With facial recognition and other high-tech equipment monitoring their every move, ordinary people are starting to feel that they live in a prisonlike reality.
by Tang Zhe
Residents in the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang have been living under the CCP’s “digital despotism” for quite some time, as everything they do is captured by countless surveillance cameras, and they need to scan their faces or IDs to enter places of worship or even their homes. These draconian measures have turned the lives of people into a nightmare of terror.
As the Xinjiang-style surveillance is spreading rapidly across other regions of China, now also targeting the Han population, the whole country will likely soon be turned into a giant prison.
In June, the Public Security Bureau of a locality in the southeastern province of Jiangxi installed 195 surveillance cameras in a residential compound under its jurisdiction. High-tech surveillance equipment, including ID card scanners and a facial recognition system, was also fitted at the entrance. The personal information of all the residents has been entered into the system, and now every person who enters the compound is registered.
According to a property management worker at the compound, people cannot enter unless they scan their face and ID card. If someone scans their face while wearing glasses or a face mask, they are denied entrance, and a mechanical voice says, “Your face is fake” or “Non-human.” If ID information and facial recognition don’t match, the machine sends data to the police. If persons “blacklisted” by the state scan their faces or ID cards, the Public Security Bureau is automatically notified, and the police automatically arrive to arrest them.
The worker also emphasized that facial images and ID information remain in the system after the first scan, and people continue to be surveilled no matter where they go.
“The system is great for the security of the residents”, the worker said somewhat smugly. However, local residents disagree with this view.
A resident in the compound expressed her dissatisfaction, saying, “When I’m busy cooking expecting guests, I have to go downstairs many floors to receive them. It’s so much trouble!”
“I am monitored every day when I scan my face leaving and returning home. I always feel as if a person is watching me. It’s very stifling,” said a woman who lives in the residential complex.
It is not only residents who have to scan their faces, but their guests also have to go through the same procedure, the system linking their information with the resident whom they visit.
A visitor who was denied entry into the residential compound complained, “We even need to scan our faces when visiting friends or relatives, and our personal information is monitored. This is a serious human rights violation! By installing these high-tech facial recognition systems, the CCP is tying a rope around our necks and controlling us like we’re animals. This is so evil and so ridiculous!”
Since last year, similar facial-scanning equipment is being installed in residential communities throughout China. According to mainland China media reports, since July 19, all public rental housing residents of 13 projects under the Beijing Municipal Guaranteed Housing Center need to scan their faces to return home. The information of over 69,000 tenants and over 64,000 co-tenants has been registered in the facial recognition system’s database.
The official media claim that these facial recognition systems are primarily used to “prevent subletting or subleasing” and for the security of residents. Critics, however, argue that this is further evidence that the CCP is violating human rights and implementing universal surveillance.
It is expected that facial recognition systems will be fully operational in 59 public housing projects run by the Beijing Municipal Guaranteed Housing Center until the end of October, adding information on more people to the database.
The mass surveillance is especially detrimental to dissidents, religious group members, and others who have been blacklisted by the government, because information about them may help authorities to persecute and arrest them.
Since most house churches have set up meeting venues in rental houses or the homes of Christians, under high-tech surveillance, it has become even more difficult and dangerous for them to assemble.
“If we want to enter a residential area to attend a gathering or visit fellow believers, we are often questioned about whom we’re visiting, how long we’re staying, and what we’re doing. Security guards will possess all this information, and as soon as one of us is arrested, they will know who has visited him or her and with whom he or she held gatherings together,” said a house church Christian, adding that he feels suffocated by the increasingly tight surveillance.