News World

China brings new method to surveil Uyghurs: driverless police cars

Source: Wikimedia Commons

China has introduced a new method of surveillance in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: 20 driverless electric patrol vehicles, RFA reported.

In Karamay (in Chinese, Kelemayi), an oil-rich city in the region’s north, China began testing its first domestically manufactured, high-tech patrol car.

According to Zhao Wenchuan, secretary of the city’s Chinese Communist Party Committee, Karamay was chosen as the production and testing base for the smart patrol vehicles because it is the region’s leading digital city.

According to Chinese media reports, the unmanned surveillance patrol vehicles will be deployed throughout Xinjiang.

According to a March 30 report by the Karamay Daily, the cars, dubbed the “Little Patrol,” are manufactured by Zhongke Tianji (Xinjiang) Aerospace Information Co. Ltd.

Experts on China’s Xinjiang policies expressed concern about the deployment of self-driving surveillance vehicles.

“This is just the next step in setting up that perfect police state, ensuring that the police have total power,” said Geoffrey Cain, a US journalist who wrote the book “The Perfect Police State: An Undercover Odyssey into China’s Terrifying Surveillance Dystopia of the Future”, RFA reported.

While China’s use of surveillance technology in the XUAR is nothing new, the use of autonomous police vehicles is meant to serve as another warning to local residents, according to him.

“The Chinese government likes to pretend that it is the master of technology, that it has all the best technology, but what it’s really doing is scaring the people,” Cain told RFA. “It’s scaring the Uyghur people by making it look like the technology is sophisticated when the equipment is quite basic and elementary.”

“It’s more like the perception or the idea that the (government) is always watching that makes people scared. It’s just that they don’t realise when or where they’re being watched,” he said.

According to Maya Wang, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government’s use of driverless patrol vehicles in Karamay is part of the Chinese government’s efforts to improve and expand the XUAR’s police surveillance system.

“The deployment of these cars certainly is part of that intensive investment in policing, surveillance and repression in the region,” she said, RFA reported.

“The violation of the right to privacy has knock-on effects on almost every single right — the right to practice religion, the right to freely express yourself, the right to associate and assemble. Those are fundamental rights that Uyghurs and residents of Xinjiang are deprived of because these systems essentially create an all-seeing system that makes the exercising of these rights impossible,” Wang said.

About the author

Brendan Taylor

Brendan Taylor was a TV news producer for 5 and a half years. He is an experienced writer. Brendan covers Breaking News at Insider Paper.

Daily Newsletter