After recent violent attacks in China which left five citizens dead and almost 40 injured, the Chinese government has come up with a new method to impose stricter surveillance over China’s different minority groups. The system is now prepared to monitor calls, online messages, and even language embedded in images in a variety of minority languages. The government assures that this will help them avoid other violent episodes, although many fear that the new surveillance method will lead to the suppression of the minorities in the country.
New Surveillance System
The new surveillance system can detect every major language in China, as well as Arabic and Japanese. It can also decode messages embedded in images, one of the main ways in which information is being sent to avoid the control of the Chinese government because most of the old equipment cannot decipher the messages. The new surveillance system is particularly targeted to areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet, where languages such as Uyghur and Tibetic are spoken.
Old Surveillance System and its Difficulties
Before the new system, officials used to fail to understand the locals and therefore see their surveillance job hindered by the language barrier. According to the Chinese government, October’s attack at Tianamen Square, which was attributed to Xinjiang separatists, could possibly have been prevented if the government had had access to phone calls or messages with some hints about the matter. Even though there was a vast surveillance system in China which employed thousands of people to skim through online communication, the system required an operator who spoke the language which was being analysed. Another constraint was that it could only deal with one language at a time.
Now, the new technology allows for first-hand information which can be accessed in real time, stated Ding Xiaoqing, a professor at Tsinghua University’s Centre for Intelligent Image and Document Information Processing. In opposition to this view, many rights advocacy groups around the world have warned about the possible negative consequences the extended surveillance can have. Moreover, many fear that suppression of minority groups might be a possible consequence of the new system.