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  1. China successfully launches three astronauts to new space station The astronauts are now en route to Tianhe CGTN A Long March rocket blasted off from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center today, carrying three astronauts to China’s new space station. The launch marks China’s first crewed mission in five years. The launch of the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft took place at 9:22AM local time on Thursday morning. The three astronauts, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo, will be the first three people to board China’s space station, Tianhe. They will stay on Tianhe for three months, bringing the space station online. The core module of Tianhe, which contains the crew’s living quarters, was launched in April 2021. This first crewed mission is part of eleven planned missions during the space station’s construction phase — two more modules and several more cargo and crewed missions need to be completed before the space station is finished in 2022. China’s last crewed mission took place in 2016, sending astronauts to visit the country’s previous space station, Tiangong-2. That station deorbited in 2019. Since then, China has continued to push forward with an ambitious space program. It sent a sample return mission to the Moon and back again in 2020, and landed a rover on Mars earlier this year. Long-term, the country is building partnerships with Russia, with plans to land astronauts on the Moon in the next decade. China successfully launches three astronauts to new space station
  2. China’s Zhurong rover sends a selfie from Mars A ‘touring group photo’ with its landing platform China’s Zhurong rover with its landing platform. Image: CNSA China has released new images from its Zhurong rover, which began wheeling its way around Mars in late May. One of the photos is a lovely selfie of Zhurong posed next to its landing platform. The “touring group photo,” as the China National Space Administration calls it in a blog post, was taken with a small wireless camera that the rover placed on the surface before scooting back to line up for the shot like an excited parent. Zhurong also took a photo of the landing platform by itself, showing the ramp the rover drove down, the Chinese flag, and if you look closely to the left of the flag, the mascots for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Zhurong’s landing platform. Image: CNSA There are more photos in the Twitter thread below, linked here, including a panorama that shows the Red Planet’s horizon in the distance beyond the rover, along with marks on the surface from propellant expulsion during landing. Zhurong joined NASA’s Perseverance on Mars last month (though the rovers are over a thousand miles apart), making China the second country to land and operate a rover on the planet. It’s expected to keep exploring for about 90 days, and it will capture more images while it analyzes the Martian climate and geology. Perseverance also sent along some glamour shots of its own in April, though it used a robotic arm (a selfie stick, if you will) rather than setting a camera down and backing away from it. This one is a family photo of both the rover and its little helicopter companion, Ingenuity. NASA details how the selfie was made in this blog post with videos. Perseverance and Ingenuity in a selfie stitched together from 62 individual images. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS And here’s Perseverance’s “face” against the serene panorama of Mars. The planet might be a lonely place, but it makes for a rather scenic backdrop. Perseverance gazes into the camera. Image: NASA / JPL (panorama stitch by Joey Roulette / The Verge) China’s Zhurong rover sends a selfie from Mars
  3. China is about to try a high-stakes landing on Mars Tianwen-1, China’s first mission to orbit the red planet, is set to release a rover called Zhurong on a harrowing descent to the surface. China's Mars landing platform and Zhurong rover are seen in an illustration released in 2016 by the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The rover is named after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology, which echoes the Chinese name of the red planet, Huoxing, meaning the planet of fire. ILLUSTRATION BY XINHUA VIA GETTY IMAGES China is all set to attempt its first landing on another planet. After months in orbit around Mars, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft will deposit a rover called Zhurong on the surface of Mars. If successful, China will become the second country in history to explore the Martian surface with a rover. Tianwen-1 arrived at Mars on February 10, marking the arrival of China’s first independent interplanetary mission. Since then, Tianwen-1 has been making close approaches to Mars every 49 hours as it flies in an elliptical orbit around the planet, each time taking high-resolution images of the landing site in Utopia Planitia, a vast plain that may once have been covered by an ancient Martian ocean. Chinese officials have said the landing attempt would take place in mid-to-late May, and a report on Twitter quoted Ye Peijian of the China Association for Science and Technology saying the landing will take place on May 14 at 7:11 p.m. ET. This aligns with estimates from amateur radio astronomers tracking the spacecraft. Landing zone China’s Tianwen-1 is targeting the broad, flat expanse of Utopia Planitia as its landing site. Matthew W. Chwastyk, NGM Staff Sources: NASA/JPL; CNSA/PEC Mission scientists have been analyzing the topography and geology of Utopia Planitia to guide the spacecraft’s landing attempt, and if they decide not to attempt a landing on May 14, they will have additional opportunities on May 16 and May 18. Named for an ancient Chinese fire god, the 529-pound Zhurong rover is similar in size to NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on the red planet in 2004 and sent back exciting images and data about the planet’s surface conditions. China’s rover could make additional important discoveries concerning water and past habitability on the planet, paving the way for future human missions to Mars. “Landing safely on Mars is a huge challenge, especially for China's first soft landing attempt,” says Long Xiao, a planetary scientist at the China University of Geosciences. “But it is a necessary step for Mars and deep-space exploration.” A harrowing descent Successfully descending to the surface of Mars is an extraordinary challenge. Only NASA has safely landed and operated spacecraft on the Martian surface; in 1971, the Soviet Mars 3 lander transmitted half of a photo before falling silent about 100 seconds into the mission. By landing and roving on Mars, China hopes to jump ahead of a number of spacefaring peers. But first, the Zhurong rover must make it through the so-called “seven minutes of terror,” the time from atmospheric entry to landing on the surface. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) can only watch the autonomous landing unfold from nearly 200 million miles away—so far away that it takes 18 minutes to receive a signal from Mars—and hope everything goes to plan. Zhurong sits attached to its orbiter companion, encased in an aeroshell designed to protect the vehicle on its way through the Martian atmosphere. After it gets released and endures a fiery atmospheric entry, a huge parachute will deploy to further slow the rover’s descent. Then a landing platform holding the rover will fire up rocket engines to make the final descent to the surface. A laser range finder and 3D scanner will provide altitude and terrain data while cameras are used to autonomously choose a place to land. As part of its Chang'e-3 mission to the moon, China successfully set down a robotic lander and deployed its first lunar rover in 2013. PHOTO MOSAIC BY CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, CHINA NATIONAL SPACE ADMINISTRATION, THE SCIENCE AND APPLICATION CENTER FOR MOON AND DEEPSPACE EXPLORATION, EMILY LAKDAWALLA OF THE PLANETARY SOCIETY AND ANDREW BODROV, VIA GETTY IMAGES Mars is significantly harder to land on than the moon, says Michel Blanc at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in France. But China has had a series of successful lunar missions that bode well for the Mars landing. Chang’e-4, history’s first landing on the lunar far side in 2019, required “high technological capacity” in artificial intelligence and autonomous hazard avoidance, Blanc notes. As well, the rocket engines on Zhurong are similar to those China used to safely land three spacecraft on the moon. Those technologies, along with the supersonic parachutes China has used to return astronauts from Earth orbit in space capsules, set up CNSA to make the attempt at a Martian touchdown. A new rover on Mars Once Zhurong’s six wheels roll off the landing platform and onto the Martian dust, the rover will expand its foldable, butterfly-like solar panels and explore the area for a primary mission lasting three months. The vehicle could work well beyond this conservative goal however—the solar-powered Spirit and Opportunity rovers had primary missions of about 90 days, and they each ended up exploring Mars for years. Utopia Planitia, thought to be the site of an ancient sea, has sedimentary layers that could contain evidence of past water. Even more exciting, these layers of rock could contain traces of any past life on Mars, says James Head III, a planetary scientist at Brown University. “Because the pre-selected landing site is close to an ancient ocean shoreline, and distinct from others, the science data will uncover more secrets of Mars,” Long says. The site compliments the research being carried out by NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers in the ancient lakes of Gale and Jezero craters, respectively, Head adds. The Zhurong rover carries a suite of six instruments. A pair of panoramic cameras and a multispectral imager will provide information about the terrain and its composition, while an instrument with a laser will vaporize rocks to analyze their makeup, similar to the laser spectrometers aboard Curiosity and Perseverance. A magnetometer will measure magnetic fields in tandem with an instrument on the orbiter, and a climate station will measure the local atmosphere, temperature, pressure, wind, and sound on Mars. One of the most exciting instruments aboard the rover, however, is a ground-penetrating radar, which will be used to search for pockets of water or ice below the surface. Head notes that NASA’s Viking 2 lander, which set down in a region slightly north of Zhurong’s landing site in 1975, imaged fascinating phenomena, including ice contractions and frosts on the surface of Mars, and polygon patterned terrain which may have been created by contractions of subsurface ice with changing seasons. Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar will ping the surface with two different frequencies and pick up echo data from layers below, peering down to 33 feet to search for ices or briny waters underground. “Tianwen-1 is likely to be able to explore and detect any subsurface snow and ice using its payload,” Head says. Such pockets of ice could prove valuable for future crewed missions, and any pockets of water or brine, shielded from radiation on the surface, may provide habitats for simple lifeforms. The next chapter of Chinese space exploration China will openly share the data from Tianwen-1 and Zhurong the same way it has shared data from its lunar exploration missions, Long says, benefiting planetary scientists around the world. The mission will also set the stage for China’s next planned voyage to Mars—an audacious sample-return attempt scheduled to launch around 2028. Beyond Mars, the country has plans to launch a Jupiter probe, including a possible landing on the moon Callisto, to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid, and to send a pair of Voyager-like spacecraft toward the edges of the solar system. “In the age of ocean exploration, China has a history of Zheng He's voyages to Southeast Asia and Africa,” says Zhang Xiaoping, associate professor at the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences of the Macau University of Science and Technology, referring to early 15th-century expeditions. Zhang views China’s Mars mission as a continuation of these Ming Dynasty journeys. Tianwen-1 and Zhurong, he says, are ”of great significance for studying the unknown universe, stimulating the scientific enthusiasm of young people, stimulating the creativity of the whole country, enhancing the ability to explore the unknown, and expanding the living space of humanity.” Source: China is about to try a high-stakes landing on Mars
  4. China census: Data shows slowest population growth in decades COPYRIGHT GETTY IMAGES captionThe results add pressure on Beijing to boost measures for couples to have more babies China's population grew at its slowest pace in decades, according to government data released on Tuesday. The average annual growth rate was 0.53% over the past 10 years, down from a rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010 - bringing the population to 1.41bn. The results add pressure on Beijing to boost measures for couples to have more babies and avert a population decline. The results were announced in a once-a-decade census, which was originally expected to be released in April. The census was conducted in late 2020 where some seven million census takers had gone door-to-door to collect information from Chinese households. Given the sheer number of people surveyed, it is considered the most comprehensive resource on China's population, which is important for future planning. What do we know about China's birth rate? Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that 12 million babies were born last year - a significant decrease from the 18 million newborns in 2016. However he added that it was "still a considerable number". Mr Ning added that a lower fertility rate is a natural result of China's social and economic development. As countries become more developed, birth rates tend to fall due to education or other priorities such as careers. Its neighbouring countries Japan and South Korea, for example, have also seen birth rates fall to record lows in recent years despite various government incentives for couples to have more children. Last year, South Korea recorded more deaths than births for the first time in history, raising fresh alarm in a country which already has the world's lowest birth rate. Shrinking populations are problematic due to the inverted age structure, with more old people than the young. When that happens, there won't be enough workers in the future to support the elderly, and there may be an increased demand for health and social care. Hasn't China already been trying to improve this? Yes. In 2016, the government ended a controversial one-child policy and allowed couples to have two children. But the reform failed to reverse the country's falling birth rate despite a two-year increase immediately afterwards. Ms Yue Su, principal economist from The Economist Intelligence Unit, said: "While the second-child policy had a positive impact on the birth rate, it proved short-term in nature." There had been expectations that China might scrap the family planning policy altogether along with the new census results, but this did not happen. A report by the Financial Times in April also quoted people familiar with the matter as saying the census would reveal a population decline. This did not happen with the 2020 report but experts have told various media outlets that it could still happen over the next few years. "It will in 2021 or 2022, or very soon," Huang Wenzhang, a demography expert at the Centre for China and Globalisation told Reuters. COPYRIGHT GETTY IMAGES An ageing China may mean that there won't be enough workers in the future to support the elderly China's population trends have over the years been largely shaped by the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979 to slow population growth. Families that violated the rules faced fines, loss of employment and sometimes forced abortions. What else have we learnt? China's working-age population - which it defines as people aged between 16 and 59 - has also declined by 40 million as compared to the last census in 2010. But chief methodologist Zeng Yuping said that the total size "remains big" with 880 million. "We still have an abundant labour force," he said. However, economist Ms Yue warned that going forward, continued drops in the labour force "will place a cap on China's potential economic growth." She added: "The demographic dividend that propelled the country's economic rise over recent decades is set to dissipate quickly." After a few extra weeks in which officials were reportedly working to "prepare" the numbers and help to "set the agenda" the bottom line is the number of Chinese in China is growing - just. Most of that is people getting older - and staying older. There was a small increase in the number of under 14s, a vindication of the decision to end the one-child policy in 2015, according to the government's census chief. But state media is already talking about the population beginning to fall next year. This is not a demographic change unique to China, but with the biggest population in the world and an economy that it's trying to make more reliant on domestic consumption, this is a particularly salient issue. China's Communist leaders have already said retirement age will need to go up to deal with those demands and costs. This could mean more work to come for the country's workers. Experts warned that any impact on China's population, such as a decline, could have a vast effect on other parts of the world. Dr Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: "China's economy has grown very quickly, and many industries in the world rely on China. The scope of the impact of a population decline would be very wide." Source: China census: Data shows slowest population growth in decades
  5. NASA criticizes China's handling of rocket re-entry as debris lands near Maldives New York (CNN Business)NASA has lambasted China for its failure to "meet responsible standards" after debris from its out-of-control rocket likely plunged into the Indian Ocean Saturday night. "Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations," said NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson in a statement released on the space agency's website Sunday. "China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris," he added. Most of the huge Long March 5B rocket, however, burned up on reentering the atmosphere, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a post on WeChat, before landing just west of the Maldives. It was unclear if any debris had landed on the atoll nation. The US Space Command said the Long March 5B had reentered Earth over the Arabian Peninsula. The rocket, which is about 108 feet tall and weighs nearly 40,000 pounds, had launched a piece of a new Chinese space station into orbit on April 29. After its fuel was spent, the rocket had been left to hurtle through space uncontrolled until Earth's gravity dragged it back to the ground. Generally, the international space community tries to avoid such scenarios. Most rockets used to lift satellites and other objects into space conduct more controlled reentries that aim for the ocean, or they're left in so-called "graveyard" orbits that keep them in space for decades or centuries. But the Long March rocket is designed in a way that "leaves these big stages in low orbit," said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University. In this case, it was impossible to be certain exactly when or where the booster would land. The European Space Agency had predicted a "risk zone" that encompassed "any portion of Earth's surface between about 41.5N and 41.5S latitude" — which included virtually all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia south of Japan and Europe's Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The threat to populated areas of land was not negligible, but fortunately the vast majority of Earth's surface area is consumed by oceans, so the odds of avoiding a catastrophic run-in were slim. The rocket is one of the largest objects in recent memory to strike the Earth after falling out of orbit, following a 2018 incident in which a piece of a Chinese space lab broke up over the Pacific Ocean and the 2020 reentry of an 18-metric-ton Long March 5B rocket. Despite recent efforts to better regulate and mitigate space debris, Earth's orbit is littered with hundreds of thousands of pieces of uncontrolled junk, most of which are smaller than 10 centimeters. Objects are constantly falling out of orbit, though most pieces burn up in the Earth's atmosphere before having a chance to make an impact on the surface. But parts of larger objects, like the Long March rocket in this instance, can survive reentry and threaten structures and people on the ground. "Norms have been established," McDowell said. "There's no international law or rule — nothing specific — but the practice of countries around the world has been: 'Yeah, for the bigger rockets, let's not leave our trash in orbit in this way.'" CNN's Paul LeBlanc contributed Source: NASA criticizes China's handling of rocket re-entry as debris lands near Maldives
