Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Facial Recognition Aids Persecution of Chinese Christians, Muslims

Western companies still seek business ties with an increasingly authoritarian regime
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Bob Fu.jpg
Bob Fu

Pastor Bob Fu, a Chinese civil rights activist since Tiananmen Square in 1989 and founder of ChinaAid, reports that facial recognition technology is being used to discourage churchgoing in China:

The government-sanctioned churches that are allowed to exist right now have unique restrictions. Each church has to install a facial-recognition camera in front of the pulpit. The purpose is to identify certain people in the congregation.

Many classes of people are banned from entering into any church. These include young people under 18 years old, college students, doctors or medical professionals, civil servants, military members and educators. If they’re found, immediately their boss or a government official will be speaking with them. These are huge ramifications right now.Josh Shepherd, “China Demolishes Crosses, Mandates Surveillance in Churches as Religious Persecution Rises” at The Stream

Students who say they are Christians are interrogated at school until most deny their faith.

This is part of an intensive crackdown, as ChinaAid reports:

churches that do not join a government church network are closed/ChinaAid

In China, in order to be considered a legal venue, churches must become state-run churches—otherwise known as Three-Self Churches—allowing officials to monitor them. As a result, many churches do not register with the government.

The local neighborhood committee, police officers, and domestic security authorities have harassed these churches, prohibiting them from holding services. The officials also sent people to monitor and investigate the churches, and the Christians were told their gatherings should be immediately stopped. Four churches given ultimatum: join government network or face closure” at ChinaAid

Christians are treated with special wariness because they are associated with Western political values but, as Shepherd points out, there are severe persecutions of Muslims in China as well:

The Chinese government regime has designed special headphones for the Uyghurs [Muslims of Chinese descent] to wear. They have to have them on seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It broadcasts the Communist Party songs to brainwash them. After three days of hearing this nonstop, how could you bear that? Many have gone crazy.

In September, a Uyghur refugee in England told media:

At present, there are face-recognition cameras everywhere, QR codes have been installed outside the houses as well as inside kitchen utensils belonging to Uyghur Muslims. Women are being forced to marry Han Chinese. At any time, Uyghur’s can be stopped by police and sent to the camps – it seems people are not allowed to even think without China’s permission. Gulnaz Uighur, “I’m a Uyghur Muslim who fled China’s brutal crackdown – it’s time the world showed us some support” at The Independent

Western technology companies are prepared to co-operate with the Chinese government’s efforts to restrict information to citizens. For example,

Eight years after Google initially took a stand against Internet censorship by exiting the Chinese search market, we are disappointed to learn the company has been secretly re-considering an extended collaboration with the massive censorship and surveillance-wielding state. According to an Intercept report released at the beginning of the month, Google is working on a censored version of its search service for release in China. Sydney Li, “Google Needs To Come Clean About Its Chinese Plans” at Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 15, 2018

The crackdown on religion is said to stem from Xi Jinping, who became President in 2012. After he got term limits removed in March 2018, some have begun to privately call him “Emperor Xi.”

Hat tip: Eric Holloway

See also: If a robot read the news, would you notice a difference? The Chinese government thinks not. Is this the way of the future?

Chilling snippet from mass surveillance in China China is helping other countries restrict their citizens’ internet, while shunning the U.S.

and

Senior Google scientist quits over Google’s censorship in China