HONG KONG--Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong are stepping up plans to install security cameras in schools, factories, and other public places amid fears of growing social unrest.
According to a new directive from provincial police, security cameras are now compulsory in public areas in all schools, colleges, hospitals, hotels, and parks, as well as Internet cafes and bars.
"The police network of security cameras has already become an important weapon in safeguarding public security and stability," China's official Xinhua news agency commented on the "Guidelines for the management of the network of public security cameras in Guangdong province."
"The new rules, which take effect from April 1, now clarify the extent of construction of the system, the main themes, methods of management, and who has legal responsibility in the event of the rules being broken," Xinhua said.
Security network extended
Cameras must now be installed in the lobbies, main rooms, and receptions of hotels and guest-houses, places of entertainment, Internet cafes, and hospitals, the rules say.
Also to be included in the ever-expanding network of security cameras are primary and high schools, colleges and universities, museums, art galleries, radio and television stations, and newspapers.
"Failure to install cameras in these locations will lead to a 10,000 yuan (U.S.$1,463) fine," the police rules said.
"The cost of installation and purchase of equipment can be reclaimed from the government."
Fear of social unrest
The move comes as the authorities struggle to cope with a wave of labor disputes and unemployed migrants in the wake of the global financial crisis, which has led to widespread factory closures in China's formerly booming coastal cities.
Guangdong-based labor rights activist Xiao Qingshan said the measures would present problems for workers fighting for their rights, and would further silence oppressed people in China.
He said the government is likely to use footage from the cameras to attack anyone trying to fight legally to uphold their rights.
"We are going about our business openly. If they want to keep watch on what we are doing, then the Chinese Communist Party is without shame," Xiao said.
"What we are doing is glorious."
A security guard at Guangzhou's Dahua Hotel said a surveillance camera system had already been installed there.
"We have cameras at our hotel. I think it's pretty good. We need them," he said.
"That way it will take video of criminals which is useful for law enforcement."
But a resident of Foshan city said he would think twice now about attending public salons discussing democracy.
"There isn't anywhere that doesn't have security cameras now. They even have them on the traffic lights, in the alleyways, and at the market," he said.
"I'm a bit worried. I don't really dare to go out to the democracy salons that I was going to before, in case they are designated as illegal meetings," the Foshan resident said.
Public security departments in many of China's major cities are speeding up the installation of surveillance cameras, CCTV, and other equipment in places such as airports, railway stations, bus-stops, and busy intersections in urban areas.
The Guangdong government estimates that around a million new security cameras will be installed across the Pearl River Delta region by the end of the year.
In Guangzhou, the city government has spent millions of yuan installing cameras on major roads and on public transport in recent years in a bid to reduce the city's high crime rates.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Tang Qiwei and in Cantonese by Bi Zhimu. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.