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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Big Brother Keeps 7 Million Eyes on Chinese

August 5, 2010

John Rossomando
August 3, 2010

Millions of cameras have sprouted throughout
China, creating an Orwellian situation in which
the state monitors its people wherever they go.

According to The New York Times, 7 million
cameras watch the daily movements of the Chinese
people, watching them in the streets, hotel
lobbies, businesses, and places of worship.
Experts expect that number to increase by an
additional 15 million cameras by 2014.

Last year, China’s Ministry of State Security
reported that police had installed 2.5 million
cameras nationwide, mostly in urban public
spaces, and it had asked police forces in rural
areas to place cameras in the areas under their
control, according to a Times story today.

China keeps tight controls over its people and
requires Internet cafe users to be photographed
so they can be monitored. These cameras are
required to be linked to government offices.

In southern China’s Guangdong province alone,
adjacent to Hong Kong, security officials have
invested $1.8 billion installing 1 million
cameras in cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the Times reported.

Guangdong provincial officials claim these
cameras deterred 18,000 street crimes prior to
the installation of all 1 million cameras.

Beijing is expected to have 470,000 cameras by
the end of 2009, a representative of the Beijing
Security and Protection Industry Association told
the Times. Chongquing, in southwestern China,
will add 200,000 cameras the 300,000 it already has by 2012.

"This is not a self-contained system of video
surveillance, but one part in a much larger
architecture of surveillance that includes
Internet monitoring and censorship,
telecommunications and law enforcement
databases," Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based
researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in an
e-mail exchange with the times. “Privacy
safeguards are simply nonexistent in China,
making the state entirely free to mobilize this
architecture for political ends.”

Bequelin believes the cameras aim to control the
entire Chinese population and not just the
handful of dissidents it keeps under 24-hour
video surveillance, the Times reported.

China has begun using cameras in areas such as
Xinjiang, in northwestern China, and Tibet, where
ethnic clashes have occurred in recent years
between ethnic Chinese and local indigenous populations, to keep order.

Authorities have installed 47,000 cameras in
Urumqi, the largest city in western China, which
was rocked last year by ethnic clashes between
Xinjiang’s native Islamic Uighur population and
ethnic Chinese. The riots caught Communist Party
officials off guard, and China’s state news media
reports there will be 60,000 by the end of this year.

The cameras’ presence has divided the Uighur and
ethnic Chinese populations, with each having a different stance.

Ethnic Chinese such as Xie Gang, 42, told the
Times they feel the cameras are a good thing.

"I think the whole thing was probably triggered
by the incident last July," the Times quoted Xie
Gang as saying. "But the significance of the
cameras is not to crack down on the rioters, but
to prevent crimes. If something happens, the
message will get to the authorities right away."

The region’s Uighurs have a more cynical take on
China’s zeal to monitor their every move on Urumqui’s streets.

"Oh, the security is very, very good here," an
unidentified Uighur sarcastically told the Times,
when asked about the cameras’ deterrence of
crime. "You can see the police patrolling everywhere."
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