  6. China's emissions now exceed all the developed world's combined Emissions , Bloomberg News China now accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the world’s developed nations combined, according to new research from Rhodium Group. China’s emissions of six heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, rose to 14.09 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2019, edging out the total of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members by about 30 million tons, according to the New York-based climate research group. The massive scale of China’s emissions highlights the importance of President Xi Jinping’s drive to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and reach net-zero by 2060. China accounted for 27 per cent of global emissions. The U.S., the second biggest emitter, contributed 11 per cent while India for the first time surpassed the European Union with about 6.6 per cent of the global total. Still, China also has the world’s largest population, so its per capita emissions remain far less than those of the U.S. And on a historical basis, OECD members are still the world’s biggest warming culprits, having pumped four times more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than China since 1750. “China’s history as a major emitter is relatively short compared to developed countries, many of which had more than a century head start,” the researchers said. “Current global warming is the result of emissions from both the recent and more distant past.” Source: China's emissions now exceed all the developed world's combined
  7. China's first 7nm GPGPU is ready to go against AMD and Nvidia Not for consumers, but definitely impressive on paper In brief: Tianshu Zhixin Semiconductor, a fabless joint venture between Via Technologies and the Shanghai municipal government, has revealed what appears to be China's first 7nm GPGPU, a gargantuan chip that's supposed to compete with the likes of Nvidia A100 and AMD MI100 in the data center. China is on a quest for "technological self-sufficiency," and the trade war with the US has only accelerated that process. China is capable of covering over 20 percent of the chips needed in the local industry, but the government plans to increase that number to 70 percent by 2025. One example of that is using aging chips while its semiconductor industry catches up, turning to Japan for etching equipment that would otherwise be considered obsolete. Last year, we saw the arrival of an impressive x86 CPU courtesy of government-backed Zhaoxin, which showed just how much progress has been made on that front. We've also heard about Huawei working hard to develop server GPUs, but things have been relatively quiet ever since the tech giant lost access to key suppliers such as TSMC. Tianshu Zhixin was known to be making progress on the first general-purpose GPU designed in China, dubbed "Big Island." The ongoing chip shortage only allowed the company to do a paper launch in March, but what's interesting about these chips is that they're supposedly able to compete with Nvidia and AMD's GPU at the highest end. Big Island GPUs aren't technically designed to go against RTX and Radeon gaming graphics cards, but instead they're geared towards machine learning, high performance computing, medical research, and security. This means they're meant to go against the likes of Nvidia's A100 and AMD's Instinct MI100, both of which are gargantuan chips designed for the data center and offer an order of magnitude the performance of previous generation architectures, while taking a lot less space and power to operate. Big Island was developed between 2018 and 2020, built using TSMC's 7nm process node and 2.5D CoWoS packaging. They also utilize TSMC's 65 nm silicon interposer, and feature no less than 24 billion transistors. Just like AMD and Nvidia, Tianshu Zhixin has equipped its GPGPU with 32 GB of HBM2 memory (1.2 TB per second bandwidth) and made it compatible with the PCIe 4.0 standard. The claimed performance of the Chinese GPGPU seems to be impressive. When it comes to FP16 (half precision math) performance, it is capable of 147 teraflops, which sits right between Nvidia A100's 78 teraflops and AMD MI100's 184.6 teraflops -- although it should be noted the A100's Tensor cores are capable of 312 FP16 teraflops. When it comes to FP32 workloads, Big Island should be capable of up to 37 teraflops, which is higher than both the A100 and MI100, which offer 19.5 teraflops and 23.1 teraflops, respectively. Power consumption is rated at 300 watts, and Tianshu Zhixin says the new GPU will offer a better price-to-performance ratio than competing solutions. Time will tell if this is indeed true and China has hit such an important milestone in its quest to reduce its reliance on foreign semiconductors. Source: China's first 7nm GPGPU is ready to go against AMD and Nvidia
  8. Vaccine passports to travel freely are still a dream—except in China After being cooped up for a year, people the world over are daring to dream about traveling internationally again. They see newly distributed COVID-19 vaccines as their long-awaited tickets to freedom, with the power to unlock closed borders and bypass soul-crushing hotel quarantines. Freddy Chua, a Singaporean financier living in Hong Kong, told Fortune in February that the prospect of returning home motivated him to get vaccinated on the first day of Hong Kong’s vaccine campaign. “[My wife and I] hope that we won’t have to quarantine for 14 or 21 days” when visiting Singapore, Chua said. But that fantasy will require paperwork: a so-called vaccine passport that will validate an individual’s inoculated status and liberate them from pandemic-era travel restrictions. Policymakers and health officials have teased such documentation and the freedom of movement it could bestow as reasons to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But the practical challenges of rolling out a vaccine passport—Should it be analog or digital? Is it universally recognized? What about privacy concerns?—mean its tantalizing promise is proving difficult to realize. In Europe, government officials are negotiating the details of a digital vaccine passport agreement but have hit snags on issues like how to ensure data privacy and the ethics of limiting travel among those who aren’t eligible for vaccines. In the U.S., airline and business groups are pressuring the Biden administration to be a “leader” in developing a vaccine passport system. President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing a committee to investigate how a vaccine passport system might work in January, but the White House has yet to announce any results or publicly endorse such a scheme. In China, meanwhile, a vaccine passport system is already taking shape. Dubbed “international travel health certificates,” the scheme launched nationwide on Monday as a free app. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi buried the announcement deep in an hour and a half long press conference on the sidelines of China’s Two Sessions annual political summit on March 7. Hours later, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released instructions on how to download the vaccine passport mini-program, built on China’s Tencent-owned WeChat messaging app. But the Chinese government, with the help of Tencent, developed the system in a black box, without input from any international organizations or foreign countries. Currently, China’s vaccine passports don’t have the power to permit international travel. And as other governments raise concerns about China’s data privacy practices and experts question the efficacy of China’s vaccines, it’s unclear if they ever will. Going global China’s international travel health certificates are QR codes displayed via a mini-program on WeChat’s app. When scanned, the certificates link to a record of the user’s vaccine and COVID-19 test history, collated by China’s National Health Commission. Its design is similar to the track-and-trace systems Chinese authorities devised last year to monitor citizens’ risk for COVID-19. Many track-and-trace systems designed by other countries either never got off the ground or failed altogether. A report issued on Wednesday by the U.K. Parliament found that the government’s national contact tracing scheme had “no clear impact” on reducing transmission despite its budget of $51 billion over two years. China’s track-and-trace system, on the other hand, was a success because it was all but mandatory for anyone wanting to visit a restaurant or enter a housing complex. Plus, the two platforms that facilitated the system’s QR codes—WeChat and rival Alipay—were already ubiquitous in China, making adoption almost frictionless. But China’s track-and-trace apps were built entirely for domestic use and never needed outside validation. Vaccine passports, meanwhile, are mostly useless unless other countries decide to accept them. On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson told reporters that “many countries and some international organizations” have expressed “readiness” to recognize China’s new vaccine passport, but currently no foreign authorities have signed on publicly. One potential hang-up is not necessarily the system itself but the soundness of what a Chinese vaccine passport professes to prove: that its holder is protected against COVID-19. “Given the lack of transparency [in Chinese vaccine development]…other countries may raise the concern of whether to recognize China’s immunity passport,” says Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Beijing has approved four vaccines for domestic use, two from state-owned vaccine maker Sinopharm and one each from the private firms CanSino and Sinovac. None of the manufacturers, however, have published data on their vaccines in peer-reviewed medical journals, a fact that has drawn criticism from foreign leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron. And therein lies the enormous challenge of any vaccine passport system. It asks countries to recognize another nation’s vaccine as legitimate and effective, even if it hasn’t authorized the vaccine itself—a big ask considering the global patchwork of vaccine approvals. Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at Hong Kong University, says that it may be difficult for governments to make determinations on immunity given the varying efficacy rates of different vaccines. For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that’s being distributed in the U.S. and 70 other countries is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, while China’s Sinovac vaccine is just over 50% effective. “[Difference in efficacy rates] is a limitation specifically for vaccine passports because the idea is to prevent people from entering a country even if they have only a mild form of infection,” Cowling says, adding that the level of contagion in a visitor’s country of departure will be another risk factor. China says it will negotiate acceptance of its vaccine passports on a country-by-country basis, and it may find plenty of willing participants among the roughly 40 countries that have struck deals to use China-made vaccines. But there may also be limits to how much its vaccine passport program can scale via one-off deals with other governments. “[Vaccine passports have] to be coordinated at an international level, ideally, through multilateral means,” says Huang, noting that negotiating at a bilateral level is both costly and time consuming. But, thus far, multilateral discussions aren’t proving to be any easier, and the world’s leading health authority, the World Health Organization (WHO), seems reluctant to endorse such a system. “I think there are real practical and ethical considerations that countries will have to address [before introducing vaccine passports],” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference on March 7, explaining that the WHO likely will not recommend the passports until vaccines are distributed widely and equitably. That could be a long way off. In January, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that 85 of the world’s poorest countries will not achieve widespread vaccination until 2023 or later. Off the ground But China isn’t the only nation pushing ahead with an independent passport scheme. On Monday, Singapore flag carrier Singapore Airlines announced it would be the first airline in the world to validate vaccine records using the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass: a mobile app that verifies COVID-19 health and vaccination records to facilitate international travel. JoAnn Tan, divisional vice president of business transformation at Singapore Airlines, said in a statement that the pilot scheme—which Singapore Airlines is using on flights between Singapore and London from March 13 to March 28—could help create an “industry standard” for digital health certificates in international travel. “If the pilot is successful, we will explore enabling customers to store their COVID-19 tests or vaccination certificates in the SingaporeAir mobile app,” a spokesperson for Singapore Airlines tells Fortune. Despite the WHO’s reluctance to rush into the development of vaccine passports, the IATA, a trade group representing 290 airlines, is urging the WHO to craft international standards for verifying proof of vaccine for its Travel Pass. In a note to Fortune, IATA’s head of corporate communications Albert Tjoeng says that each day without the standards “means the challenge gets bigger” in creating a system that governments around the world will accept. “This process needs to be accelerated,” he says. Tjoeng clarified that the Travel Pass is not a vaccine passport but rather a tool governments can use to verify vaccine records. “IATA is not pushing for vaccine passports nor is the IATA Travel Pass a vaccine passport,” Tjoeng says. “We do not believe that vaccinations should be mandated for anyone to fly.” In the next year, Cowling, the epidemiologist, says he hopes that vaccine coverage expands to the point that people won’t need to “worry about vaccine passports anymore,” because the world will have reached herd immunity. “The whole [vaccine passport] thing may only be a short-term measure anyway,” he says. However complicated to implement, countries are likely to continue experimenting with vaccine passports because a successful system could jump-start tourism and hospitality, sectors of the economy that urgently need a lifeline. In total, the IATA estimates that the pandemic’s reduction in air travel inflicted a $1.8 trillion blow to global GDP. Vaccine passports or global acceptance of a similar system may be the fastest way to begin recouping some of those losses. “For governments to reopen international borders without quarantine and restart aviation they need to be confident that they are mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19 and have confidence in a passenger’s verified COVID-19 status, be it [through] testing or vaccination,” says Tjoeng. “Vaccines will have a role to play in the recovery of international travel.” Source: Vaccine passports to travel freely are still a dream—except in China
  9. China’s Lunar New Year plan shows what living with Covid really means Swift local lockdowns, mass testing, and people being confined to residential compounds until there are no locally transmitted remain key to China’s pandemic response Kevin Frayer / Getty Images One year ago, things in China were very different. Around the time of the 2020 Lunar New Year people had already brought Covid-19 back to their families, hospitals in Wuhan were overwhelmed and doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to warn his the world of the virus, had passed away. This year, China’s central government in Beijing has advised people to stay where they are for the holiday. The government hasn’t banned travel but people are following official guidance. The number of passengers travelling during the three-day pre-festival rush fell 70 per cent year on year. Usually billions of trips are made across China for the Lunar New Year period. Train tickets sell out weeks in advance. Stations are mobbed in the days running up to the holiday. This year, they're not. But while the central government isn’t forcing people to stay at home, some bosses are. Any controls are happening at a local level, instead. Zhang* a law professor at a university in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei, says his workplace had banned him and other teachers from travel. A cluster of Covid-19 cases emerged there last month. While the city has reported no locally transmitted cases over the last few days, his university administration is still on alert. Zhang’s workplace, or danwei, sees the government’s voluntary advice as mandatory. In April last year, they requested teachers hand in their passports, to stop them travelling abroad. Zhang told them he’d lost his to avoid giving it over. Eight months on, near the end of the year, his danwei had each of its employees self-report their travel itineraries in its WeChat groups. They said, one by one, whether they had been to recent virus hotspots. These messages were collected into reports that were sent to the university’s Prevention and Control department. When it comes to social distancing in the most fundamental way – discouraging travel altogether – danwei have been crucial in ensuring compliance. Danwei were key to how Mao-era China governed. They’re less central to people’s lives now but still powerful. Most people are in a WeChat group with the leader of their danwei – their boss. When your boss tells you it’s a bad idea to travel home across the country, it can be hard to argue otherwise. China’s epidemic prevention effort has leaned on social organisation, not technology. Feng Ouxing, a state-owned enterprise researcher, is back in her home province of Fujian. To leave Beijing she had to fill in a form stating a reason for why she was leaving, where she was going and what transport she would take. Her work unit was relatively relaxed about her returning to see her family. That is not the case for everyone – civil servants in other areas of China are expected to set an example and so most are required to stay where they work, unless there are “special circumstances.” While Feng says it’s possible that some employees might hide the fact that