The facial scanner is made by China Electronics Technology Group (CETC), a state-owned defense contractor that has spearheaded China’s fast-growing field of predictive policing with Xinjiang as its test bed. The [Associated Press] AP found 27 CETC bids for Xinjiang government contracts, including one soliciting a facial recognition system for facilities and centers in Hotan Prefecture.
Hours after visiting the Hotan bazaar, AP reporters were stopped outside a hotel by a police officer who said the public security bureau had been remotely tracking the reporters’ movements.
“There are tens of thousands of cameras here,” said the officer, who gave his name as Tushan. “The moment you took your first step in this city, we knew.”
The government’s tracking efforts have extended to vehicles, genes, and even voices.
In February, authorities in Xinjiang’s Bayingol prefecture, which includes Korla, required every car to install GPS trackers for real-time monitoring. And since late last year, Xinjiang authorities have required health checks to collect the population’s DNA samples. In May, a regional police official told the AP that Xinjiang had purchased $8.7 million in DNA scanners — enough to analyze several million samples a year.
In one year, Kashgar Prefecture, which has a population of 4 million, has carried out mandatory checks for practically its entire population, said Yang Yanfeng, deputy director of Kashgar’s propaganda department. She characterized the checkups as a public health success story, not a security measure.
“We take comprehensive blood tests for the good of the people, not just record somebody’s height and weight,” Yang said. “We find out health issues in citizens even they didn’t know about.”
A biometric data collection program appears to have been formalized last year under “Document No. 44,” a regional public security directive to “comprehensively collect three-dimensional portraits, voiceprints, DNA and fingerprints.”
The document’s full text remains secret, but the AP found at least three contracts referring to the 2016 directive in recent purchase orders for equipment such as microphones and voice analyzers.
Meiya Pico, a security and surveillance company, has won 11 bids in the last six months alone from local Xinjiang jurisdictions. It won a joint bid with a DNA analysis company for 4 million yuan ($600,000) in Kargilik and has sold software that automatically scans smartphones for “terror-related pictures and videos” to Yarkent.
Meiya and CETC declined comment.
To monitor Xinjiang’s population, China has also turned to a familiar low-tech tactic: recruiting the masses.
When a Uighur businessman from Kashgar completed a six-month journey to flee China and landed in the United States with his family in January, he was initially ecstatic. He tried calling home, something he hadn’t done in months to spare his family unwanted police questioning.
His mother told him his four brothers and his father were in prison because he fled China. She was spared only because she was frail.
Since 2016, local authorities had assigned ten families including theirs to spy on one another in a new system of collective monitoring, and those families had also been punished because he escaped. Members from each were sent to re-education centers for three months, he told the AP.
[...]Lots more of importance in the AP exclusive report, and kudos to AP for getting the story.
One question not addressed in the report would be whether China's government is selling high-tech surveillance equipment and teaching surveillance techniques to other authoritarian governments.
Another question is whether any supposed liberal democratic governments are also abusing technology to institute a police state that would have been the envy of the East German secret police.