I have known several people who have done mission work to the Chinese people, and because of that I have developed an interest in China. Over the years, I have seen China open up and Chinese Christians worship without concern. Unfortunately that began to change about 5 plus years ago. The Chinese government has become more and more authoritarian. The Chinese ruling elite have become, in my opinion, increasingly concerned with potential rivals and threats to their power.
July 1, 2020 was the 23rd anniversary of the treaty of the British returning Hong Kong to China which set up the “one country, two systems” arrangement between Hong Kong and China. Unfortunately July 1, 2020 will also be remembered as the day China in the name of national security forced Hong Kong to enact a new law that greatly restricts freedom of expression. Secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities are now broadly defined illegal activities with up to life in prison if convicted. Due to “national security”, the trials can now be moved to mainland China where the trials may be done in secrecy. Hong Kong’s judiciary can now be superseded by China. A man with a flag calling for Hong Kong independence was one of the first to be arrested. The “one country, two systems” seems to now be “one country, one dominating system”.
Also the law empowers China to set up a national security agency in Hong Kong to oversee the investigation and prosecution of any violations. This law allows China to act outside the law of Hong Kong. The law also extends past Hong Kong, so that this blog post could be a reason for me to be arrested if I ever visited Hong Kong. I believe this law is designed to suppress dissent in Hong Kong. I believe it is already working with two political opposition parties disbanding and several activists resigning from organizations that might be considered subversive. At least one activist has left Hong Kong out of fear of being arrested.
As you can tell this new law bothers me. More information about the Hong Kong law can be found here. But this is nothing new. In China, you are tracked by many different means. You are not trusted. You show your ID card everywhere. For a couple of examples, you show your ID card when you mail something, when you enter or leave a university campus, and when you ride the subway. Also cameras are everywhere observing you and facial recognition is being used.
I believe that China is now the leader in surveillance technology, and may already be exporting the technology to other authoritarian regimes. China has the perfect test bed for surveillance technology. Right now in NW China over 1 million Uighur Muslims are in re-education camps. There they are monitored 24/7. With these camps China is implementing social and behavioral controls. They are using surveillance to try to predict behaviors. If you are in NW China and not in a camp, you are still very closely monitored. You could be arrested for a ‘pre-crime’ if your behavior and identity suggest a possible crime in the future. I believe their goal is to create a society where everyone is obedient to the authorities and there is no dissent. I am afraid that the rest of China could be next. I am especially concerned for the Christians there. They are viewed with suspicion because their allegiance is not totally for the State. The legal Christian churches have been given the task to change Christianity to be more Chinese, which I take to mean more beholding to the State. I am concerned! More information on Chinese surveillance can be found here.
If you think that is bad, there is talk of ranking people in China, so that if you are in good standing with the government you can go where you want but if you are in bad standing you might not even be able to ride a bus or the subway.
3 thoughts on “Authoritarian China”
Readers might be interested in an interesting 1-hour special report on PBS that just aired tonight (Wed., July 8th). It’s called “China: Power and Prosperity – PBS Newshour Presents”. The program description says, “Explore the future of China’s relationship with the U.S., which will help determine the new international order, the dominant technology supporting the world’s communications infrastructure, and the global economy.”
Some of what was covered pertained to the Chinese government’s unprecented surveillance and tracking of all their citizens in several ways — not just by security cameras and facial recognition — as well as China’s exports of their increasingly sophisticated, Big Brother surveillance technology to some 65 other nations around the world, their internal security crackdowns, their ‘re-education’ of Uyghurs and the systematic destruction of the Uyghur culture, and the disappearances of all who speak critically of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It can be watched on PBS online at https://video.rmpbs.org/video/pbs-newshour-presents-china-power-and-prosperity-uqdu5j/.