China Aims For Near-Total Surveillance, Including in People's Homes

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Chinese paramilitary firefighters stand guard beneath a light pole with security cameras at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 8, 2018.
Chinese paramilitary firefighters stand guard beneath a light pole with security cameras at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 8, 2018.
AP Photo

By 2020, China will have completed its nationwide facial recognition and surveillance network, achieving near-total surveillance of urban residents, including in their homes via smart TVs and smartphones.

According to the official Legal Daily newspaper, the 13th Five Year Plan requires 100 percent surveillance and facial recognition coverage and total unification of its existing databases across the country.

Authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan reported in December that they had completed the installation of more than 40,000 surveillance cameras across more than 14,000 villages as part of the "Sharp Eyes" nationwide surveillance network, the paper said.

Guangdong-based Bell New Vision Co. is developing the nationwide "Sharp Eyes" platform that can link up public surveillance cameras and those installed in smart devices in the home, to a nationwide network for viewing in real time by anyone who is given access.

"Sharp Eyes" comes from a ruling Chinese Communist Party slogan, "the people have sharp eyes," which traditionally relied on the eyes and ears of local neighborhood committees to keep tabs on what its people were up to.

Soon, police and other officials will be able to monitor people's activities in their own homes, wherever there is an internet-connected camera.

A Chinese internet user who asked to remain anonymous said the social media platform WeChat has also begun issuing warnings to anyone posting messages that the government deems undesirable.

"The internet and our smartphones have been under government surveillance for a long time already," the user said. "A friend of mine in Anhui is under surveillance, and he tried to buy a plane ticket to go overseas, but he couldn't leave the country."

"We can be placed under restriction or persecuted by them, or asked to 'drink tea,' [with state security police], or placed under surveillance, at any time," he said.

"Overall, it feels as if we're not free at all."

A worker installs a security camera pointed at a pedestrian walk way in Beijing, Dec. 11, 2017. Credit: AP Photo
'Social credit' system

The Sharp Eyes system will be implemented in tandem with a "social credit" system that makes simple actions like buying a train ticket subject to sufficient social credit.

Under a pilot social credit scheme, people who are considered to be "troublemakers" by the authorities, including those who have tried fare-dodging, smoked on public transport, caused trouble on commercial flights or "spread false information" online will now be prevented from buying train tickets, the government announced earlier this month.

Employers who fail to pay social insurance or people who have failed to pay fines will also be on the restricted list, which takes effect on May 1.

The administration of President’s Xi Jinping is currently building a social credit system allowing government bodies to share information on its citizens’ trustworthiness and assign a "social credit score" to citizens.

In early 2017, the country’s Supreme People’s Court said that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had been banned from taking flights for social misdeeds, Reuters reported.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Comments (12)


@Anonymous Reader, you are very right. This type of surveillance already exists in the west. However, China is testing it out first, after which it will be rolled out worldwide within the next 10-20 years.

Apr 05, 2018 08:45 AM

Anonymous Reader

Even the leaders are brainwashed, they grew up under Mao. The cultural revolution completed the madness of this state cult.

Apr 03, 2018 01:48 PM

Anonymous Reader

Brainwashing and total surveillance does sound like a bad cult to me.

Apr 03, 2018 01:45 PM

Michael Kilgariff B Theol Dip Ed

from Australia

The issues are complex.
They deserve subtle and careful comment.

I must remark that, using the template of English history since 1066 the days of the absolute monarch are talked about in the past tense.

Mr Putin and my Xi, like Mr Kim serve at the pleasure of their subjects.

The BBC implies that London,UK is the go to place to dump money.

Apr 03, 2018 06:16 AM


Well thank goodness we real leaders like Clinton, bush and Obama for the past 25 years! Otherwise our government would be on track to do to America what the communist party has done in China.

Oh yeah, wait a minute...

Apr 02, 2018 06:09 PM

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