Since mid-July, mobile phones must have a self-monitoring app, ostensibly to fight terrorism, but in fact to scrutinise their content. This gives Chinese police the means to check out anyone. This worries human rights organisations.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Since mid-July, Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, north-western China, have to install an application ostensibly designed to monitor terrorism but is in fact meant to monitor phone content. Anyone who refuses to install the spyware app could get ten days in prison.
Everything started on 13 July, when local authorities ordered Uyghurs to download Jing Wang (Clean Internet in Mandarin), an app that automatically detects videos, images, e-books and religious documents stored in mobile phones.
The goal is to seek out terrorist content and impose electronic self-monitoring on people. With every mobile phone thus self-monitored, Chinese police can check anyone with no one able to avoid it, a situation that concerns human rights organisations.
“The authorities have a lot of explaining to do about this software, including what it does," said Maya Wang, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.
“While the authorities have the responsibility to protect public safety, including by fighting terrorism, such mass collection of data from ordinary people is a form of mass surveillance and an intrusion to privacy," she added.
Indeed, it is still not clear what would happen if sensitive material was found. The latter would certainly be deleted, but what would happen to the owners of the phone?