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posted by martyb on Wednesday July 03 2019, @02:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the electronic-palandir dept.

China Snares Tourists' Phones in Surveillance Dragnet by Adding Secret App

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. Now, the digital dragnet is expanding beyond Xinjiang's residents, ensnaring tourists, traders and other visitors — and digging deep into their smartphones.

A team of journalists from The New York Times and other publications examined a policing app used in the region, getting a rare look inside the intrusive technologies that China is deploying in the name of quelling Islamic radicalism and strengthening Communist Party rule in its Far West. The use of the app has not been previously reported.

China's border authorities routinely install the app on smartphones belonging to travelers who enter Xinjiang by land from Central Asia, according to several people interviewed by the journalists who crossed the border recently and requested anonymity to avoid government retaliation. Chinese officials also installed the app on the phone of one of the journalists during a recent border crossing. Visitors were required to turn over their devices to be allowed into Xinjiang. 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.

“The Chinese government, both in law and practice, often conflates peaceful religious activities with terrorism,” Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said. “You can see in Xinjiang, privacy is a gateway right: Once you lose your right to privacy, you’re going to be afraid of practicing your religion, speaking what’s on your mind or even thinking your thoughts.”

Xinjiang.

Also at The Guardian and The Hill.

Related: China Bans Islam-Related Names in Xinjiang
Massive DNA Collection Campaign in Xinjiang, China
China Forces its Muslim Minority to Install Spyware on Their Phones
Massive DNA Collection Campaign Continues in Xinjiang, China


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 03 2019, @06:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 03 2019, @06:55PM (#862849)

    If i were running china I would just banish all Muslims. Who cares whose land it used to be. You lose, now get out before we use you for military practice.