they’ve travelled from their danwei, she believes the psychological pressure of false reporting and the worry that something might go wrong will dissuade people. She also notes that the app released by the State Council tracks GPS locations shared by telecom companies and can show which jurisdictions you’ve been to within the last 14 days. She’s more worried about sudden policy changes made by local governments than getting infected. Feng remembers how last year, when she returned to Beijing, she had to quarantine for two weeks. It was already April, far later than she’d expected to be able to return. Sudden changes in Covid-19 related policies have been part of China’s overall response. If there are new cases in a city, the local government’s response follows a set pattern. There is a swift lockdown, mass testing, and everyone waits within their residential compounds until there are no locally transmitted cases. While it may be effective for eliminating the virus, it has a huge impact on people’s lives. They are often stuck, in cities where they don’t work, for months on end without salaries. And once they do return, that can mean facing another quarantine. The thought of facing quarantine can be enough to put some off travel. From Dongxindian village on Beijing’s periphery, migrant worker Ren Shanhu called his neighbourhood committee back home in Shanxi. They told him that even if he tested negative for coronavirus, he would have to quarantine for 14 days if he returned. His family would also have to stay inside. Ren heard stories of committees in the same village enforcing quarantine on one returnee while another, who returned at the same time, was simply advised not to leave. He decided not to return – the uncertainty was too much. Last year, he hadn’t been able to return until June and had to pay months of rent as soon as he returned. An announcement by the Party’s discipline and inspection commission acknowledged that while preventing travel altogether might lead to fewer headaches for officials, it “increases social conflicts” adding that “damage to the image of the Party and government must be corrected.” Many migrant workers who decided to return had to quarantine for two weeks. Delivery driver Wang Xiaowang was one of those. He returned to his hometown in Hongtong county, Shanxi province, a month ago, where he observed local traditions like staying up until sunrise, as there’s a local saying that equates it with living longer. He had gotten compassionate leave from work as his father had passed away – from non-coronavirus-related causes. But the logistics company Wang works for, SF Express, wants its couriers to keep working. It has offered them bonuses as the online shopping habits of consumers have only become more entrenched since the Covid-19 outbreak. It’s not alone in offering incentives for workers to stay – local governments have offered subsidies, gifts, and shopping discounts. Had Wang stayed in Beijing, he would have received a bonus of around £100 a day of the holiday, on top of his usual RMB10,000 (£1120) each month. It was not enough to keep him there. Even if his father hadn’t passed, he says he would have still returned out as his mother needs company—the bonuses and the self-quarantines can’t trump family. “You can never work enough, and never make enough money,” he says. *Names have been changed Source: China’s Lunar New Year plan shows what living with Covid really means
  10. PS5 is officially launching in China in Q2 The PlayStation 5 will officially be sold in China before the second half of the year. Sony’s Chinese arm has announced that the PS5 will be made available in the country at some point in the second quarter (March-June). The news was revealed in a Chinese New Year greetings video. As pointed out by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, Sony actually got hardware approvals back in December, for both the standard PS5 as well as the Digital Edition. Sony is currently working on getting software approvals. The PS5 can, of course, be purchased in China today. However, those are imported units from Japan and other regions, and exist in a grey area. When the PS5 officially launches in China, it will have its own PlayStation Network, separate from the one used by the rest of the world. Beyond that, only the games approved by Chinese regulators will be permitted to go on sale, a similar arrangement to the one Nintendo currently has with Switch. All that said, this is already a faster launch compared to the PS5, which debuted in the country about a year-and-half after its worldwide launch. Sony China has confirmed that it plans to officially launch the PlayStation 5 in Mainland China during Q2 2021. Tatsuo Eguchi, the president of SIE Shanghai and Soeda Takehito, the vice chairman, confirmed the new today in a special Chinese New Year greetings video. pic.twitter.com/nhFzbZQTGx — Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) February 8, 2021 Source: PS5 is officially launching in China in Q2
  11. Chinese autonomous driving firm WeRide to expand services, as sector eyes commercialisation ‘All we have achieved is aimed at covering urban centre areas one day’: CEO Company has expanded its road tests to Guangzhou’s commercial and business districts WeRide’s CEO said there was a ‘high probability’ that it would conduct an initial public offering, but did not elaborate further. Photo: Handout Chinese autonomous driving start-up WeRide said on Wednesday that it aims to expand its services in the central areas of cities, as the sector eyes commercialisation. “All we have achieved is aimed at covering urban centre areas one day,” said Tony Han, WeRide’s chief executive. The company will initially target Guangzhou, but its services were currently stretched thin because of a limited number of vehicles. “We are working to add more autonomous vehicles to our fleet, and hope this soon covers core urban areas in Guangzhou,” he added. WeRide’s ambitious goal is emblematic of China’s larger drive to make roads and vehicles smarter and interconnected, to increase transport efficiency in the world’s largest automobile market. Founded in Silicon Valley in 2017, WeRide has emerged as one of the leading Chinese autonomous driving companies, with backing from traditional vehicle makers and well-known venture capital (VC) funds. It has a robotaxi fleet of 100 vehicles and more than 4 million kilometres in road tests under its belt. Han said there was a “high probability” the company would conduct an initial public offering, but did not elaborate further. The company is based in Guangzhou, and its robotaxis are available in the city through the WeRide Go and Autonavi apps. It has expanded its road tests to the city’s commercial and business districts, and is currently testing self-driving minibuses in Zhengzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing. WeRide has a robotaxi fleet of 100 vehicles and more than 4 million kilometres in road tests under its belt. Photo: Handout The development of autonomous driving is a top priority for Beijing, and the country’s technology giants are moving in despite the fact that fully autonomous cars are still years away. Following the roll-out of its robotaxis in Beijing’s suburbs in September, Baidu Apollo, the autonomous driving unit of internet giant Baidu, has teamed up with carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to produce smart electric vehicles. The loss-making unit has been struggling to find ways to monetise its technologies. AutoX, a Shenzhen-based autonomous driving start-up backed by Alibaba Group Holding, this newspaper’s parent company, said last week it had started trials of fully driverless robotaxis in a district in Shenzhen, a move that runs afoul of regulations set by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. China’s automated driving technology speeds ahead with research by search engine giant Baidu Elsewhere, Didi Chuxing, the country’s largest ride hailing platform, secured US$300 million in VC funding last month to boost its research and development of self-driving technologies. Also last month, Uisee Technology, a Beijing-based company, closed a funding round of more than 1 billion yuan (US$150 million). It received backing from the National Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrade Fund, a US$21 billion state-backed fund created to upgrade China’s manufacturing capabilities, as well. Pony.ai, which was founded by ex-Baidu autonomous driving engineers and is backed by Toyota Motor Corporation, received the go-ahead to test its self-driving trucks in Guangzhou in December. WeRide last month secured US$310 million in a funding round led by Chinese bus maker Yutong Group. State-owned China Development Bank’s Equipment Manufacturing Fund also took part in the fundraising. Kai-Fu Lee, Google China’s former head, also made a follow-up investment in WeRide in the funding round. Source: Chinese autonomous driving firm WeRide to expand services, as sector eyes commercialisation
  12. China Steals Personal Data of 80% of US Adults The Chinese government may have stolen personal data from 80% of adults in the United States, according to a 60 Minutes report that aired yesterday on American television and radio network CBS. In the report, former director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, Bill Evanina, warned that the PRC is actively working to gather and exploit Americans' DNA and other health information. Evanina described how Chinese company BGI Group had approached six different states with offers to construct and operate coronavirus testing labs. The company accompanied the offers with promises to "make additional donations" to the states. Suspicious of the offer and what the data collected may be used for, the former security official warned the states not to accept the Group's proposal. “We put out an advisory to not only every American, but to hospitals, associations, and clinics," said Evanina. "Knowing that BGI is a Chinese company, do we understand where that data's going?" He added: "Current estimates are that 80% of American adults have had all of their personally identifiable information stolen by the Communist Party of China." The 60 Minutes report described the quest to obtain and control humanity's biodata—and, in turn, control health care's future—as the new space race. The PRC has publicized its ambition to lead the world in DNA science and technology public in a manifesto. "They have something called Made in China 2025," said former biochemist turned FBI Supervisory Special Agent Edward You, "and in these national strategies, they absolutely call out wanting to be the dominant leader in this biological age." Special Agent You said that America could soon be dependent on the PRC for far more than PPE and face masks. "What happens if we realize that all of our future drugs, our future vaccines, future health care are all completely dependent upon a foreign source?” said You. Commenting to Infosecurity Magazine on the special report, Dirk Schrader, global VP at New Net Technologies, said: “Recent cyber-security research about the status of data protection in the health sector indicates that there is no real need for any foreign government to use advanced hacking methods to have access to personal health information (PHI) of US citizens. “For example, radiology data of approximately six million US citizens was discovered unprotected in late 2019, with no substantial improvement to that a year later. On top of that, the largest provider who had left its radiology archives connected to the public internet without any protection, is owned by a Chinese investor.” Source: China Steals Personal Data of 80% of US Adults
  13. Revealed: Massive Chinese Police Database - Millions of Leaked Police Files Detail Suffocating Surveillance of China’s Uyghur Minority A police officer stands guard as Muslims arrive for the Eid al-Fitr morning prayer at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, a city in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on June 26, 2017. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images THE ORDER CAME through a police automation system in Ürümqi, the largest city in China’s northwest Xinjiang region. The system had distributed a report — an “intelligence information judgment,” as local authorities called it — that the female relative of a purported extremist had been offered free travel to Yunnan, a picturesque province to the south. The woman found the offer on the smartphone messaging app WeChat, in a group known simply as “Travelers.” Authorities homed in on the group because of ethnic and family ties; its members included Muslim minorities like Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz, who speak languages beside China’s predominant one, Mandarin. “This group has over 200 ethnic-language people,” the order stated. “Many of them are relatives of incarcerated people. Recently, many intelligence reports revealed that there is a tendency for relatives of [extremist] people to gather. This situation needs major attention. After receiving this information, please investigate immediately. Find out the background of the people who organize ‘free travel,’ their motivation, and the inner details of their activities.” Police in Ürümqi’s Xiheba Precinct, near the historic city center, received the order and summarized their work in a 2018 report. The one person rounded up as a result of the order, a Uyghur, had no previous criminal record, had never heard of the WeChat group, and never even traveled within China as a tourist. He “has good behavior and we do not have any suspicion,” police wrote. Still, his phone was confiscated and sent to a police “internet safety unit,” and the community was to “control and monitor” him, meaning the government would assign a trusted cadre member to regularly visit and watch over his household. A record about him was entered into the police automation system. Based on their notes, police appear to have investigated the man and assigned the cadre members to “control and monitor” him entirely because of religious activities, which took place five months earlier, of his eldest sister. She and her husband invited another Uyghur couple in Ürümqi to join a religious discussion group on the messaging app Tencent QQ, according to police records. The other couple bought a laptop and logged onto the group every day from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; the husband stopped smoking and drinking, and the wife began wearing longer clothes. They began listening to “religious extremism information” on their laptop, the report said. Between the two couples, police recovered 168 religious audio files deemed illegal, likely because they were connected to an Islamic movement, Tablighi Jamaat, that advocates practicing Islam as it was practiced when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. The fate of the eldest sister and her husband is unknown; the report simply states they were transferred to a different police bureau. The other couple was sent to a re-education camp. Details of the investigations are contained in a massive police database obtained by The Intercept: the product of a reporting tool developed by private defense company Landasoft and used by the Chinese government to facilitate police surveillance of citizens in Xinjiang. The database, centered on Ürümqi, includes policing reports that confirm and provide additional detail about many elements of the persecution and large-scale internment of Muslims in the area. It sheds further light on a campaign of repression that has reportedly seen cameras installed in the homes of private citizens, the creation of mass detention camps, children forcibly separated from their families and placed in preschools with electric fences, the systematic destruction of Uyghur cemeteries, and a systematic campaign to suppress Uyghur births through forced abortion, sterilization, and birth control. The database obtained by The Intercept contains police reports from Ürümqi, the capital and largest city in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Map: Soohee Cho/The Intercept It offers an inside view into police intelligence files and auxiliary community police meetings, as well as the operation of checkpoints that are pervasive in Ürümqi. It also details phone, online, and financial surveillance of marginalized groups, showing how granular surveillance purportedly on the watch for extremism is often simply looking at religious activity. Additionally, the database spells out how Chinese authorities are analyzing and refining the information they collect, including trying to weed out “filler” intelligence tips submitted by police and citizens to inflate their numbers and using automated policing software to help prompt investigations like the one into the WeChat travel group. Among the revelations from the database is information on the extensive use of a tool that plugs into phones to download their contents, the “anti-terrorism sword,” deployed so frequently that Chinese authorities worried it was alienating the populace. It shows authorities tracking how their policies succeeded in driving down mosque attendance. It also offers evidence that the “Physicals for All” biometric collection program, which authorities insisted was solely a health initiative, is intended as part of the policing system. And it quantifies and provides details on the extensive electronic monitoring that goes on in Xinjiang, containing millions of text messages, phone call records, and contact lists alongside banking records, phone hardware and subscriber data, and references to WeChat monitoring as well as e-commerce and banking records. The database also sheds light on the extent of policing and detention in Xinjiang. It details how former residents who went abroad and applied for political asylum were flagged as terrorists. In some cases, it appears as though fixed-term sentences were assigned to people in re-education detention — undercutting the idea, promulgated by the government, that the lengths of such detentions are contingent on rehabilitation or vocational training. Surveillance cameras are mounted to the exterior of a mosque in the main bazaar in Ürümqi, Xinjiang, on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images The Ürümqi Police Database Reveals: How Chinese authorities collect millions of text messages, phone contacts, and call records, as well as e-commerce and banking records, from Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Invasive surveillance techniques watch for signs of religious enthusiasm, which are generally equated with extremism. Evidence that biometric data collected under the “Physicals for All” health program feeds into the police surveillance system. Police use community informants to collect massive amounts of information on Uyghurs in Ürümqi. Applying for asylum abroad can result in being classified as a terrorist, as part of an initiative to prevent the “backflow” of foreign ideas. Taken together, the materials provide a broad overview of how the extensive surveillance systems deployed in Xinjiang fit together to repress minority populations and how extensively they impact day-to-day life in the region. “Overall, this testifies to an incredible police state, one that is quite likely to place suspicions on people who have not really done anything wrong,” said Adrian Zenz, an anthropologist and researcher who focuses on Xinjiang and Tibet. The investigations stemming from the WeChat travelers group offer a concrete example of this intense policing, said Maya Wang, China senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “You can see the muddled thinking in here, where people are being jailed for nothing, but also the process is so arbitrary.” The revelations underscore how Xinjiang is an early look at the ways recent technology, like smartphones, cheap