China cracks down on protesters.
Johannes HillickRedaktor news
In the fight against nationwide protests, China relies on high technology and toughness. Police appear to be using facial recognition software and cellphone data to track and arrest participants, said Wang Shengsheng, a Zhengzhou city human rights lawyer who provides free legal advice to protesters. The reason for the protests is the strict corona policy With their strict, continuous lockdowns. However, they are now generally directed against the Communist leadership.
In the capital Beijing, the prosecutor suspects that police may have used location data from phones recorded by on-site scanners or taxi drivers when checking the Corona app. “Many callers from Beijing were confused because even though they had passed through a demonstration, they were contacted by the police. We don’t know how exactly they did it,” says Wang. In other cities, police appear to have used surveillance camera footage and facial recognition.
More than 20 people have consulted the lawyer in the past few days. Some of them expressed themselves, while others worried about friends and relatives who had been arrested. However, most of those arrested were released on the same day, Wang says.
Telegram accounts are misused
According to the prosecutor, police in Shanghai confiscated the mobile phones of all those questioned. “All your data can be downloaded,” she suspects. Callers from southern China’s Guangdong told Wang that their Telegram accounts had been hacked after police recorded their IDs on their way to rallies.
Friends of arrested Beijing protesters said their friends’ Telegram accounts were used while they were in custody – suggesting police had reached out to them. Reports of arrests and intimidation spread in protesters’ encrypted chat groups, accessible only in China with restricted VPN software – urging all participants to delete chat histories, videos and photos from the demos.
On China’s most monitored online networks, users who post about protests can be tracked more easily because they must register with their real names.
“You have no privacy”
Journalists from the AFP news agency observed several police officers filming protesters in Beijing on Sunday. One demonstrator told AFP that she and five of her friends were called by police after a protest march in the embassy district. He was ordered to the police station on Tuesday but sent back as he did not have a current corona test.
In Shanghai, an AFP reporter witnessed several arrests. Police forcibly took a protester’s phone to check apps on foreign online networks banned in China. These are used to organize protests. “They have no privacy,” the officer told a 17-year-old protester in Shanghai.
“In normal criminal cases, when people go missing or are killed, they don’t use high-tech surveillance technologies,” says Wang. “But in public protests, highly developed digital technologies are openly used,” complains the lawyer. “If our phones can be confiscated and manipulated at will, what freedom do we have?” (AFP/jmh)
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