Radio Free China

Human Rights and Religious Freedom News

China’s New Big Brother Scheme

Posted by radiofreechina on August 18, 2007

By Hillary White

SHENZEN, China, August 17, 2007 ( – Face recognition software installed in 200,000 close circuit tv cameras; government monitoring of all personal computers and cell phones; a central computer system that will store data on all citizens including the number of their children, education records, medical and credit histories, medical insurance status, names and phone numbers of landlords and employment histories and ethnicity.

All of this may sound like something out of a futuristic spy thriller or dystopian science fiction novel, but it will soon become the reality for citizens of the large southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, where it is being run as a pilot project by China’s national security. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Chinese government announced the technology to run the scheme will be provided by China Public Security Technology, a company run by Chinese entrepreneurs and registered in Florida

This “complete surveillance” system will be integrated, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security, with the already existing “Golden Shield Project” that censors and controls Chinese citizens’ internet use. The Golden Shield Project, also called the Great Firewall of China, was established in 1998 when the ruling Communist party feared the potential political power of the internet.

At that time, the government feared that the newly-founded China Democracy Party (CDP) would use the internet to reach the masses via internet, email and paging systems and create a popular network that the government might not be able to control. The CDP was banned and its leaders arrested, but the Golden Shield Project remains to monitor citizens’ activities on the net. The second phase of the Project began in 2006.

In testimony he presented to the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China in 2003, Greg Walton, an independent research consultant said, “In the absence of democratic accountability, nationwide database-driven surveillance systems – for example – will be used against the interests of the general public in a systematically destructive way.”

Walton works with international human rights NGO’s, focusing his research on the impact of the internet on human rights and democracy. In a 2001 report he said that in China, “old style censorship is being replaced with a massive, ubiquitous architecture of surveillance.”

“Ultimately, Walton wrote, “the aim is to integrate a gigantic online database with an all-encompassing surveillance network – incorporating speech and face recognition, closed-circuit television, smart cards, credit records, and Internet surveillance technologies.”


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