China is adopting new tactics to quell the country’s biggest protests in 30 years.
Using advanced spy technology, the protesters were located and threatened into silence.
– If they want, they can definitely find us, says the demonstrator Wang.
In the middle of the night, the Chinese police raided the homes of the protesters and took them away against their will. For more than a day, they were held and interrogated while searching their phones for banned apps such as Twitter and Telegram.
The fact that protesters are so easy to find is because the Chinese police have access to one of the most advanced surveillance systems in the world. The New York Times.
Some were tracked via their mobile phones. Others were identified through facial recognition on any of the surveillance cameras located on millions of street corners across the country.
– I knew the dangers of going to such a gathering. Wang, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The New York Times if they want to find us, they can definitely succeed.
He says the phone call from the police only lasted ten minutes, but they did their best to scare him.
– He clearly said that this was my last chance, says Wang.
According to Chinese researcher Alkan Akkad, who works for Amnesty International, this is the first time the surveillance system has been directed at a large crowd in wealthier cities.
– We hear stories of policemen showing up on their doorsteps asking for their whereabouts during protests and this appears to be based on evidence gathered through mass surveillance, he says.
– “Big Brother Technology” in China has never stopped, and the government hopes that it can now be effective in dispelling unrest.
Lawyer Wang Shengsheng, who represents 20 protesters, believes that the police are searching phones to find lines of communication with dignitaries and prevent further progress of the protest movement.
– This is something we’ve never seen before. This time, she says, it is clear that phones are the ones police are paying the most attention to Washington Post.
“Dragd 50 Meters”
The protests, which erupted after an apartment fire in the city of Urumqi killed ten people after they were locked behind closed doors by COVID-19 patients, are being described as the most violent since the Tiananmen Square demonstration stops in 1989.
The demonstrators witnessed how the police were initially escorted to sleep, smiled and let them pass at the roadblocks that had been set up, but then became more and more strict.
Videos on social media show protesters being beaten and dragged away
– The police dragged me 50 meters away, and my underwear was exposed, said Kong, who was targeted after trying to prevent them from arresting other demonstrators, Foreign Policy.
The Chinese police did not want to answer how many people were arrested during the demonstration centers.