digital camera systems, and mass online storage of data, can be combined to monitor and repress large groups of people when civil liberties concerns are pushed aside. “The mass surveillance in Xinjiang is a cautionary tale for all of us,” said Wang. “Xinjiang really shows how privacy is a gateway right, where if you have no privacy, that’s where you see that you have no freedoms as a human being at all. You don’t have the right to practice your religion, you don’t have the right to be who you are, you don’t even have the right to think your own thoughts because your thoughts are being parsed out by these incessant visits and incessantly monitored by surveillance systems, whether they’re human or artificial, and evaluated constantly for your level of loyalty to the government.” Landasoft and China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment. CENTRAL STORAGE FOR THE PUBLIC SECURITY BUREAU IN ÜRÜMQI The database obtained by The Intercept appears to be maintained and used by the Ürümqi City Public Security Bureau and the broader Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. It also contains documents from units of the national Internet Safety and Protection Bureau. Landasoft has branded the software that appears to be behind the database as “iTap,” a big data system it markets publicly. The database spans 52 gigabytes and contains close to 250 million rows of data. It is fed by and provides data back to various apps, roughly a dozen of which appear linked to the database. These include: Jingwang Weishi, an app for monitoring files on a mobile phone, which police in China have reportedly forced Uyghurs to download. Baixing Anquan, which roughly translates to “people’s safety app” or “public safety app” and appears to be used by both citizens and police, including to enable citizens to snitch on one another to the authorities. Quzheng Shuju Guanli, or “Evidence Collection Management,” which collects “evidence” from apps like WeChat and Outlook. ZhiPu, a graphic interface of people’s relationships and the extent to which authorities are interested in them (the database contains only sparse information on ZhiPu). The database contains evidence of extensive monitoring by Chinese authorities. In some cases, like SMS text messages, it contains actual communication captured by authorities. In others, like WeChat, there are fields, reporting code, or references to monitoring in police files. One of the database’s major components is an extensive collection of minutes from “community stability” meetings, in which de facto police auxiliaries, or citizen-staffed neighborhood police, discuss what took place the week prior across their area. The database also contains various associated documents outlining policing and intelligence priorities and summaries of intelligence collected, local facilities checked, families of detainees visited, and updates on people of interest in the community. There are also weekly intelligence and detention reports, which include information on investigations of tips and on suspicious people. Left: A police-issued smartphone. Right: Login screen for one of the apps on the smartphone, Public Safety App. Screenshots: Obtained by The Intercept 1Public Safety App. Used to submit intelligence reports or tips, among other things. 2People Inspection App. Used for facial recognition. 3An app linking to a police automation system, the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, or IJOP. 4Registration screen for the Public Safety App 5Password 6Login button The database provides information on numerous other tools used to analyze the digital surveillance it contains. For example, documents in the database reference a Chinese government system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform. IJOP, which has been the subject of extensive interest and discussion by human rights groups, gathers together surveillance about the residents of Xinjiang, stores it centrally, and uses it to make automated policing decisions referred to in the database as “pushes,” or push notifications. IJOP was the platform police said issued the order to investigate the WeChat free travel group. Other documents give information on the use of the label “three-category people,” who are deemed terrorists or extremists, with three varying degrees of severity. The database itself repeatedly uses a marker to query for Uyghur people, “iXvWZREN,” which groups them with terrorists and ex-convicts. There is no marker for Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China. A computer monitor shows many faces at an inspection point in Kashgar, Xinjiang, on June 28, 2018. Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun via AP FROM CHECKPOINTS TO CHAT MONITORING: SURVEILLANCE IN ÜRÜMQI The surveillance in Xinjiang was known to be extensive, creating one of the most watched regions in the world. What the database reveals is how this spying machine is used: what surveillance looks like on the ground (unrelenting) and what specific ends it is intended to serve (often to curb any unsanctioned influence, from the practice of Islam to ideas from foreign countries). People are watched up close and at a distance, with some information directly sucked out of their digital devices, other data collected from taps and sensors, and still more from relatives and informants in the community. The campaign against Uyghurs and their practice of Islam is laid out in stark and aggressive terms in police documents, and paranoia about outside or otherwise malign influence of many sorts manifest repeatedly. Some of the most invasive data in the database comes from “anti-terrorism sword” phone inspection tools. Police at checkpoints, which pervade the city, make people plug their phones into these devices, which come from various manufacturers. They gather personal data from phones, including contacts and text messages, and also check pictures, videos, audio files, and documents against a list of prohibited items. They can display WeChat and SMS text messages. The data extracted is then integrated into IJOP. A 2018 report from a neighborhood just northeast of the center of Ürümqi mentions authorities conducting searches on 1,860 people with an anti-terrorism sword in just one week in March. In the same report, detailing a single week in April, 2,057 people in the area had their phones checked. Around 30,000 people live in the area, the Qidaowan neighorhood, according to government statistics. This pattern of frequent police stops is seen in other parts of Ürümqi. Documents discuss police checking people’s phones upwards of three or four times in one night, and how this makes it difficult to stay on the good side of the populace, which is clearly becoming annoyed. For example, an August 2017 police report said that “due to overly frequent phone inspections conducted by certain checkpoints, which caused some people to be inspected over 3 times, people complain about this work.” An October 2017 “social opinion intelligence report” stated that “some people reflected that the current checkpoint is too overpowered. Often they would be checked 3 times during one night. It wastes their time when they are in an emergency.” The documents discuss people who switched to older phones to prevent the inconvenience of these phone checks. Rune Steenberg, an anthropologist in Denmark focusing on Xinjiang and Uyghurs, who spent time in Kashgar as a researcher as late as 2016, said he switched to using a simple phone rather than a smartphone in 2014 and that many Uyghurs did the same. “It’s not just about them discovering stuff on your phone,” he said. “They can place stuff on your phone in order to incriminate you. And there’s no way you can afterwards prove that that was placed on your phone and it wasn’t from you. So it became really dangerous, actually, to have a smartphone.” And, Steenberg said, police would often scam people into giving up their smartphones, falsely stating the phone had religious content and asking people if it was theirs, knowing they would disown the device. “They would be like, ‘No, that’s not my phone, no, I didn’t bring my phone here,’” said Steenberg. Then, he said, the police would hold onto the phones and sell them afterward. Residents pass by a security checkpoint and surveillance cameras mounted on a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang, on Nov. 5, 2017. Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP The database also helps quantify how broadly phone surveillance was deployed around Ürümqi. For example, in the space of one year and 11 months, Chinese authorities collected close to 11 million SMS messages. In one year and 10 months, they gathered 11.8 million records on phone call duration and parties involved in the call. And in a one-year, 11-month period, they gathered seven million contacts and around 255,000 records on phone hardware, including the IMSI number that identifies phones on cellular networks; phone model and manufacturer; a computer network identifier known as a MAC address; and another cellular network identifier, the IMEI number. Phone call information that is tracked in the database includes people on the calls, name of the recipient, and the start and stop times of each conversation. Fields in the database indicate that online dating information, e-commerce purchases, and email contacts may also be extracted from phones. “You cannot feel safe anywhere because of your cellphone,” said Abduweli Ayup, a linguist and poet who lived in Kashgar, Xinjiang. “You have to turn your cellphone on 24 hours, and you have to answer the phone at any time if police call you.” He said that with chat apps also monitored, Uyghurs can never experience privacy, even at home. The database contains phone surveillance records, helping to quantify police monitoring of communications in Xinjiang. Chart: Soohee Cho/The Intercept Beyond passively watching phones, the government worked to coerce people to participate in a biometrics program purported to be a health initiative. Under the “Physicals for All” program, citizens were required to go have their faces scanned and voice signatures analyzed, as well as give DNA. Documents describing the program indicate it is part of the policing system. Darren Byler, an anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that while the “Physicals for All” program has long been known about and suspected to be a form of surveillance, authorities have always denied it and said it was simply a public health initiative. “How clearly this is part of the policing system is made clear in the documents,” Byler said. “It’s very clear, it’s obvious that that’s a part of how they want to control the population.” Reports in the database show “Physicals for All” work is routinely conducted through the police “convenience stations,” leading to complaints from citizens about sanitary conditions. (The convenience stations purportedly bring the community and police closer together, featuring amenities like public Wi-Fi and phone-charging, but are hubs for surveillance.) They also discuss how citizens who fail to submit biometric and biographical information are reported to police, face fines, and are sometimes made to formally renounce their behavior. Some documents about the program focus on migrants or the “ethnic-language people.” One indicates that physical exams conducted on students are used for policing: (09-MARCH-2018) (QIDAOWAN COMMUNITY) (2) Houbo Institute, which is part of the second hospital of Xinjiang Medical University, is going to start a new semester soon. The list of names of returning students is not known to us. Method: After the semester begins, we will immediately conduct “physical checkup” work on the returning students using the IJOP platform. We will report to the national security team immediately if we find any suspicious labels. Documents in the database also show heightened surveillance of people as they move about in public through the growing use of facial recognition, directed by the IJOP system. The police report on use of the anti-terrorism sword also details the use of facial recognition, showing that over 900 people were checked using facial recognition across 40 police convenience stations in Qidaowan Precinct. (17-APRIL-2018) (FOUR) Convenience Police Station Operational Notes: There are 40 convenience stations in Qidaowan Precinct in total. … This week we searched 2,057 people with the anti-terrorism sword and did facial recognition on 935 people. No suspects. We sent 237 intelligence reports using the Intelligence Reporting System. It’s clear, Byler said after reviewing the numbers, that “face recognition has become an increasingly important aspect of the surveillance system.” Some of the most intriguing evidence of personal data surveillance comes from computer programming code stored in the database and seemingly designed to generate reports. This reporting code references a good deal of material not included in the database obtained by The Intercept, making it impossible to confirm how much of it is actually collected by authorities or how it would be used. Still, these so-called tactic or evidence collection reports give clues as to what information the database, on its own or as part of a broader collection, is intended to include. The report code contains references to data on online services like Facebook, QQ, Momo, Weibo, Taobao’s Aliwangwang, as well as actual phone call recordings, photos, GPS locations, and a list of “high-risk words.” Documents in the database also confirm police access to information on people’s use of WeChat. Discussion of WeChat surveillance appears in records of auxiliary community police meetings and accounts of police investigations. Surveillance in Ürümqi: Police use a tool known as an “anti-terrorism sword” to download the contents of Ürümqi residents’ phones, sometimes three or four times a day. Uyghurs who travel outside of China, as well as their relatives and friends, are monitored to stifle desire for greater freedom or autonomy. Authorities keep tabs on who participates in weekly “flag-raising” ceremonies as a litmus test for loyalty to China. Contact with areas outside Xinjiang, or with people in contact with those areas, is extensively monitored and is grounds for suspicion. Practicing Islam is considered a red flag that has led to further investigation. In an example of how police document their WeChat capabilities, one document — from the national Internet Safety Bureau — demonstrates a police search drill in which a police officer was marked as a suspect for the purpose of the exercise. He drove throughout the city while other police traced his vehicle using his WeChat history and location data. Authorities appeared to read the mock suspect’s WeChat texts, with one “WeChat Analysis” reading, “He said he’s having lunch at the petrol area.” The aim of much of the surveillance is to curb any influence that could conceivably lead to a desire for greater freedom or autonomy among Uyghur and other minority groups in Xinjiang. For example, the material corroborates reports that Uyghurs are monitored outside of China and that it’s not just people who travel abroad and then return who are surveilled, but also their relatives and friends. Police in the Shuimogou district of Ürümqi investigated a young woman because her high school friend went to study at Stanford University and because the woman sometimes talked to her on WeChat. “According to the investigation, we did not find any violation of rules or laws while she resided and worked in our area,” read a 2018 report from the neighborhood of Weihuliang. “While she resided in the area she actively participated in community works and actively participated in other activities in the community, and actively participated in the raising of the flag ceremony in the community. We do not see any abnormality and she is cleared from suspicion.” Byler called the incident “important confirmation on the way people outside the country are being monitored by those in the country, and the way these connections produce ‘micro-clues’ of suspicion.” In another example of how outside influence is grounds for suspicion, a document from the community of Anping, also in Shuimogou, mentions that all phones and computers of workers who have visited family outside of the city should be inspected for unauthorized content. Clearing violent and terrorist audio and video has always been a very important part of stability work. Our community pays a lot of attention to this work. Because the Chinese New Year break is coming to an end, people will increasingly come back to work, therefore our community decided to conduct a large-scale computer and cellphone inspection for workers who are coming back. We inspect stored information on every household and every person’s cellphone and computer. To date, we did not discover violent and terrorist audio and video among the residents in the area. We will continue this work later and will record the results. Chinese authorities’ fear of outside influence on citizens of Xinjiang is connected to an initiative called “backflow prevention,” or fanghuiliu. The idea is to prevent the “backflow” of extremism or other malign ideas from abroad. A possible example of this initiative is the 2018 imprisonment of Feng Siyu, a Chinese academic who came to Xinjiang University’s Folklore Research Center as a translator the previous February. Feng is part of China’s Han ethnic majority and is originally from Hangzhou in eastern China, far from Xinjiang. But she studied abroad — including at Amherst College, SOAS University of London, and Indiana University — and came under police attention in Ürümqi, according to an October 2017 police intelligence note in the database. The note recorded that Feng had “foreign obscure software” on her OnePlus smartphone. The note further stated that the software came with the smartphone and that Feng did not use it. Feng is believed to have been sentenced to two years in prison in February 2018. Her imprisonment is tracked on shahit.biz, the Xinjiang Victim’s Database, a website that documents instances of incarceration in the region. Steenberg, the anthropologist, said he believes Feng was under scrutiny because she traveled between the U.S. and Ürümqi and spoke good Uyghur, and because of her work at the folk research center and with its founder Rahile Dawut. A celebrated academic, Dawut collected ethnographic data, including folktales and oral literature in southern Xinjiang and information on Sufi Islamic practices. Dawut disappeared in December 2017 and is believed to be in detention. The drive for “backflow prevention” is also reflected in the identification of those who leave China as security threats. One report from Saimachang, a Uyghur stronghold in the historic center of Ürümqi, discusses former residents who have gone abroad and applied for political asylum as terrorists, corroborating reports that Uyghurs are monitored outside of China. “It’s really clear evidence that charges of terrorism or extremism don’t meet international standards of terrorism or extremism,” said Byler. “Applying for political asylum is not a sign of terrorism by most definitions, but in this context it is.” This also demonstrates the amount of detailed information Chinese authorities keep about Uyghurs abroad. Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur, linguist and activist at his home in Bergen, Norway on January 21, 2021. Photo: Melanie Burford for The Intercept Ayup has experience with this sort of monitoring. While in Kashgar, Ayup operated a Uyghur-language kindergarten and promoted Uyghur-language education. He fled China after 15 months of detention, during which he said he was interrogated and tortured. After leaving, Ayup said at one point he joined a WeChat group for the Chinese embassy. “When I went to the Chinese embassy, they asked me to join their WeChat group, and when I joined, a Chinese spy in Ürümqi found me; he talked to me and he threatened me,” he said. Even holding a passport is considered suspicious. Documents in the database indicate Uyghur passport holders are checked on by authorities more frequently than those without passports. Indeed, any knowledge of life outside of Xinjiang can be flagged as suspicious. For example, police in Weihuliang took note in one weekly report, among “people who need special attention,” of four people who had traveled to Beijing “to reflect local issues.” “The rest have never left the region, so they’re seen as safer,” Byler said. Even phone calls or text chats involving outside countries invite scrutiny from authorities in Xinjiang. In Tianshan, the historic and majority-Uyghur center of Ürümqi, authorities reported sending a professional driver to re-education following an unusual phone call to a “key country.” Zenz believes the “key country” is one in a group of 26 largely Muslim “focus” countries watched by authorities. Xinjiang authorities have targeted people with connections to these countries for interrogation, detention and even imprisonment, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The countries include Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. SUZHOULU COMMUNITY STABILITY WEEKLY JUDGMENT REPORT (FEB 12 - FEB 14) 2. While doing home visits, a community worker learned that [name redacted], who lives in [address], national ID number [redacted], female, Uyghur, has no job and stays home to care for her young children. … Community police searched on the police net and found out that the person was arrested in [hometown] on September 21, 2017. The reason for arrest: Cellphone contains obscure chat program. … 3. Social workers learned while doing home visits that [name redacted], who lives in [address redacted], Uyghur, national ID number [redacted] … his mother, [name redacted], female, Uyghur, national ID number [redacted], has been detained in Tianshan District on September 20, 2017. Reason for arrest: face covering. … 4. Community workers learned during home visits that [name redacted], who lives in [address], male, Uyghur … driver … has strange phone call behaviors during the night, and communicates with key countries. He has been detained in his hometown and is currently educated and converted (Shule County). … Mother: [name redacted], female, Uyghur. … Currently the community is monitoring her husband and children according to the detainee relative conditions. The database also shows increased use of artificial intelligence, coupled with human intelligence, in directing surveillance in recent years. Documents from authorities in the Ürümqi districts of Tianshan and Shuimogou show IJOP sending push notifications directing investigations by local police. In 2018, one police precinct alone received 40 such notifications, according to one document. While news reports in recent years have depicted Chinese police automation systems like IJOP as rudimentary, relying heavily on human intelligence, evidence in the database indicates use of machine-learning technology is growing, said Byler, who received his Ph.D. in Uyghur technopolitics in Chinese cities of Central Asia. A police smartphone app used in Ürümqi during a police stop or at a checkpoint shows facial recognition results, along with information about the top matches from police records. On the left, five possible matches are shown, with the top match rated 95.58 percent likely correct. Screenshots: Obtained by The Intercept 1Search result 2Name 3Sex: Male 4ID number 5Identity characteristics 6Process result 7Face database: Long-term residents 8Note 9Person details 10Date of Birth 11National ID number 12Identity: Border control subject of “backflow prevention.” (Indicates the person was flagged as part of an initiative to curb the influx of dangerous ideas from foreign countries.) 13Process: Arrest immediately if it’s the person, otherwise collect information. “What your data shows is that it’s beginning to automate in some ways, especially around face surveillance,” Byler said. “If they’re using 900 checkpoint [scans] around face surveillance, they are using AI to a significant extent now,” he added, referring to the 935 facial scans in one week in Qidaowan Precinct. Documents show police are also adding into IJOP a significant amount of checkpoint data, including phone downloads from anti-terrorism swords. Documents from 2018 and 2019 show mounting push notifications from IJOP. “It’s clear that that system is beginning to alert them and direct their policing in new ways, and so it is starting to come online,” said Byler. The documents also make clear the extent to which authorities try to assess the psychology of people under suspicion, with a keen eye in particular toward loyalty and even fervor. This is exhibited at so-called flag-raising ceremonies: community events in which participants proclaim their loyalty to China and the ruling regime. Documents show that these events are extensively monitored by police and their proxies. Authorities watch not just former detainees but their relatives as well, to confirm they are participating and to determine how passionate they are about doing so. A security officer looks on as a woman passes through a checkpoint, equipped with a metal detector and facial recognition technology, to enter the main bazaar in Ürümqi, Xinjiang, on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images Authorities used participation in these weekly ceremonies as a way to monitor three people, likely Uyghurs, on a community watchlist, according to one of the documents. Participants are asked to perform a vow of loyalty involving the phrase “Voice your opinion, raise your sword” (or “Show your voice, show your sword”). If their participation is not wholehearted and patriotic, employers and others inform on them to police, Byler said. Also scrutinized at the ceremonies are “surplus laborers,” people on a coercive labor track that blends work on community projects with re-education. The surplus labor program has ramped up sharply over the last four years. Documents show that the police officers and neighbors doing this monitoring at flag-raising ceremonies are also making recommendations about who should be sent to re-education camps. Although China has insisted its policing in Xinjiang is directed at stopping terrorism and extremism rather than persecuting the practice of any religion, the database confirms and details how surveillance homes in on many common expressions of Islamic faith, and even on curiosity about the religion, leading in many cases to investigations. The government considers it a potential sign of religious extremism to grow a beard, have a prayer rug, own Uyghur books, or even quit smoking or drinking. Surveillance directed at Islamic practice in the region also involves watching mosques. Authorities surveil mosque attendance, tally which worshippers are migrants and which are residents, and monitor whether prayers are conducted in an orderly way, according to police reports in the database. Ayup said mosques have cameras inside too, and people are surveilled for the way in which they pray. “If people use a different style of praying … the camera takes a picture,” he said, adding that a friend was arrested for this. Ayup said that some Uyghurs pray in very old styles, and some use new styles. “In the Chinese government’s eyes, the new style is threatening, is extremism,” he said. Even the use of natural gas in a neighborhood mosque was monitored, according to a document from Quingcui, a community in the Liudaowan neighborhood in the district of Shuimogou. Security cameras are seen on a street in Ürümqi, the capital of western China’s Xinjiang region, on July 2, 2010. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images CITIZENS INTEGRATED INTO SYSTEM OF “HYPERPOLICING” The relentless surveillance in Xinjiang has been the best understood component of the repressive environment in the region. More difficult to study and understand, particularly for human rights groups abroad, has been how and to what extent it drives enforcement. As it turns out, the intensity of policing in Xinjiang matches the hyperaggression of the surveillance: closely integrated and every bit as pervasive. The database obtained by The Intercept reveals evidence of a deeply invasive police state, concerned with people’s thoughts and enthusiasms, entering their homes, interfering with their daily movements, and even seeking out crimes in activities perfectly legal at the time they were undertaken. Authorities in the region direct investigations and other police work using an approach one expert, after examining portions of the database, described as “hyperpolicing,” cracking down on any aberrant behavior. The tactics used are all-encompassing, involving civilian brigades, home visits, and frequent checkpoints. As extensive as this work is, it is also conducted in a way that targets people according to perceived danger. Minorities of all sorts — be they linguistic, religious, or ethnic — are disproportionately patrolled. Discrimination against so-called ethnic-language people, or Muslim minorities with their own languages, is a key component of policing in Xinjiang. “Hyperpolicing” in Ürümqi: A wide range of activities and behaviors among Muslim minorities has been considered criminal, even if they were legal at the time of the incident. Vigorous policing of mosques, including tight regulation of who can enter and observation of how congregants pray, with the goal of lowering attendance. Other examples of hyperpolicing: watching people’s online behavior, requiring knives in restaurants to be kept on chains, regular home visits to inspect for religious items like prayer mats and books. Community informants received extensive guidance on what kind of intelligence to feed to police. Many detainees and former detainees are referred to as “three-category people.” The label, applied very liberally, refers to purported extremists and terrorists of three levels of severity, ranked according to the government’s perception of their mindset and potential to cause harm. Relatives of detainees and former detainees are also labeled, ranked, and tracked by police. Another system categorizes people as trustworthy, normal, or untrustworthy. Police categories and rankings implicitly draw attention to minority groups, but in some contexts, this focus is made explicit. For example, minutes from the community stability meetings show that these meetings specifically put a focus on “ethnic-language people,” who are under stronger surveillance than Chinese-speaking Hui Muslims. The meetings also focus on relatives of primarily Uyghur detainees. Uyghurs are also policed in their practice of Islam. Documents show that police at times conduct security checks on everyone attending a given mosque. Indeed, the government tightly controls who is allowed into mosques. One police document detailed an incident in which three students tried to go to a funeral for a friend’s father at a mosque. As Byler described it, the three students “were just hanging around the entrance trying to find a way to walk in because they had to scan their ID cards to go inside, but they were worried that [the front gate checkpoint] would contact the police and they didn’t know what to do.” The police questioned the students, held them for hours, and put them on a watchlist at school, “even though they explained everything they were trying to do,” Byler said. More recent reports indicate that authorities set a goal of lowering mosque attendance and met it. Many police documents mention that mosque attendance is lower, and some explicitly describe this as indicating success. One report indicated that at one mosque, total visits in a four-month period declined by 80,000, compared to the same period in the prior year: more than a 96 percent decrease. This appears to be partly due to the departure of an imam and temporary closure of the mosque, but the report states that “there has been a drastic lowering of religious practitioners” over two years. It adds that this is partly because visitors left the city, were sent to camps, or were afraid to practice Islam. (12-NOVEMBER-2018)(XIHEBA)… There are 167 religious practitioners in the jurisdiction. … In the past two years, there has been a drastic lowering of religious practitioners. … The remaining practitioners are by and large long-term residents of advanced age. Reasons for changes in believer numbers and composition: … The jurisdiction strictly followed the anti-extremism work ordered by the regional officer. … The mosque has a strict real-name policy and conducts religious activities following the law. People who work in the public sector and some young people no longer enter the premises. … Since the beginning of the 2017 Strike Down and Detain operation, the problematic people in the jurisdiction have either been detained or re-educated. The total population has decreased. Mosque activity that the Chinese government views as signs of extremism, said Ayup, can include praying without a Uyghur doppa, wearing perfume in the mosque, or even being relaxed while praying. Anybody who doesn’t praise the Chinese Communist Party after their prayer is also considered suspicious, he said. In police notes, Byler said, “it’s interesting that they’re describing citizens as enemies, and it makes it clear that they see this as a sort of counterinsurgency, when really they’re just trying to detect who practices Islam or not.” Notes from a police station in Weihuliang describe a “large-scale investigation … focused on areas where migrant populations congregate,” concentrating on people from predominately Uyghur southern Xinjiang. The notes said that in one week, police had registered 605 people from southern Xinjiang, investigating 383 of them and people they lived with. In the same sweeps, authorities inspected 367 phones and nine computers. Xinjiang authorities’ policing of Islam is particularly zealous in its hunt for “wild imams” or “illegal preaching.” The terms refer to Islamic preachers whose work is not sanctioned by the Chinese government; rights groups have said Chinese authorities draw this legal line arbitrarily, to serve political needs. These imams can be prosecuted for sermons delivered either online and in mosques. The Weihuliang police station notes list 60 people involved in so-called illegal preaching, 50 of whom are in custody. The same document said that “illegal preaching” in the WeChat group “Group 1 teach (Qur’an ABCs)” led to the capture of a 41-year-old Hui woman and the administrative detention of a 62-year-old Hui man. More recent documents, from 2017 through 2019, reflect mounting difficulty by the police in continuing to find violations to enforce and people to place in detention or re-education camps. That’s because in 2017, the first wave of detentions swept Xinjiang, leading to the expulsion of a large portion of the population from Ürümqi. Xinjiang party leader Chen Quanguo told officials to “round up everyone who should be rounded up,” extending a hard-line approach Chinese President Xi Jinping began organizing after a mass stabbing at a train station and an attack on an outdoor market with cars and explosives, both in 2014. Police documents from this period, after the first wave of repression, reflect an intent to hunt down suspicious behavior of any kind. “The system is set up in a way that’s producing hyperpolicing,” Byler said, “where any strange or any kind of aberrant behavior is reported, and if you’re a minority, you’re ‘ethnic,’ which is how they refer to Uyghurs and Kazakhs, then you’re very susceptible to this kind of stuff and you’re being policed on a micro level, both by human policing and by the application of the technology to you and your life.” In some instances, people are being persecuted for violating laws before the laws were even instituted. One police document describes how Hui women were detained because of evidence they had studied the Quran in an online group — which was legal at the time they did it but became illegal prior to their detention. They had been inactive in the group for at least a year before they were detained. Such uncertainty about laws in Xinjiang, and when one might run afoul of police, echoes Ayup’s experience. “After people get arrested, then they will find out that ‘Oh, that [activity] is dangerous,’” he explained. Wang said the hyperpolicing has become more pervasive over time. “It’s basically a crackdown of everything,” Wang said, spreading from repression of Islamic practices to drug abuse and mental illness. “They just want to make sure they have such control over that region, general overall control.” People walk on the street of Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar on June 25, 2020, in Ürümqi. Photo: David Liu/Getty Images One illustration of how policing became increasingly aggressive and ubiquitous in Xinjiang is a police report discussing how one knife at a dumpling shop was not chained to a secure post, as per regulation. The report said the violation needed to be rectified within a day. Laws in Xinjiang require not only the chaining of knives, the document indicated, but that knives also have QR codes identifying their owners. “It’s just a way of showing how tightly everything is controlled, that even knives that are used in cooking have to be thought of as potential weapons,” said Byler. To maintain the maximal vigilance entailed in “hyperpolicing,” authorities in Xinjiang enlisted ordinary citizens to inform on one another — not unheard of in China but practiced in the region more extensively, particularly against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Helping to enable this, citizens are rewarded for reporting on one another. The documents in the database include some details on this previously reported fact. Informants are rewarded for passing along information, but people are also rewarded for more specific actions. Linking their WeChat account, passing a verification, and posting an image can all result in a cash reward. All of this is tracked and reflected in the database. One document, a public announcement from police, indicates that police and auxiliaries faced pressure to submit large quantities of intelligence to authorities. It chastised citizens in the high-tech zone within Ürümqi’s Xinshi district for sending in tips that are “filler created just to make report numbers seem large, and cannot be used, and occupy a large amount of manpower and time to process.” For example, “residents reported that there are often kids urinating in the elevator” of one building. Also: “A few citizens reported that they are scammed while buying crabs or mooncakes online. Quantities lost are generally not big.” The announcement then went on to extensively detail 10 “categories of intelligence that are forbidden to report,” including tips having nothing to do with “policy about anti-terrorism, minority policy,” or with something called the “Xinjiang Management Agenda,” or with “policies that benefits citizens.” Essentially, as Byler put it, authorities “were like, ‘That’s not the intelligence we want, we want intelligence about the Muslims.’” This type of policing, bubbling up from the grassroots of the populace, “is about recruiting and considering ordinary people as part of these surveillance teams,” Wang said. “And in that way, it spells out quite an interesting philosophy of surveillance and society and engineering that I don’t think a lot of people understand outside of China.” When Ayup lived in Xinjiang, he said, groups of 10 families were required to report somebody once a week in a feedback box, which existed before the app. “The problem is, if you cannot find something to write, you have to make it up to avoid being sent to the camps and to the center, so it’s obligatory. That’s the problem, but you cannot blame someone who reports