surveillance in china

Surveillance in China



abuse promise abuse of power
shame capability ground-breaking
cash check-in recognition
hyper province determined
hope research pioneer (2)
detect block (3) biometric
extend stray (2) authoritarian
vast constant surveillance
allow point (3) unprecedented
local track (2) cement (2)
install security withdraw
insist target (2) hide/hid/hidden
oust violate ambitious
afraid capacity steal/stole/stolen
heed prevent jaywalking
loo trial (2) internment
load identify wanted (2)
scary real time suspect (2)
risk emerge totalitarianism
wary minority innovation
pose impose separatist
NGO gesture subject to
detain monitor indefinitely
scan mass (2) incarceration
alert right (5) estimated
threat predict aggregate
former tight (2) checks and balances
warn ground convinced






Improving lives . . . increasing connectivity across the world . . . that’s the great promise offered by data-driven technology.

But in China, it also promises greater state control and abuse of power.

This is the next ground-breaking development in data-driven technology: facial recognition. And in China, you can already withdraw cash, check-in at airports, and pay for goods just using your face.

The country is the world’s leader in the use of this emerging technology. And China’s many artificial intelligence startups are determined to keep it that way in the future.

Companies like YITU.

YITU Spokesperson: “We’re pioneering artificial intelligence with research and innovation in the hope of creating a safer, faster and healthier world.”

YITU is creating the building blocks for a smart city of the city, where facial recognition is part of everyday life. This could even extend to detecting what people are thinking.

YITU Spokesperson: “Facial recognition can read people’s emotions. And we are actually now working on these innovative demonstrations and technology.”

But the Chinese government has plans to use this new biometric technology to cement its authoritarian rule. The country has ambitious plans to develop a vast national surveillance system based on facial recognition.

It will be used to monitor its one-point-four (1.4) billion citizens in unprecedented ways, with the capability of tracking everything from their emotions to their sexuality.

The primary means will be a vast network of CCTV cameras. A hundred-seventy (170) million are already in place. And an estimated four-hundred (400) million new ones will be installed over the next three years.

The authorities insist this program will allow them to improve security for citizens . . . and if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

But not everyone is convinced.

Hongshen Kwai, Former Magazine Editor: “These surveillance cameras are absolutely everywhere.”

Hongshen Kwai is a former magazine editor. He was ousted by the government. He feels like he’s under constant surveillance.

Hongshen Kwai, Former Magazine Editor: “What I’m most afraid of is that all my activities will be monitored . . . and this is a very scary thing.”

Already the authorities are using facial recognition to name and shame citizens — even for minor offences like jaywalking.

In Beijing, they’re using the technology to prevent people from stealing rolls of loo paper from public toilets.

And across China, police officers are now trialing sunglasses and body cameras loaded with facial and gesture recognition technology. It’s helping them to identify wanted suspects in real-time.

What worries some people here is that, as the technology develops, so too does the capacity for it to be abused.

Hongshen Kwai, Former Magazine Editor: “Everyone is under close surveillance in their daily lives. You can’t do anything the government dislikes.

If this is the way, it is like entering a state of totalitarianism.”

Some of those most at risk in this hyper-surveillance future are the ethnic minorities in China.

In Xinjiang Province, the Chinese government is wary of the separatist threat, posed by the Muslim Uyghur population.

According to local NGOs, an estimated one million Uyghurs are being detained indefinitely in secretive internment camps, where some are being subject to abuse. It’s being called the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.

The authorities are using facial recognition cameras to scan people’s faces before they enter markets.

The system alerts authorities if targeted individuals stray three-hundred (300) meters beyond their home.

In the future, the government plans to aggregate even more data, and build a predictive policing program that imposes even tighter controls here.

Without checks and balances, China will keep finding new ways to violate the human rights of its citizens. What’s already happening in Xinjiang is a warning the rest of the world must heed.


*     *     *     *     *     *     *



1. Technology can be a double-edged sword; it has both advantages and disadvantages. True or false?

2. In China, do you have to always present an ID card for any transaction?

3. Can machines potentially “read people’s minds”?

4. The government of China will rely primarily on secret police and informants to spy on its citizens. Is this right or wrong?

5. If people don’t commit a felony such as murder, rape, robbery, burglary, everything is fine. Is this correct or incorrect? What are some examples of the monitoring system’s usage?

6. Does the government persecute certain minority groups?

7. Is the report optimistic, pessimistic, both or neither about the future?


A. There are CCTV cameras in my city. I have seen surveillance cameras in my city. Yes or no? What is their purpose?

B. How much does the government (and banks, corporations, tech firms) know about individuals?

C. Is there a widespread social and psychological notion of “1984” and “Big Brother”? How do people view this?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What can people do about this?

Comments are closed.