Big brother watching in China and beyond

George Orwell’s “1984” setting of a dystopian, surveillance state wasn’t some fiction of the past, but can be most vividly seen today.

In 2014, the Chinese government released the “People’s War on Terror” campaign in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northern China that is home to many ethnic minorities, most notably the Uyghur Muslims. 

The government has since utilized the most updated of technologies including biometrics, facial recognition and more, to track and control its minority population under the justification of “preventing extremism” and counter-terrorism.

(Nicole Goss / The Poly Post)

On a grander scale, China has placed around 170 million cameras in the country (a number expected to grow by a few hundred million next year) adjusted with artificial intelligence (AI). 

The applications of these cameras paired with AI are not only “Black Mirror”-like and Orwellian, they open future paths to a totalitarian government, stripping its citizens completely of their power.

Through this technology, China is attempting to organize a form of “social credit score”; a type of Yelp rating for each citizen, if you will. 

It attempts to form citizen profiles based on factors such as timely bill payments, past and present employment, social media use, friends and family, traffic or legal violations, all combining to result in a final citizen numeric score reflecting a citizen’s trustworthiness. 

For now, participation is voluntary. 

However, by next year all citizens and businesses are mandated to participate. 

And for the Uyghurs, matters are more escalated.

Uyghurs are routinely expected to give DNA, blood type, fingerprints, voice recordings, multiple face scans using several facial expressions and other biometric items to any police officer at any given time. 

The Integrated Joint Operations Platform, or IJOP, uses this data to monitor these minorities at virtually every checkpoint in the region. 

The surveillance system extends to building cameras, to chips inside phones, down to the “Uyghurs’ very physiognomy,” according to The Guardian. 

Their every movement and blink of an eye is tracked. 

Programs other than IJOP-tracked digital interactions and social media use include building an archive. 

It is more extensive than the social credit score by aiming to ethnically erase Uyghur identity. 

These systems scan to see “triggers” such as dressing Islamically, using the Uyghur language, not attending a flag ceremony or lack of national pride, or use of Mandarin. 

These supposedly help identify “unsafe” individuals, who have the potential to become “extremists.”

Furthermore, since 2017 alone, it has been recorded that at least 1 million Uyghur Muslims have been moved to concentration camps, otherwise dubbed as “re-education centers,” according to the Washington Post. 

The detainees account for about 11.5% of the Muslim population (ages 20-79) in Xinjiang simply for showing any of the above “triggers.”

To do all of the above and wipe away an entire ethnicity in the process are crimes against humanity that no amount of smart business advertising or political spin can disguise. 

As much as one would love to deny it, all of this is very true and is occurring at a fast and unimaginable pace.

According to The Guardian, “A hundred government agencies and companies from two dozen countries now participate in the highly influential annual China-Eurasia Security Expo. 

Big brother isn’t just watching you; he’s analyzing your every move with severe consequences to come.

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