A social experiment in Fujian combined the grid surveillance system with a WeChat game everybody should play.
by Wang Zhipeng
Bitter Winter has reported in the past about the grid system of surveillance, which consists in dividing cities and towns into 100×100 meter areas (there are rural grids too, which are larger). Each grid has a grid manager with assistants, a grid police officer, a grid supervisor, a grid Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary, a grid legal worker reporting to the local prosecutor, a grid firefighter, and since this year also a grid officer in charge of the surveillance and propaganda against “illegal religion” and the banned religious movements labeled as xie jiao.
In October, the prefecture-level city of Quanzhou and the nearby Hui’an county, in Fujian province, launched a social experiment that was presented as a celebration of the CCP’s 100th anniversary. It was described as a unique combination of online and offline propaganda.
Lessons were organized in all schools, including elementary and middle schools. After the streets had been patrolled and propaganda material against xie jiao and “illegal religion” was distributed, and 80 events had been organized, a “game” was launched through WeChat. Citizens should prove that they had read the propaganda material by answering questions. Those who answered most of the questions correctly were awarded prizes. The names of those who scored lowly were sent to the grid managers and CCP secretaries.
The most interesting part was the combination of WeChat with the grid system. Each grid created a WeChat group to distribute the propaganda material and organize the game within the grid. Since a grid only includes a few blocks, grid managers know all the families and can make sure that all participate. The local CCP WeChat account claims that more than 92,000 answered questionnaires were posted in the game.
Although it was called a game, it is clear that participation was not entirely voluntary, as grid officers were watching every family.
The local CCP bureaucrats explained through social media that the initiative was needed because during the COVID-19 pandemic the presence of “illegal religion” and xie jiao actually increased in Fujian. This is probably true, as is true for other provinces, but rather than asking pertinent questions on why citizens sought comfort and answers to their questions in “illegal” churches and religious movements rather than in the CCP and the five authorized religions, Party bureaucrats multiplied surveillance and propaganda.