because it’s his or her obligation,” he said. The Public Safety App is one way authorities in Xinjiang draw ordinary citizens into the work of alerting, monitoring, and law enforcement. Chart: Soohee Cho/The Intercept In addition to drafting ordinary citizens individually to report on neighbors, authorities in Xinjiang also organized them through more formal community groups known as “safety units” or “brigades.” These units are segmented into groups of 10, according to documents in the database. For example, 10 households or 10 businesses might be organized as a brigade, with one volunteer from each group responding to calls like an emergency medical technician and doing drills in opposition to “terrorism.” Each business in a community “safety unit” must install a “one-click police alert button,” according to documents in the database. Once triggered, the auxiliary police and other businesses in the “safety unit” are required to show up within two minutes. Photo: Obtained by The Intercept The safety brigades hark back to a historical Chinese tradition known as the Baojia system, in which 10 households formed a bao (or later a jia, 10 of which in turn formed a bao). This fractal structure formed a social safety system and is heavily associated with policing and the militarization of the population. In modern times, similar systems have been branded as “grid management.” Several years ago, the Chinese government rolled out grid management nationwide; the density of citizen watch units in Xinjiang, however, has remained much higher than in other parts of the country, and safety units there are used for different purposes. The Xinjiang safety units have not been seen in previous government documents, Byler said, but are pretty obvious if you’re in the region, where you’ll see drills, people marching in formation, and business owners wearing red armbands to show their affiliation. “It’s the militarization of the population as a whole,” Byler said. “To this point we haven’t had a full description of what it’s supposed to do.” Hyperpolicing also reaches into people’s homes through regular visits by authorities; those deemed at risk for extremist, terrorist, or separatist influence receive frequent visits. This typically means Uyghurs, dissidents, and those who have gone through re-education camps, as well as anyone related to any of those people. Minutes from community stability meetings give a granular look at the type of information recorded in these home visits. They include professions, place of employment, former jobs, relatives (and relatives’ national ID numbers), travel, location of children, schools the children are attending, and what the community is still monitoring. Some residents are discussed as being monitored or controlled by the community; that means a neighborhood watch unit is assigned to monitor them. This can include visits as often as every day, or once or twice a week, from one or more cadre members living in close proximity. Some relatives of detainees are visited daily by local police. Even those considered trustworthy are visited, “to show them warmth and pull them into the Chinese patriotic fold,” as Byler put it. “It’s like winning hearts and minds.” In one account from a police document, an older woman whose son was held by authorities befriended a police officer who visited her. Police claimed that the woman had become like a mother to the officer. She treated him like her son and opened up about all of her actual son’s activities. She was the ideal type of person who has been re-educated through the system, the document indicated. Some home visits are for inspection purposes, to find religious items. Documents show police searching for religious books and removing prayer mats and even, as mentioned in a July 2018 police document, a picture of the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The documents indicate this effort originates from 2018 and is connected to a government initiative known as the “three cleanups” to encourage people to purge material considered extremist from their homes. “This is one of the first times I’ve seen that mentioned explicitly, that they’re going through people’s homes,” Byler said. A document from October 2018 described how these home inspections unfold: First, the personnel from the police station should gather all the people in the house into the living room in order to verify their identities one by one. Second, the cadres responsible for the household and members of the patrol team will conduct a careful inspection of all rooms of the house, especially under the carpet, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, and under the bed. Suspicious areas such as corners of the sofas, etc., are to be inspected one by one using a “turning over the boxes, emptying out the cabinets” approach, and the house number where the suspicious objects were found and photo of the owner of the objects are to be taken as evidence. The authorities also monitor phone calls between detainees and their family members back home. One document detailed such a call that lasted four minutes and 20 seconds, describing the contents of the conversation and how grateful the relatives were that the government allowed it. “It’s an inflection point documenting how people are receiving the re-education,” Byler explained. “If they cry or act angry that their relative can’t be released, that’s a sign that the re-education hasn’t been received.” In many cases, relatives were asked to record their call and share it with the police, or they were interviewed immediately after to see how they were doing after the call. Citizens in Xinjiang are also routinely stopped outside their homes by authorities. The database contains records from more than two million checkpoint stops in Ürümqi (population 3.5 million) and the surrounding area in a two-year period. It includes a list of nearly three dozen categories of people to stop, such as “intelligence national security important person.” When a person is stopped at a checkpoint, they go through an ID check, typically including processing via facial recognition. Facial recognition is sometimes performed through automatic scanning by a fixed surveillance camera. It can also be performed through a manual scan using a smartphone camera; these are often used on people deemed to need the extra scrutiny of an up-close facial scan, for example, because they lack ID. If a person’s face is displayed with a yellow, orange, or red indicator on a computer, showing the system has deemed them suspicious or criminal, they are questioned and may be arrested. Four people flagged with various colored “inspection levels” based on authorities’ perception of how dangerous they are. Screenshots: Obtained by The Intercept 1ID 2Type: People inspection 3Level: Released 4Result: All seems normal 5Type: Verify national ID 6Level 7Inspection result: Drug-related person nationwide. Process method: Special inspection, collect information. 8Inspection type: Stability-related inspection 9Inspection level: Released 10Inspection result: Subject to stability-related investigation. Work process: Collect information, check suspicion, report to precinct of original residency [their Hukou]. 11Result: Person incarcerated for July 5 riot [reference to 2009 Uyghur-Han civil unrest]. Process: Transfer to the sub-bureau of inspection location and detain. Categories of people often stopped at checkpoints include relatives of offenders and relatives of detainees. Data retained from these stops include photos of those stopped, the latitude and longitude of the stop, the name of the collection point, vehicle and license plate if applicable, the search time, the search level, whether the person was released, and the result of the search. Those who were stopped are categorized in the database as people who were immediately arrested, those who were returned to their original residence, psychiatric patients, relatives of detainees, relatives of offenders, and individuals who were listed as participants of the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, in which Uyghur–Han violence at a toy factory in southeast China led to a broader outbreak of civil unrest involving attacks against largely ethnically Han residents. Security cameras are installed above the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a “vocational skills education center” in Dabancheng, Xinjiang, on Sept. 4, 2018. This center, situated between the region’s capital Ürümqi and tourist spot Turpan, is among the largest known ones. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters A DETENTION SYSTEM BUILT ON UNCERTAINTY AND INCONSISTENCIES Beyond surveillance and policing, the database provides a close-up look at how various forms of incarceration are used to control the population, particularly minority groups and perceived dissidents in Xinjiang. It reveals a system moving to adapt its rhetoric and policies to a reality in which the length of incarceration, even under the guise of “training” or “re-education,” is often so uncertain that relatives of the imprisoned are grateful when detainees are granted fixed-term sentences. Documents illustrate Xinjiang’s complex system of prison-like facilities, which roughly speaking break down into four categories: those for temporary detention; “re-education”; a more lenient form of re-education referred to as “vocational training”; and long-term prison. Detention in Ürümqi: Complex incarceration system in Xinjiang of temporary detention, re-education camps, “vocational training,” and long-term imprisonment. Some evidence indicates that rates of detention are higher by a “shocking” degree than previously known, compared to less harsh forms of incarceration like re-education. Detention centers, which are said to have the harshest conditions and worst crowding, are essentially interrogation and holding facilities. People are kept there while waiting for an investigation to be completed. Re-education facilities are officially known as “transformation through education” camps. They practice “highly coercive brainwashing” in the words of Zenz, who has investigated the camps using government documents. The training centers are purportedly intended to transmit vocational and other skills but are clearly prison-like, with barbed wire, high walls, watchtowers, and internal camera systems. It is common for a given citizen to travel through multiple types of incarceration in a sort of pipeline fashion. One police document from the Tianshan district of Ürümqi describes a mother involved in a “national security incident” who was put into re-education, then a vocational training school. The re-education was conducted through the public security bureau’s internal security division, a domestic security force that investigates transnational crime. It is “a very tough unit,” often used against dissidents, said Zenz. “I totally expect that to be a place where torture is practiced, without knowing it for sure,” he added. Authorities then sent the mother to a vocational training center, which would have been “still plenty unpleasant and coercive,” said Zenz, but “the most lenient” and eventually leading to release into forced labor. “In the police state, it’s the most desirable place to be because you’ll eventually get out,” he said. (These types of so-called vocational training centers are distinct from real vocational training centers existing in China that do not involve forced stays where people are removed from their families and subject to indoctrination.) Nejmiddin Qarluq, an ethnic Uyghur and political activist who fled China and was given asylum in Belgium, pictured at his new home in Brussels on Jan. 21, 2021. Photo: Johanna de Tessieres for The Intercept Nejmiddin Qarluq, a Uyghur who obtained asylum in Belgium in 2017, said the reason for detention isn’t always clear, since people are often arrested casually and have their property confiscated. When Qarluq was 6 years old, his father was released from prison. He himself was sentenced to three years in prison, then served another five-and-a-half-year term. One of his brothers was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996, he said, and another brother was sentenced to six and a half years and is still in prison. His brother, ex-wife, and sister were locked up in an education camp in 2018. Because Qarluq was sentenced when he was 14, he said his entire life after he was released was under Chinese Communist Party police supervision, and he wasn’t ever able to feel safe at all. And, he said, there is no freedom or privacy — even privacy of thought — beyond the country’s control. “I am the lucky one who got the chance to flee the country,” he said. The database contains evidence that rates of detention, compared to re-education, may be significantly higher than outside observers believed. That would mean Uyghurs and others in the system were enduring significantly harsher conditions while incarcerated. A police report from Weihuliang Precinct provides information on the number of people held throughout Shuimogou, one of seven districts in Ürümqi, in detention and re-education. At the time, in February 2018, the district had 803 people in re-education and almost as many, around 787, in detention. In Weihuliang specifically, the ratio of people in detention was even higher: 348 detained versus 184 in re-education. Byler called this “a really shocking proportion, if we take this to be normative across the region.” “That’s showing us that almost half of the people detained are not even in the re-education camp system yet, they’re just being processed,” Byler added. “Conditions in these spaces are really bad. If what these reports are telling us are true, that these larger numbers are being held in these spaces, it is really concerning.” Byler described detention as often “very crowded, from what we’ve heard from people, and the conditions in them are really bad, because of the overcrowding. … People sometimes, because of the crowding, aren’t able to sleep at the same time because they can’t all fit on the bed (actually a platform with a wooden top called a ‘kang’) at the same time.” Cameras in the cell watch constantly, and lights remain on all night. Re-education, in comparison, offers somewhat better conditions, including larger inner courtyards for marching or teaching, and more importantly, the hope of potentially quick release — whenever “transformative” education is complete. But documents from the database indicate this may be, at least in some cases, a false idea. In over 100 cases, they discuss fixed-length sentences for re-education, such as two-year or three-year terms. (WENXI COMMUNITY) On November 5, 2018, police officers and household-assigned cadres accompanied [name redacted] (female, Uyghur …), wife of re-educated individual [name redacted] (male, Uyghur …), to Daban City re-education node to have a face-to-face with [her husband]. At the same time, they received the announcement from the re-education center and the procuratorate [prosecutor’s office] that her husband was sentenced to three years in re-education. The vocational training center told [the wife] that her husband could potentially be released early if he has good behavior inside the center. [The wife] told the cadre that she can accept the fact that her husband was to be re-educated for three years, although her mood is very down, but at least she and her husband have some hope. She also hoped that her husband could have good behavior inside the re-education center and hopefully reunite with the family early. Police and cadre comforted [the wife] that she shouldn’t worry too much, take care of herself and take care of the two children, and that the community would help her to solve any problems she would face. The sentences appear to be assigned to people in the vocational form of re-education, often after they have been in incarcerated for an extended period of time. They come, documents show, through a program called “Two Inform, One Advocate,” with “inform” apparently referring to information about extremism (as provided in re-education) and “advocate” referring to advocacy of a policy to provide sentences. Under this system, relatives and cadre members typically meet the person in re-education and a judge issues a “pre-judgment” and “pre-sentence,” usually of two to four years in documents from the database. Sometimes, certain requirements come along with the sentence, such as acquiring Chinese language skills. An October 2018 report stated that “some relatives of three-category people are very happy after they learned about ‘Two Inform, One Advocate’ work; because of this, at least they know how long it would take for their relatives to come out, and they can arrange many business-related things beforehand.” In one of many examples of this policy in the database, from a November 2018 report, a Uyghur woman traveled to Daban City Vocational Center to receive a verdict with her brother: Her younger brother [name redacted] Uyghur, male … on September 27, 2017, due to living and traveling with a convicted person, was taken by Badaowan Precinct for re-education. Yesterday at the “Two Inform, One Advocate” activity at the center, the verdict was sheltering criminals, and the sentence was to study for three years at the vocational school. The relatives did not dissent from the verdict and thanked the care and love of the party and the government for her and their help to her [brother]. “We’ve never heard of people getting sentences for re-education,” said Byler. “They tell you that you have to earn points to be released, and so you’re supposed to try really hard to get re-educated, but now they’re saying actually that these people have been given a sentence, their course of re-education will take three years or what have you. So it’s actually like a prison term. That’s one of the tyrannies of the system, is that once you’re in the camps, you’ll never know when you’ll be released.” Re-education also seems to be closed off as an option for some of the most heavily persecuted activities. The Weihuliang police station notes that homed in on “illegal preachers,” listing 50 in detention, said only two were in re-education. Much of Zenz’s work has focused specifically on internment camps officially portrayed as “vocational skills education training centers” (zhiye jineng jiaoyu peixun zhongxin). The government positions them as a more benign alternative to prosecution for those who have committed minor offenses, but they are often cover for detention on minor grounds. Despite the emphasis on the word “training,” the facilities can practice coercive indoctrination just as re-education centers do. Government documents previously obtained by Zenz had described the re-education as using, in Zenz’s recounting, “assault-style transformation through education” (jiaoyu zhuanhua gongjian) to “ensure that results are achieved” on those who have “a vague understanding, negative attitudes, or even show resistance.” The impact of widespread detention is not limited to those who are in prison. One document indicates 326 children in one of the seven districts in Ürümqi have one or both parents in detention. The population of the district was around 43,730, according to 2010 government figures, but only around 12 percent of the population in Ürümqi are Uyghur. “If you take the adult population of that [ethnic group] and note that 326 students have one or two parents in detention, that appears to be quite substantial,” said Zenz. Documents: The documents published with the story are available here. Source: Millions of Leaked Police Files Detail Suffocating Surveillance of China’s Uyghur Minority
