No longer content with mass surveillance of their ethnic minority populations, the Chinese authorities have begun cybersurveillance of visitors to the northwestern province of Xinjiang. according to the New York Times.
The Times reports that travelers, tourists and visitors to Xinjiang are now being required to turn over all of their electronic devices to the Chinese authorities in order for an app to be installed on their phones to gather data.
” China has turned its western region of Xinjiang into a police state with few modern parallels, employing a combination of high-tech surveillance and enormous manpower to monitor and subdue the area’s predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.”
The app gathers personal data from phones, including text messages and contacts. It also checks whether devices are carrying pictures, videos, documents and audio files that match any of more than 73,000 items included on a list stored within the app’s code.
Those items include Islamic State publications, recordings of jihadi anthems and images of executions. But they also include material without any connection to Islamic terrorism, an indication of China’s heavy-handed approach to stopping extremist violence. There are scanned pages from an Arabic dictionary, recorded recitations of Quran verses, a photo of the Dalai Lama and even a song by a Japanese band of the earsplitting heavy-metal style known as grindcore.
According to Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch, “The Chinese government, both in law and practice, often conflates peaceful religious activities with terrorism.”