Chinese police are reportedly pulling over citizens and checking their mobile phone data. Along with this, the protesters are being intimidated under the overall smartphone surveillance system.
Lawyers and protesters in China say authorities in various cities are using sophisticated surveillance methods to quell anti-lockdown protests. Several sources told DW that in major cities like Shanghai, police are suddenly checking people’s phones on the streets or in subways. Police have asked people to provide personal information and immediately delete apps like Telegram, Twitter or Instagram.
Some other citizens say that the police called them and searched their phones. “The police warned me not to use Telegram and told me to stop sharing information about the epidemic through the software,” said Lin, who did not give his full name due to security concerns. Said.
Speaking to DW, he said, “I was not stopped on the road. I suspect that the police found out that I was using Telegram. I received two separate calls from the police, warning me not to share anything about the pandemic or the protests. My father also received a threatening call from them (police).”
Concerns about smartphone hacking
Police are detaining people and confiscating their phones, according to Sheng Sheng Wang, a lawyer who has provided legal assistance to more than 20 protesters across China. He said that the priority of the police has been to get access to the phones of the protesters, “some of them were able to get their phones back after they were released but some people still got their phones back from the police after they were released.” Couldn’t take it.”
According to Wang, several protesters in Guangzhou told him that outside attempts to log into their Telegram accounts were seen after they provided police with personal identification numbers. “The hacking attempts happened when they had the phones and since that’s what happened to several protesters, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence,” he told DW.
Other protesters in Beijing told Wang that they received a call from the police after they stopped for a short time at the protest site. According to the woman lawyer, “They did not understand why they and their friends were summoned by the police a day after the protest was stopped. A reasonable suspicion is that the police may have used surveillance technology to determine the location of a protester’s phone at a specific place and time.”
Wang has also been temporarily banned from sending group messages or sharing statuses on the Chinese messaging app WeChat. “I have also been avoiding calls from my law firm because I know they want to get the message from the local court department to me,” she said.
China is a watchdog state
Lok Man Sui, a fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity think tank, told DW that it is possible for Chinese police to determine which phones were in a particular location at a particular time. “Because China is a surveillance state with little regard for the rule of law or human rights, it is not difficult for them,” he said. These demonstrations were impromptu, so most of the participants were not prepared to join in advance.
According to Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, “Some young protesters have never participated in such protests before, so they don’t have the experience to know how to protect themselves.” How to do it?” said Patrick Poon, a researcher at the Institute of Comparative Law at Japan’s Meiji University. should be considered.
One way to protect yourself, he said, is to delete sensitive apps. They should also consider diversifying the apps they use to communicate with others, rather than relying on one specific messaging app.”
According to Wang, although most protesters will certainly be afraid of the possible consequences of joining further protests after being summoned by the police, the crackdown may inspire others to become real activists in the future. can become