech.” In foreign countries, nearly all Chinese international students have a second identity — secret agent/spy. Under CCP’s rule, the sense of trust that is fundamental in any relationship is broken, everyone is like an enemy to each other, and an atmosphere of terror permeates the entire society.
The CCP has never been hesitant to utilize new technology and find new ways to violate the rights of its citizens and help “maintain” its terrorist rule. It has been striving to turn China into an Orwellian state. Fortunately, the international community is recognizing its agenda. Under the leadership of the United States, the world is forming a siege to confront it. The Chinese people will eventually lead a life with freedom and dignity — just like people of any civilized country do.
• Flora Yan is a rising junior at the University of Washington majoring in communications.