- SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE - Oct 31, 2020 -
Xi is using the power of technology not only to repress the Chinese people, but to push his Marxist-Leninist mode of government to other countries.
London: It was only a short video clip about the problems of life in China that Gao Zhgang sent on to his friend in the United States, but soon afterwards the police arrived at his home at Yingze in Shandong Province and arrested him on “suspicion of stirring up trouble”. This led to a charge of “slander” of the government and a 10-month jail sentence. Welcome to Xi Jinping’s China, a dystopian world where everything you do or say is closely monitored and recorded. Big brother really is watching you.
The hapless Gao used WeChat to send his video, the most popular app in China. Commonly called “the app of everything”, this instant messaging system has grown into a vast ecosystem of features—from communications to shopping, gaming, banking, appointments and travel. It’s so convenient for users in China, who spend on average 70 minutes a day within the app, that it’s as unimaginable not to have WeChat as not to have a smartphone.
That’s good news for China’s state security police, who use WeChat to carry out surveillance and harassment of anyone using it, especially dissidents or activists in exile who dare to speak out about human rights abuses in the country or campaign for democratic reform. Even documents and images transmitted among non-China-registered accounts undergo content surveillance, when files are analysed for anything that is politically sensitive in China. As users joke: “WeChat, they Watch”.