Chinese Government Forces Uyghurs to Install Surveillance App

The Chinese government now forces Uyghur residents to install a surveillance app on their mobiles to monitor their activities. (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
The Chinese government now forces Uyghur residents to install a surveillance app on their mobiles to monitor their activities. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

The Chinese government is well known to be one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, giving no value to personal liberty or privacy. And as further proof of its dictatorial nature, the government now forces Uyghur residents to install a surveillance app on their mobiles to monitor their activities.

The app

The app has been developed by a Chinese tech company in close association with the police. The app works by scanning the mobile phone of the user for an ebook, audio, video, or other files that might have anything to do with terror and violence. Once a file is detected, the app will ask the user to delete the file. If the user neglects the request and does not delete the file, they will be taken to the court.

The government has primarily launched the app in Xinjiang, where the Muslim minority Uyghur community lives. And the police have been pretty strict at ensuring that the Uyghur people actually have installed the app on their phone. In fact, Uyghur residents have their phone checked by the police on the streets on a regular basis.

The app has been developed by a Chinese tech company in close association with the police. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The app has been developed by a Chinese tech company in close association with the police. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

However, the app lacks a proper encryption methodology that will protect the data from being accessed by a third-party. It’s as if the Chinese government literally does not care whether the Uyghur’s personal data is seen by anyone else or not.

“What we can confirm, based on the audit’s findings, is that the Jing Wang app is particularly insecure and is built with no safeguards in place to protect the private, personally identifying information of its users — who have been forced by the government to download and use it in the first place”, Vice quotes Adam Lynn, research director of the Open Technology Fund.

A community with no privacy

Uyghurs are one of the most persecuted groups in China. With an 11 million strong population, most of them live their life in Xinjiang, constantly under the surveillance of the Chinese government, which actively raids their homes consistently, restricts their Islamic practices, and controls their involvement in their religion and culture. The app is just one of the many technologies being used to keep them suppressed.

“This new technology means that Uyghurs have lost whatever privacy they might have had, making it extremely dangerous for them to express any dissent or dissatisfaction… This reminds everyone that they are constantly being monitored, and this ‘automated repression’ is truly something unprecedented, and again shows how Orwellian life has become for Uyghurs,” Radio Free Asia quotes Omer Kanat, a member of World Uyghur Congress.

Uyghurs are one of the most persecuted groups in China. (Image: Colegota via flickr CC BY-SA 2.5)

Uyghurs are one of the most persecuted groups in China. (Image: Colegota via flickr CC BY-SA 2.5)

The Chinese government has long been using facial recognition to constantly monitor the Uyghurs. And in addition to the new app, a new surveillance project has also been launched by them called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP).

The platform reportedly uses big data to predict offenses. Though the actual working of the software is not known, experts believe that the program uses a combination of multiple records like banking, insurance, vehicle checkpoint, police reports, etc. to determine the chances of a specific Uyghur committing an act of terror.

Many security experts foresee this implementation of security protocol to widen throughout the country. China might actually become a 24-7 AI monitored country within the next few decades. And if the treatment of Uyghurs is anything to go by, China might actually become the nightmare Orwell predicted.

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