  14. China starts using anal swabs to test 'high-risk' people for Covid Method can increase detection rate among infected people, senior Beijing doctor tells state TV Commuters in Beijing on Wednesday. Officials reportedly took anal swabs from residents of areas with confirmed Covid cases in the capital last week. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP China has begun using anal swabs to test those it considers to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, state TV has reported. Officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed Covid-19 cases in Beijing last week, according to the state broadcaster CCTV, while those in designated quarantine facilities have also had the tests. Small, localised outbreaks in recent weeks have resulted in multiple cities in northern China being sealed off from the rest of the country and prompted mass testing campaigns, which had mostly been conducted using throat and nose swabs. The anal swabs method “can increase the detection rate of infected people” as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s Youan hospital, told CCTV. Coronavirus updates CCTV said on Sunday anal swabs would not be used as widely as other methods, as the technique was “not convenient”. As cases rise around the world, China has imposed stricter requirements on international arrivals in an effort to keep domestic transmission close to zero. The country has also tightened internal restrictions, with Beijing announcing that people from medium- or high-risk areas will be barred from the city from Thursday to reduce the risk of transmission over the lunar new year period. Arrivals into the country must provide multiple negative test results and quarantine for at least 14 days in a designated hotel, with many cities and regions imposing additional home observation requirements. Source: China starts using anal swabs to test 'high-risk' people for Covid
  15. China to allow driverless car tests on highways, putting it in the same lane as US, Germany and UK The draft, which is open to public feedback, is expected to be implemented soon if there are no strong objections from the general public MIIT says it is allowing driverless testing on highways because there is strong demand and the technology is improving This photo taken on July 22, 2020 shows a driver (L) in a Didi Chuxing autonomous taxi preparing for a pilot test drive on the streets in Shanghai. Photo: AFP China has drafted new rules that legalise autonomous driving (AD) tests on highways, putting it in line with the US, Germany and the UK, as the country’s new vehicle makers and autonomous driving companies speed on towards a driverless future. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s (MIIT) new draft regulations allow for “road testing and example application of smart connected vehicles”, and highways are permitted as one of the scenarios to test driverless cars. The draft, published this week and open to public feedback, is expected to be implemented soon if there are no strong objections. It marks a step forward for the industry as Beijing has been relatively cautious on tests of the new technology to date. For example, the BMW Group started testing autonomous vehicles on Germany’s highways in 2011. Since 2018, China has allowed autonomous driving road tests – not on highways – handling a total distance of more than 2 million kilometres “without a severe accident”, the MIIT said. The new rules should also allow the domestic industry to catch up with some US states like California and Florida, and countries such as the UK. MIIT said China is now allowing driverless testing on highways because “relevant enterprises and universities have developed intelligent connected vehicles that can run on expressways and there’s strong demand from the industry for conducting road tests in a broad range of scenarios”. Smart internet-connected cars, known as intelligent connected vehicles (ICVs), are seen as the automobile industry’s future. Technology companies are currently working with carmakers to develop a range of advanced in-car sensors, controllers, and other devices that enable the exchange and sharing of information between vehicles and other transport elements, such as individuals and roads. To get an AD car on the public road, the vehicle must pass safety tests and run normally on restricted roads and test parks. However, a human driver must still sit in to monitor and take over “when necessary”, the regulation says. “Traffic on highways is simpler [than city roads], but poses a larger challenge for the automated system. For example, the perception system – which processes data from the sensors – will become less accurate when the vehicle speeds up,” said a China-based autonomous driving engineer, who works for a major German carmaker but who requested anonymity due to company policy. Although a world full of driverless cars is still a distant reality, investors are continuing to pour resources into the industry. US tech giants Apple, Intel, Google and Tesla have all incubated their own self-driving divisions. In China, companies like Baidu, Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings all have stakes in the domestic industry, alongside start-ups such as Pony.ai, WeRide and AutoX. China is expected to become the world’s largest autonomous driving market by 2030, by which time sales of Level-4 self-driving cars (where the vehicle can handle the majority of driving situations independently) are expected to account for 24 per cent of global AD car sales, according to a recent report by consultants Deloitte. Under China’s new rules, companies or institutes are required to apply with the city or provincial government in which they would like to test the cars, and the qualification will “in principle” be valid for 18 months. They must also file a phased summary report every half a year. Source: China to allow driverless car tests on highways, putting it in the same lane as US, Germany and UK
  16. (Reuters) - China unveiled draft guidelines on Tuesday seeking to limit the scope of mobile apps’ collection of personal data in the latest attempt to curb the sprawling technology sector. The set of draft rules published by the Cyberspace Administration of China covers 38 types of apps from online shopping and instant messaging to ride-hailing and bike sharing. China has increased scrutiny of its technology sector in recent weeks, last month drafting anti-monopoly rules for tech firms. It has also expressed concerns about data protection and consumer rights, while authorities have on a number of occasions ordered apps to be suspended for mishandling user information. “In recent years, mobile internet applications have been widely used and have played an important role in promoting economic and social development and serving people’s livelihoods,” the cyber administration said in a statement. “At the same time, it is common for apps to collect ... personal information beyond their scope, and users cannot install and use them if they refuse to agree.” For ride-hailing apps, the draft rules regard a user’s phone number, or other personal identity information, as well as their location and destination, as falling within the scope of required information. Online payment apps, meanwhile, need the registered user’s phone number or other ID information, as well as the bank card numbers of both payer and payee, according to the draft rules, which are open to public feedback until Dec. 16. Source
  17. The Commerce Department reportedly says that US companies exporting gear to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation must first get a license to do so. The Beijing branch of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation. US wariness of Chinese tech firms was underlined again Friday, when the Commerce Department sent a letter to companies in the states reportedly telling them they must get a license before exporting certain goods to China's largest chipmaker, because of concerns about military use of technology. The Commerce Department said in the letter that exports to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation "may pose an unacceptable risk of diversion to a military end use in the People's Republic of China," according to a Saturday report by The New York Times. Last year, the US placed restrictions on companies selling gear to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, over concerns about Huawei's relationship with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used to spy on other countries and companies. And popular video app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is currently facing a potential ban in the US because of worries that the user data it collects could be shared with China's communist government. Both Huawei and ByteDance have called such concerns baseless. The Times notes that though SMIC is China's most technologically advanced manufacturer of semiconductors, it lags years behind industry-leading chipmakers and can't make chips that support the most cutting-edge applications. And for the processors it does make, it relies on equipment and software from American companies, the Times said. Asked about the Commerce Department's letter and the new export restrictions, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security said in a statement to CNET that the BIS can't comment "on any specific matter." The BIS "is constantly monitoring and assessing any potential threats to US national security and foreign policy interests," the spokesperson added, and "will take appropriate action as warranted," along with its interagency partners. SMIC didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment, but a spokeswoman for the company told the Times that SMIC makes chips solely for commercial and civilian purposes and has no relationship with China's armed forces. Source
  18. The MPA, RIAA, and other entertainment industry groups, would like China to tweak its copyright law and open the door to pirate site blocking. The groups propose several other changes and want the Chinese Government to encourage local tech giant Baidu to implement rigorous filtering technology while terminating repeat infringers. The American copyright industry generates billions of dollars in annual revenue and is generally seen as one of the primary export products. Whether it’s movies, music, software or other goods, US companies are among the market leaders. This position has also made the US a leader when it comes to international copyright law and regulations. All around the world, laws have been tweaked and altered to accommodate the interests of major copyright holders. These changes are usually the result of diplomatic pressure where major US companies get help from the US Government to protect their interests. For example, last year the USTR launched a review of South Africa’s copyright protection policies, with the threat of potential trade sanctions. At the moment, the USTR is working on its annual review of China to see whether the country complies with its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations. This triggered a response from various stakeholders, including several of the leading copyright groups. One of the most detailed submissions comes from the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which counts copyright groups including the MPA, RIAA, and ESA among its members. Their submission highlights that China has made some progress in recent years on various copyright issues, but more can be done. Earlier this year China’s National People’s Congress released a draft bill to amend the country’s copyright law. This includes a wide variety of changes that are positive, IIPA notes, but there’s a detailed list of shortcomings too. “While there are other positive aspects of the draft amendments—including enhanced remedies against infringement, increased damages, and the addition of punitive damages—the draft amendments do not address a number of deficiencies in China’s legal framework,” IIPA writes. The key demands related to the copyright law amendments are summarized in the bulleted list below, which the IIPA handily provided. For example, the US copyright groups would like China’s copyright law to support “no-fault” injunctions, so Chinese ISPs can be ordered to block pirate sites that are hosted overseas or operated by unknown persons. This is an interesting demand, as these same “no-fault” injunctions don’t exist under US law. This is one of the main reasons why pirate sites are not blocked in the United States. IIPA also suggests updating China’s law to extend the copyright term, which is currently the life of the author plus 50 years. According to the copyright holders, this should be extended by a minimum of 20 years. Changes to China’s copyright law should further allow for stronger enforcement options to tackle pirate apps and websites, which remain a problem. The submission calls out a long list of pirate sites and services, including 3dmgame.com, zimuzu.tv,25 btbtdy.net trix360.com, 92flac.com, sq688.com, 51ape.com dygod.net, ygdy8.com, gaoqing.la, mp4ba.com, btbtt.co, piahua.com, vodxc.com, lbdly.com, yymp3.com, musicool.cn, xh127.com, b9good.com, dygang.com, and many others. The liability of online service providers is another topic IIPA would like China to address. Current law already covers secondary liability for ISPs, but IIPA suggests that the law should be clarified to “ensure more predictable liability decisions by Chinese judges.” Some service providers are called out specifically by the copyright groups. They include Chinese technology giant Baidu, and specifically, its the cloud-storage service Baidu Pan. According to IIPA, Baido Pan is regularly used by pirates and the notice and takedown system hasn’t been effective in deterring this problem. The Chinese Government should step up and convince the company to use rigorous filtering technology to deal with this. “China’s government should encourage Baidu to do more, including improving implementation of its takedown tools, applying rigorous filtering technology to identify infringing content, and taking more effective action to suspend or terminate repeat infringers to ensure infringing content and links are removed expeditiously,” IIPA writes. IIPA’s wishlist doesn’t come as a surprise. Also, since it’s merely a submission to the USTR, these demands may never reach the Chinese Government. And even if they do, China may not be very receptive. Generally speaking, China is very cautious when it comes to outside influence within its borders. This is also reflected in IIPA’s own submission, which notes that foreign anti-piracy groups are prohibited from investigating piracy in China. — A copy of IIPA’s submission to the US Trade Representative, which overed a wide range of other IP-issues, is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  19. More than 3,000 people have been diagnosed with brucellosis, caused by drinking unpasteurised milk or contact with livestock. Brucellosis was caused by a leak at a vaccine factory in Lanzhou. Pic: National Health Commission/Chinanews.com More than 3,000 people in northern China have been diagnosed with a bacterial infection after an outbreak caused by a leak at a biopharmaceutical company last year. Almost 22,000 people in the city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, were tested and 3,245 came back positive for brucellosis, the National Health Commission (NHC) of Lanzhou has said. The infection is a highly contagious zoonosis, which according to the NHS website is caused by drinking unpasteurised milk or dairy products, or contact with bodily fluids of farm animals, such as cows, goats, sheep and pigs. Brucellosis can spread to humans from infected livestock, such as cows Symptoms include a high temperature, loss of appetite, sweating, headaches, extreme tiredness and back and joint pain. In a statement, the NHC said brucellosis was detected in November 2019, after a leak "caused by contaminated exhaust from a vaccine factory in Lanzhou, due to the use of expired disinfectant from late-July to mid-August last year". Staff at the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, an institution of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences near the factory, were infected - according to a report released by the Gansu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in late December. The NHC says in response, 11 public hospitals in the city offered "free examinations and treatment". Source
  20. Imported next-gen consoles are already available for pre-order in China, says Apptutti's Daniel Camilo Both the Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5 have now been revealed, with their respective prices, launch line-ups and release dates disclosed. The world is ready for next-gen -- except, perhaps, for the biggest gaming market in the world, China. But is that really the case? Xbox and PS5 coming to China? While Microsoft has not publicly addressed the issue yet, Sony did mention China in its recent PlayStation 5 showcase when the release date and prices were announced -- "PS5 launch date for China is still under exploration and will be announced at a later date" could be read in small print when the launch dates for the rest of the world were displayed. That the PS5 and the Xbox X/S wouldn't be available in China at the same time as other major markets doesn't really come as a surprise, as I explained in a previous article. While both the PS4 and Xbox One (and Nintendo Switch) have been officially launched in China with specifically targeted, region-locked machines, they arrived in the market years after being released elsewhere. Tight regulations and licensing issues for entertainment media and content in the country are the main reasons for that. While the official versions of the consoles are available, they could never realistically challenge the appeal and availability of imported hardware, which largely outsells the licensed versions in this case. Imported consoles and games are easily available on e-commerce platforms like Taobao -- the biggest e-commerce platform in China -- and most console gamers in China simply acquire what they need there. Pricing isn't even an issue, as even these "smuggled" products generally match officially recommended prices for other markets, in particular the US and Hong Kong. This is the part where I always feel the need to emphasize just how easy and common it is to find and buy imported games in China (that do not have a publishing license to be commercialized). By using Taobao, or other commonly used online platforms, one can order a physical edition of a game in the morning and still have it delivered in the same day, if ordering from a store in the same city. There's nothing "shady" or secretive about it. Taobao is the de-facto online platform to buy virtually anything in China, and one simply needs to type the names of whatever games or consoles, and they will likely show up with detailed information displayed. PS5 and Xbox Series X/S are already everywhere in China While both Sony and Microsoft are not yet ready to release their new consoles in the country, Chinese consumers already have plenty of choices available to get their hands on the machines very soon after the official release elsewhere. For both the Xbox Series X and S, most sellers are accepting a 500 Yuan deposit (roughly US$ 73), while for the PS5 with the blu-ray player, the deposit is usually 1000 yuan (US$ 147), with 500 Yuan also being the current standard for the digital-only version. Some games are also easy to find already, and all sorts of accessories are either becoming available for pre-order, or will very soon. Where exactly will the consoles come from? Mostly from Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also from Japan, the US and other territories. It's hard to say as there is no clear authority tracking imported games and consoles sold in China -- simply because it would be virtually impossible to track, considering its not-legal-but-nobody-really-cares status. One thing is certain: a considerable amount of hardware will be diverted from other markets into China. Countless traders are making sure of it, as I write this. Will it have an impact on China's console market? What this all means in practice is that the console market in China will remain as it is. Meaning, imported consoles and games will be the primary choice for most consumers, and once (if!) the consoles are actually launched in China, it will be already too late, just as it was for the Xbox One, PS4 and Switch. By then, millions of consoles will be in Chinese households already, and whatever officially launched models may come, they will more likely than not have very strict restrictions, at the very least for the number of games available. Since all console games in China are required to have a publishing license subject to the regulator's approval, a huge proportion of games don't stand a chance of being officially launched due to their content -- violence, gore, politically sensitive themes and/or references, paranormal and religious themes, and gambling mechanics are just some of the issues that could prevent a title from getting a license to be published in China. As long as Chinese authorities don't effectively crack down on imports being sold online, China will continue to have most games and consoles available to interested consumers -- minus, of course, the official marketing and distribution support from the companies producing these products. Daniel Camilo lives in Shenzhen. He is the overseas business developer for Apptutti, a specialist in publishing games in China. Source
