WeChat, Facial Recognition in China’s Police State Targets Falun Gong
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is known to have constructed the most robust internet and mass-surveillance system in the world. The Communist regime deploys this system to suppress freedom of expression and religion, including to target Falun Gong practitioners. Over the past year, numerous cases have emerged of Falun Gong practitioners being identified, detained, and prosecuted because of these technologies.
WeChat Discussions, Information Sharing Lead to Arrests
The Chinese messaging app WeChat is owned by Chinese internet giant Tencent and has over one billion monthly active users worldwide. Tencent, like all large companies in China, must follow the Communist Party’s censorship and surveillance policies. In recent years, human rights groups have reported on numerous cases of Chinese citizens who were detained and sentenced after sham trials to long prison terms, simply because they tried to share information on WeChat, including about Falun Gong. Since January 2020, using its network of sources in China, the website Minghui.org has documented several new cases of WeChat users being detained or prosecuted because of Falun Gong-related content. For example:
Facial Recognition Deployed to Monitor, Detain Falun Gong Practitioners
The 2020 Annual Report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom states, “The Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor religious minorities.”
Indeed, the CCP’s high-tech surveillance state is capable of monitoring Chinese citizens anywhere in the country, using a combination of several technology projects such as Skynet and Dazzling Snow. Numerous Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested through the use of these technologies and systems.
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Skynet is a massive urban surveillance and facial recognition system. According to some estimates Skynet could have up to 600 million cameras installed in China—approximately one camera for every two people in the country. Dazzling Snow is the CCP’s rural counterpart to Skynet, which uses cameras to monitor citizens throughout villages and the countryside. Facial recognition technology enables the cameras to quickly identify citizens. Falun Gong practitioners known to police have long been considered targets of detailed surveillance, with their biometrics and other data collected and stored in “key individual” databases for over a decade, facilitating cross-referencing and identification. The following are several cases from recent years, where Falun Gong practitioners were clearly detected in different parts of China using facial recognition systems and subsequently detained: