China has a new surveillance system for journalists, foreign students and “stranded women”

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China’s Hanan Province will begin implementing a new surveillance system for journalists, international students and other “suspects”, according to a report released by Reuters today.

Reuters, which saw documents talking about the system, said there would be a “traffic light” classification for the people detected. Worst of all is a red light classification, where the documents say that if a journalist is marked as red, they will be dealt with “appropriately”.

The documents were released in July and were part of a tender process that Chinese technology companies could apply to build the system. The IT giant NeuSoft was apparently awarded the contract in September. At the time, NeuSoft said the system could be up and running in two months, so it could work right now.

The system will use face recognition cameras distributed across the province. When a “data subject” is recorded by these cameras, the image is then processed in a larger image database. These databases will be linked to China’s national database.

“The preliminary proposal is to divide the main journalists concerned into three levels,” the documents say. “People marked in red are the main concern. The second level, highlighted in yellow, is people of general interest. Level three, marked in green, is for journalists who are not harmful. “

A person of concern may show up if they have visited the province multiple times or have been accused of criminal conduct in the past. But the system doesn’t stop at journalists either.

Foreign students are also included in the system. The documents state that the system will classify “excellent foreign students, general staff, and key people and unstable staff”. The ranking is based on the “discipline compliance” at the school as well as the attendance and examination results. A student of concern is being tracked based on data from his time in China.

“Suspects must be followed and controlled, dynamic research analysis and risk assessments carried out, and journalists treated according to their category,” said the documents, which also mention “stranded women” – immigrants who are not Chinese.

Unsurprisingly, such a dystopian-sounding system was not welcomed by free speech advocates. Human Rights Watch told the BBC, “This is not a government that needs more power to persecute more people … especially those who might try to bring them peacefully to account.”

Photo: Harald Groven / Flickr

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