  21. BEIJING/SINGAPORE/SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition, two people familiar with the matter said. The case was proposed by telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd last year and has been submitted by the country’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review, they added. A decision on whether to proceed with a formal investigation may come as soon as October and could be affected by the state of China’s relationship with the United States, one of the people said. The potential investigation follows a raft of actions by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to hobble Chinese tech companies, citing national security risks. This has included putting Huawei on its trade blacklist, threatening similar action for Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp 0981.HK and ordering TikTok owner ByteDance to divest the short-form video app. It also comes as China embarks on a major revamp of its antitrust laws with proposed amendments including a dramatic increase in maximum fines and expanded criteria for judging a company’s control of a market. A potential probe would also look at accusations that Google’s market position could cause “extreme damage” to Chinese companies like Huawei, as losing the U.S. tech giant’s support for Android-based operating systems would lead to loss of confidence and revenue, a second person said. The sources were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and declined to be identified. Google did not provide immediate comment, while Huawei declined to comment. China’s top market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the State Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment. EUROPE’S EXAMPLE The U.S. trade blacklist bars Google from providing technical support to new Huawei phone models and access to Google Mobile Services, the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based. Google had a temporary licence that exempted it from the ban on Huawei but it expired in August. It was not immediately clear what Google services the potential probe would focus on. Most Chinese smartphone vendors use an open-source version of the Android platform with alternatives to Google services on their domestic phones. Google’s search, email and other services are blocked in China. Huawei has said it missed its 2019 revenue target by $12 billion, which company officials have attributed to U.S. actions against it. Seeking to overcome its reliance on Google, the Chinese firm announced plans this month to introduce its proprietary Harmony operating system in smartphones next year. Chinese regulators will be looking at examples set by their peers in Europe and in India if it proceeds with the antitrust investigation, the first source said. “China will also look at what other countries have done, including holding inquiries with Google executives,” said the person. The second source added that one learning point would be how fines are levied based on a firm’s global revenues rather than local revenues. The European Union fined Google 4.3 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in 2018 over anticompetitive practices, including forcing phone makers to pre-install Google apps on Android devices and blocking them from using rivals to Google’s Android and search engine. That decision prompted Google to give European users more choice over default search tools and giving handset makers more leeway to use competing systems. Indian authorities are looking into allegations that Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app. ($1 = 0.8524 euros) Source
  22. Just a few months ago, Huawei defied the blacklist odds and outsold rival Samsung for global smartphone shipments—initially for April and then for the entire second quarter. Huawei had finally achieved its ambition to reach that coveted world number one slot. But what a difference those last few months have made. The news this week that Samsung’s third-quarter profits are likely 58% up on last year, that smartphone sales have surged as markets have recovered, means that the Korean giant is likely to retake that top-spot from its Chinese rival. The two were neck and neck for sales in the second quarter, albeit Huawei edged very slightly ahead. China’s early recovery from its coronavirus shutdown proved to be the key. Now, at a headline level, Samsung is a huge beneficiary from Huawei’s U.S. woes. The latest blacklist restrictions to deny Huawei access to the chipsets needed to power its flagship smartphones looks set to decimate 2021 sales, when its current stockpiles run down. The latest of those flagships, the Mate 40, launches on October 22. Absent a U.S. U-turn, it will be the last device for some time to carry an in-house Kirin chipset—some reports even suggest there may not be enough left to meet Mate 40 demand. Huawei has already seen a sharp decline in smartphone sales to its hard-won export markets. The loss of Google software and services from its devices saw to that. It turns out that a cut-down version of Android doesn’t cut it when the full-fat alternative is available. The company’s focus on its HarmonyOS alternative to Android is the response, and that’s likely to find its way onto new (and existing) smartphones in 2021. If there are any new smartphones, of course. The cliff-edge in smartphone sales next year is pretty much a given, unless there’s a U.S. backtrack or Qualcomm secures a license and a fast platform redesign follows. Some reports suggest Huawei’s 200 million-plus devices might drop to a paltry 50 million units in 2021. And that’s some 150 million users who would be buying a Huawei device but will now go elsewhere. Huawei has survived, even thrived, through the first 18-months of the U.S. blacklist through stellar sales in its domestic market. By the second quarter this year, the company had secured a dizzying 46% share, and that was even higher in the premium segments. That has meant more than 70% of Huawei smartphones being sold in China. But this means that even if Huawei stopped exports to maintain its domestic market, it would not have enough chipsets to prevent a staggering decline in China. Hungry rivals Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo are standing by with plenty of new 5G handsets—and once tens of millions of Chinese users leave, they need to be won all over again. We have already seen this play out internationally. Xiaomi’s staggering export growth coinciding with Huawei’s staggering export decline is no coincidence. Xiaomi has been quick to replicate Huawei’s effective export strategy—premium smartphones at a lower than premium price to compete head on with Apple and Samsung. And Xiaomi has no loss of Google to contend with. It has found these prized marketplaces wide open. Huawei’s answer to this is to shift strategy. The company prized for the quality of its hardware is now reinventing itself as a software player—even an ecosystem player. This despite Huawei’s software boss Wang Chenglu acknowledging at a recent Huawei conference that “developing a good ecosystem is far harder than developing good technologies... We don't have a long history of software development in China.” Huawei’s focus on HarmonyOS and its HMS smartphone framework and app store to rival Apple’s and Google’s equivalents started as an ecosystem for its own devices, putting its own smartphones front and center. But with those restrictions on new smartphones—the new news is that HarmonyOS is going open-source, an alternative to Android’s AOSP. Huawei is playing a China card here, building a bridge, it says, between China and the rest of the world, to create more TikToks, to launch a genuine alternative to iOS and Android. But there’s an obvious twist. For this to work, Huawei needs to persuade other manufacturers to opt for its ecosystem, to adopt HarmonyOS. Those would be the same Chinese OEMs set to benefit from market-leading Huawei’s imminent decline. China itself may step in here and mandate or incentivize good behaviors, but left to its own devices, the market is only going to respond one way to this kind of conundrum. And that’s a major threat to Huawei’s new ecosystem strategy. Next year is critical for Huawei’s smartphone business, to say nothing of the billions of dollars of future profits hanging in the balance. The company has been talking “survival” since the turn of the year—now that hyperbole resonates more realistically. Huawei will undoubtedly persuade China’s IoT peripherals and gadget makers to jump aboard its new strategy. But it needs a smartphone solution and fast to give itself any chance of avoiding a lengthy and costly moratorium on sales and market relevance. What wouldn’t hurt in the interim would be a Joe Biden victory in America’s November election, and a softening, even ever so slightly, in the stranglehold the U.S. now has on Huawei’s business. A couple of temporary supplier licenses—any relaxation in restrictions—may be enough to buy some time. And, right now, time is running out almost as fast as those depleting stockpiles of chipsets. Source
  23. SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Apple’s iPhone 12 launch drew mixed reactions in mainland China on Wednesday, with fans cheering a 5G model for their favourite brand while others planned to wait for upcoming devices from local rivals like Huawei Technologies. The much-anticipated Apple launch comes in the wake of Chinese Android-platform brands such as Huawei and Xiaomi Corp having already rolled out higher-end 5G devices compatible with China’s upgraded telecoms networks, with the U.S. giant seen by some analysts to be late to the party. In its second-largest market by revenue, Apple’s announcement was feverishly discussed on social media. With over 6 billion views, the tag ‘iPhone12’ ranked as the no. 1 topic on China’s Twitter-like Weibo. Asked if they’d buy the new iPhone, which will give Apple users 5G access in a market where such networks are already widespread, respondents to a Caijing magazine poll were almost evenly split: some 10,000 voted no, 9,269 said yes, and just over 5,400 said they were still considering it. Available for orders in China from Oct. 16, the iPhone 12 will cost 5,499 yuan ($815.37) for a ‘mini’ version, rising to as much as 11,899 yuan for the top of the range. That price tag was also a hot topic, with many complaining it was too expensive. “How is it this expensive even with no power charger or earbuds?,” said one commenter, referring to Apple’s announcement that it would leave out those components citing environmental reasons. Many Weibo users said they may put off ordering iPhone 12s to wait for the expected unveiling of Huawei’s rival Mate 40 Pro this month. Still, analysts said they were bullish about the iPhone 12’s reception in China, saying that the firm still likely had many loyal users who have postponed upgrading devices until the launch of the 5G-friendly iPhone 12. With the new model in view, research firm Canalys recently revised its forecast for iPhone shipments to China in fourth-quarter 2020 to a 14% year-on-year increase, a big swing from the 1% decrease it originally predicted. “In China now, 5G is not a premium feature, it’s a must-have feature,” said Nicole Peng, who tracks China’s smartphone sector at Canalys. Peng said the 5G launch will “trigger a new wave of phone replacements” for Apple in China before the end of the year and in first-quarter 2021. Canalys expects 50% of Chinese phone owners to be using a 5G device by the end of 2020, as networks and phone brands have aggressively pushed adoption. Only 29% of U.S. phone owners will be on 5G devices by the same time. Apple could also stand to benefit from a potential unravelling of its main high-end rival Huawei, which could see its smartphone division collapse next year due to U.S. restrictions on its supply of chips. Neil Shah, analyst at Counterpoint Research, said he expects Apple stands to benefit “significantly” from the potential gap which will be left due to the U.S. trade restrictions on Huawei to produce new phones at scale. On the flipside, there is lingering concern that Apple could be vulnerable to growing geopolitical tensions between the United States and China. Beijing is expected to unveil an ‘entity list’ that bars domestic companies from doing business with certain foreign companies amid industry speculation that Apple and other high-profile tech firms could be targeted. Throughout the past year though, consumer sentiment has yet to turn negative on Apple, even as Huawei’s troubles have made headlines in China. Apple’s unit shipments in China increased 35% year-on-year in China in the second quarter of 2020, according to Canalys. That made it the only top brand besides Huawei to see positive growth - a feat it achieved even without offering a 5G device. Source
  24. China moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine, approving it for use in military Early trial data suggests that vaccine is safe, but efficacy still unclear. Enlarge / Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the progress on a COVID-19 vaccine during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2, 2020. Getty | Xinhua News Agency 31 with 28 posters participating China has approved an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for use in its military after early clinical trial data suggested it was safe and spurred immune responses—but before larger trials that will test whether the vaccine can protect against SARS-CoV-2 infections. This marks the first time any country has approved a candidate vaccine for military use. China’s Central Military Commission made the approval June 25, which will last for a year, according to a filing reported by Reuters. The vaccine, developed by biotech company CanSino Biologics and the Chinese military, is a type of viral vector-based vaccine. That means researchers started with a viral vector, in this case a common strain of adenovirus (type-5), which typically causes mild upper respiratory infections. The researchers crippled the virus so that it doesn’t replicate in human cells and cause disease. Then, they engineered the virus to carry a signature feature of SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus’s infamous spike protein, which juts out from the viral particle and allows the virus to get a hold on human cells. The idea is that, when the harmless vaccine virus is injected into the body, it will essentially present the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the immune system, which can then develop anti-SARS-CoV-2 responses. Those include antibodies, which are Y-shaped proteins that surveil the body and detect previously encountered germ invaders by key features. Once a germ is detected, neutralizing antibodies can glom onto the germ and prevent it from sparking an infection. In a Phase 1 safety trial involving 108 people, the vaccine—dubbed Ad5-nCoV—proved safe and was able to spur the production of neutralizing antibodies and other immune responses. However, the study, published in The Lancet, also detected a potential foil for the vaccine candidate: in people who had been infected with Ad5 in their past, the vaccine didn’t generate as strong of a response to SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein. This may be because their immune systems quickly recognized the adenovirus and focused their responses on the viral vector, rather than the nefarious spike. CanSino said it had since completed a larger Phase 2 trial, looking at safety and efficacy, but has yet to release results, according to the South China Morning Post. The paper also noted that CanSino has reached an agreement with the Canadian government to conduct Phase 3 trials there. Those trials will look at efficacy and potential side effects in an even larger group of people. In the meantime, CanSino declined to say if members of the Chinese military would be required to receive the experimental vaccine or if it would be optional, according to Reuters. According to the latest tally by the World Health Organization, there are 17 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in clinical trials and 132 others in pre-clinical development. Many vaccines are being developed in China, but with the now-limited spread of the coronavirus there, researchers are working to conduct vaccine trials elsewhere, in areas still seeing heavy transmission. China moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine, approving it for use in military
  25. (Reuters) - A U.S. judge in San Francisco on Friday rejected a Justice Department request to reverse a decision that allowed Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to continue to offer Chinese-owned WeChat for download in U.S. app stores. U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the government’s new evidence did not change her opinion about the Tencent app. As it has with Chinese video app TikTok, the Justice Department has argued WeChat threatens national security. WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China. WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users. The Justice Department has appealed Beeler’s decision permitting the continued use of the Chinese mobile app to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but no ruling is likely before December. In a suit brought by WeChat users, Beeler last month blocked a U.S. Commerce Department order set to take effect on Sept. 20 that would have required the app to be removed from U.S. app stores. The Commerce Department order would also bar other U.S. transactions with WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States. “The record does not support the conclusion that the government has ‘narrowly tailored’ the prohibited transactions to protect its national-security interests,” Beeler wrote on Friday. She said the evidence “supports the conclusion that the restrictions ‘burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.’” WeChat users argued the government sought “an unprecedented ban of an entire medium of communication” and offered only “speculation” of harm from Americans’ use of WeChat. In a similar case, a U.S. appeals court agreed to fast-track a government appeal of a ruling blocking the government from banning new downloads from U.S. app stores of Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok. Source
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