Some Chinese residents forced to install government spyware on phones
A report from Radio Free Asia, corroborated by photos from a Twitter account named "Images from mainland China", paints a chilling picture of the lives of some in the country of 1.4 billion: the Chinese government is forcing residents of Urumqi, a city of nearly 4 million, to install a monitoring app on their mobile phones. Failure to have the app installed when checked by police can result in up to 10 days detention.
The app, named "Jing Wang" ("Clean Internet"), is claimed to be required to prevent residents from accessing terrorist information, engaging in "illegal religious" activity, or sharing "harmful information". A report from Radio Free Asia states that 10 women had already been arrested for messages sent to a private WeChat group after installing the app. The official website describes the app as follows:
"Jingwang is a protection service with an adult and child categorization system introduced by Jiangsu Telecom. The main function is to block pornographic websites, online scams, trojan horses, and phishing sites; to alert users of how much time they spend online; and to enable remote control of one’s home network. The tool is intended to help kids develop a healthy lifestyle by building a safe web filter for the minors."
Checkpoints have been setup in the city to check for the installation of the app; those who are found without the app installed can face up to 10 days of detention.
Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang province — an area of approximately 5600 square miles that is home to the ethnically Turkic minority of the Uighurs. The province has seen escalating tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese in recent years: in 2009, unrest lead to the deaths of some 200 Chinese at the hands of rioting ethnic Uighurs. Since then, the province and its capital have faced an ever-increasing crackdown on general freedoms in an attempt to quell continuing violence and discontent.
While initial reports of the spyware app being required are for parts of Urumqi only, it isn't hard to imagine a near future where all Chinese residents (or residents of any other totalitarian state) might be forced to install overt surveillance software on their own phones.