China to Fight Terror With Increased Surveillance
Chinese state media has reported that state surveillance and security measures will increase as part of an ongoing crackdown on terrorism launched in response to an upswing in violence in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China. Reuters’ Megha Rajagopalan reports:
China will establish a national population database linked to ID information and credit records, state media reported late on Monday, as part of a larger push to beef up surveillance and security in response to violent unrest.
[…] The latest steps also include assigning more security forces to public transport, including buses, trains and subways, as well as to schools, financial institutions and hospitals, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a statement issued by the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, China’s cabinet.
[…] The measures will help “prevent violence, terrorist attacks or extreme events”, the report said.
The statement calls for a “security network that covers all grassroots communities”, using more surveillance cameras. [Source]
The nationwide anti-terror drive was launched as a yearlong initiative last May and extended through the end of 2015 in January. So far, it has seen enhanced security measures in Xinjiang and throughout China, and intelligence gathering campaigns relying on official efforts, drone surveillance, and also cash rewards for community members who report religious and “separatist” activity.
The South China Morning Post’s Nectar Gan reports further on the State Council’s instructions for greater surveillance:
The orders from the State Council include increasing the network of surveillance cameras in public areas and setting up more joint patrols between the police and the People’s Armed Police, a force regularly deployed to quell riots and to react to emergencies and terrorist incidents.
[…] The State Council directive said its aim was “strengthening the prevention and control system of public security”.
The directive says special attention should be paid to increasing the number of surveillance cameras in rural areas and at the edge of cities.
The document also highlights a measure announced last year to update a population database so that more information is stored along with people’s identity card number. [Source]
In addition to security and surveillance measures, special attention has been directed towards countering Islam, an extreme interpretation of which authorities blame for directly stoking unrest in Xinjiang’s Uyghur community. This has included campaigns against religious garb and custom, culminating in the recent criminalization of beards and Islamic veils in some areas of Xinjiang. Many observers have suggested that the repressive policies of the current crackdown in Xinjiang may be driving Uyghurs to violence.
In a report for Washington-based security think tank Project 2049, Julia Famularo summarizes recent policy developments—including security measures, increased censorship, and religious regulation—in Xinjiang to conclude that Beijing’s strategy of targeting religious practice is not the right approach to addressing a genuine security concern:
Chinese authorities are undertaking a longterm campaign to gradually erase the unique cultural differences that separate Turkic minorities from the Chinese majority, with the goal of incorporating them fully into the Chinese nation-state. The Chinese Communist Party is thus concerned by the marked increase in ethno-religious tensions since the 2009 unrest. Beijing has begun to shift its rhetoric and approach to the “Xinjiang problem,” even if its ultimate mission remains unchanged. […] If Chinese authorities wish to address the “great rift of distrust” that exists between Uyghur and Chinese societies, then it should reconsider how it manages religious policy. While China faces legitimate security concerns in the region, prohibiting normal religious activities is not the appropriate solution. Severely curbing religious freedom in the name of fighting religious extremism will only increase inter-ethnic tension and enhance the prospects for societal turmoil. [Source]