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Taiwan report: China about to complete massive monitoring system

December 11, 2008

Taiwan News, Staff Writer
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China is about to complete its “Golden Shield” project monitoring the movements, phone conversations and online activities on the whole of its territory, the Chinese-language Liberty Times said in its Tuesday edition.
The project will lead to the shrinking of Internet freedom, human rights and personal freedoms, and to a massive invasion of privacy, the newspaper said in a report on its front page.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council describes the project as a high-tech online version of China’s notorious Public Security system. It’s a 21st-century electronic version of the communist totalitarian supervision system, combining an information database with a penetrating observation network, the MAC says in an analysis report.
Development of the system began in 1998, with a first version coming online in September 2003, the Liberty Times says. The Golden Shield officially went into full mode in November 2006, but due to technical problems, an improved version won’t come online until later this month.
In addition to the online supervision network, Chinese authorities are also planning to install 200,000 security cameras nationwide, including in the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai, to tighten their information about what is going on in society, the newspaper says.
Apart from the technical infrastructure, China is also employing up to 300,000 people in new government organizations created to manage the system, according to the Liberty Times.
The MAC sees the new system as a potential attack weapon which can erase online comments not sympathetic to China during a major news event. It can also guide online discussion into the direction desired by the authorities.
The government employees managing the system could also be ordered to turn their expertise into an attack force, disseminating computer viruses and launching hacker attacks against unfriendly web sites, the MAC says in a report.
The Golden Shield project has also attracted commercial interests, with business participating in the development of the advanced technology or giving in to China’s demands for information, the Liberty Times writes.
Sometimes, opponents of the regime still succeed in breaking through the limits imposed by the Golden Shield system, the newspaper reports, quoting the example of an environmental protest in Xiamen in June 2007. Protesters using cell phone text messaging succeeded in rallying 20,000 people for a march against a chemical plant project by fugitive Taiwan tycoon Chen Yu-hao before the authorities shut down the texting network, the paper says.
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