Beijing announced an “action plan” this week for monitoring residents’ behavior, adding that the city expects to have its social credit system fully implemented by the end of 2020.
Beijing plans to reward and punish its residents based on data that will be collected from various departments monitoring citizens’ social behavior, according to a detailed “action plan” posted on Monday to the city’s municipal website.
By the beginning of 2020, the announcement declares, China’s capital city will have all residents officially locked into the permanent surveillance program, part of a broader effort to have every Chinese citizen rated on a “social credit system” decreeing what public services a person can use based on their obedience to laws and loyalty to the communist regime.
The government will use the data collected to assess citizens’ behavior to decide if an individual is law-abiding and “trustworthy” to the Communist Party.
Residents who behave properly in the eyes of the Chinese government will receive high credit scores, while residents who misbehave will receive low scores, causing them to lead more difficult lives.
“Efforts will be made to build a market supervision mechanism with corporate credit as the core,” states Beijing’s municipal website, adding that it will explore the implementation of what it calls “the personal integrity project,” which will utilize residents’ credit scores for “market access, public services, tourism,” and “fields such as entrepreneurship and job hunting.”
Higher scores can also open the “green channel,” which will expedite residents’ applications for higher quality “education and medical resources.”
“Those who violate the law and lose trust will pay a heavy price,” adds the government website, stating that it will “improve the blacklist system” and that residents will find themselves “limited everywhere, and difficult to move” if they are deemed untrustworthy by the Communists in control.
Communist China’s control of every aspect of their citizen’s lives should serve as a cautionary tale for Americans, who, willingly offer up more and more of their freedoms every day in the name of progressivism.
While China’s permanent surveillance and social credit ranking of China’s citizens is shocking, the largely ignored story of China’s “Strike Hard” campaign, which involves the internment of up to one million Uighur and Kazakh citizens in camps by the Communist Party of China is even more stunning.
According to Foreign Policy– The Communist Party of China has little incentive to reveal the inner workings of the vast system of surveillance and terror it has built to control the 12 million Uighur and Kazakh citizens of China’s westernmost region. From the party’s perspective, the further away the global spotlight is from its activities the better.
But we now have a rough outline of what is happening to the people of the region. In response to growing tensions between Han Chinese and the Uighur population of Xinjiang itself, the recruitment of Uighurs to fight in the Syrian civil war, and several terrorist attacks orchestrated by Uighur separatists, the party launched what it called the Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism. Despite its name, the campaign’s targets are not limited to terrorists. No Uighur living in Xinjiang can escape the shadow of the party nor can members of other ethnic minorities, especially Kazakhs.
Some of the methods used to surveil and coerce the population of Xinjiang are straight from the dystopian imagination: The party has collected the DNA, iris scans, and voice samples of the province’s Uighur population, regularly scans the contents of their digital devices, uses digitally coded ID cards to track their movements, and trains CCTV cameras on their homes, streets, and marketplaces.
To students of Chinese history, other elements of the system are depressingly familiar. Cultural Revolution-style struggle sessions have been resurrected: Uighurs now gather in public meetings to denounce their relatives and publicly admit their personal political sins. Most worrisome of all is the vast network of political education camps that have been created to hold and “re-educate” Uighurs who are too attached to their mother culture. Somewhere between 600,000 and 1.2 million Uighurs—that is, approximately one out of 12—are being held in these camps.
A central element of this campaign is uncertainty. It is difficult to judge which of these items are official policy and which are simply the result of ad hoc decisions made by local officials. This is likely by design. One Uighur interviewee told HRW how he simply stopped using his smartphone because he could not tell which websites were allowed and which might incriminate him; another described how she stopped talking to neighbors and strangers altogether because she did not want to unintentionally say something that might bring the police to her door. Vagueness breeds fear. Fear makes the people subject to the Communist Party’s campaigns easier to control.
China’s crackdown has some Uighurs in Xinjiang worried that their own children will incriminate them, whether accidentally or because teachers urge kids to spy on their parents, according to Rian Thum, a historian of Islam in China. “Everybody’s just scared to death of their children. They’re scared that their children will tell their teachers in school something about their religious habits that will get them singled out for punishment or internment in the camps.”
Listing out the activities barred and items banned by the party betrays its true aim. Some of these items—such as the prohibition on extra knives and welding equipment—are plausibly related to terrorist activities. Most of these items, however, have less to do with violence than with ethnic identity or religious piety. Forcing Uighurs to drink and prohibiting them from praying is not about ending terrorism. It is about forcing Uighurs to violate their religious beliefs. Forcing Kazakhs to use Chinese and prohibiting them from celebrating traditional festivals and holidays is not about ending terrorism. It is about forcing Kazakhs to act like Han Chinese.
The goal of the Strike Hard Campaign is not, as China claims, purely to destroy terrorists but to destroy minority religion and identity altogether. It has created an atmosphere of constant fear, in which Uighurs dread the invisible lines placed around every aspect of their lives. In what it calls a campaign against terrorism, China has created a state of terror.