Database Entry: China: Big Data Fuels Crackdown in Minority Region
Surveillance Use of technology

China: Big Data Fuels Crackdown in Minority Region

February 26, 2018
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Since August 2016, the Xinjiang Bureau of Public Security has posted procurement notices confirming the establishment of the “Integrated Joint Operations Platform” (IJOP, 一体化联合作战平台), a system that receives data on individuals from many different sources. Kashgar Prefecture appears to be one of the first areas where the system is complete and in regular use.

IJOP gathers information from multiple sources or “sensors.” One source is CCTV cameras, some of which have facial recognition or infrared capabilities (giving them “night vision”). Some cameras are positioned in locations police consider sensitive: entertainment venues, supermarkets, schools, and homes of religious figures.

IJOP gathers information from “wifi sniffers,” which collect the unique identifying addresses of computers, smartphones, and other networked devices.

The IJOP also receives information such as license plate numbers and citizen ID card numbers from some of the region’s countless security checkpoints and from “visitors’ management systems” in access-controlled communities. The vehicle checkpoints transmit information to IJOP, and “receive, in real time, predictive warnings pushed by the IJOP” so they can “identify targets… for checks and control.”

The IJOP also draws on existing information, such as one’s vehicle ownership, health, family planning, banking, and legal records, according to official reports. Police and local officials are also required to submit to IJOP information on any activity they deem “unusual” and anything “related to stability” they have spotted during home visits and policing. One interviewee said that possession of many books, for example, would be reported to IJOP, if there is no ready explanation, such as having teaching as one’s profession.

Police officers, local Party and government cadres, and fanghuiju (访惠聚, an acronym which stands for Visit the People, Benefit the People, and Get Together the Hearts of the People [访民情、惠民生、聚民心]) teams are also deployed to visit people at home to gather data

An Urumqi-based businessman shared with Human Rights Watch a form he was made to fill out for submission to the IJOP program in 2017. That form asked questions on religious practices, such as how many times the person prays every day and name of the person’s regular mosque; whether and where the person had traveled abroad, including to any of “26 [sensitive] countries”; and their “involvement with [political] instability,” including via relatives. The form also asks whether the person is a Uyghur, has been flagged by the IJOP, and is “trustworthy” to the authorities.

According to official and state media reports, the IJOP regularly “pushes” information of interest and lists of names of people of interest to police, Chinese Communist Party, and government officials for further investigation. Officials then are supposed to act on these clues that same day (不过夜), including through face-to-face visits.