Beijing is planning to have one CCTV camera for nearly every two people as the Communist Party pushes for Big-Brother-style state surveillance.

626 million street cameras-many having facial recognition functions. Set to carefully monitor the 1,4 billion population of the country as early as next year, a new study has revealed. The report finds that China also has the world’s five most-monitored cities. Chongqing, its most monitored town, is fitted with more than 2.5 million road cameras, or one for every six individuals.

According to the report, the world’s five most monitored cities are Chongqing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Tianjin and Ji’nan in order. Three other Chinese cities – Wuhan, Guangzhou and Beijing – have made it to the top 10 list published by technology research firm Comparitech.

In Shenzhen, a city with 12 million residents, there is one street camera for every 6.3 people. The city, which borders Hong Kong, plans to have more than 16 million cameras installed in the coming years. The figure is a 1,145 per cent increase the approximately 1.9 million cameras they city has today, the report claims.

While in the country’s financial heart Shanghai, every 8.8 residents are watched by one security camera. The two other cities on the top 10 list are London, with more than 627 million cameras, and Atlanta in the United States. China has been building a mass surveillance network, which currently boasts about 200 million AI-powered cameras. The number of cameras is set to triple by 2020.

The surveillance network has been billed as the world’s most powerful facial-recognition system and aims to identify any one of its 1.4 billion citizens within three seconds. Critics, however, have voiced concerns over the system, claiming it’s a way for the government to invade citizens’ privacy and restrict their freedom. Many have also compared it to a dystopian system run by a fictional state leader, Big Brother, in George Orwell’s novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.

China’s monitoring network also supports the nation’s social credit system, rating its citizens on the basis of their daily behaviour. The national system, once completed next year, could determine how easy it would be for a citizen to rent a flat, buy travel tickets or pay for a cup of tea. According to the state-run Global Times journal in China, the scheme will assist the nation restore ethics.

Latest statistics show the Chinese social credit system blocked what it called ‘discredited entities’ from taking 2.56 million flights and 90,000 high-speed train journeys in July alone.

How is China building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system?

China has been aiming to build the world’s most powerful facial recognition system. The cutting-edge network aims to identify any one of its 1.4 billion citizens within three seconds.

The project was launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015. It is under development in collaboration with a security company based in Shanghai. As of last year, China has installed over 200 million security cameras across the nation.

  • High-tech sunglasses: Police at Zhengzhou, central China use sunglasses equipped with facial recognition technology to spot criminal suspects at train stations.
  • On the road: Traffic police in Shenzhen has implemented 40 sets of surveillance cameras dubbed ‘robocops’ to identify the faces of unruly drivers and regulate traffic.
  • At pedestrian crossings: Jaywalkers in Shenzhen would receive an instant notification and a fine as soon as they violate the rules. Images and names of people crossing the road against red traffic lights would get projected onto large LED screens.
  • Concert stadiums: Using facial recognition technology as part of security measures, police arrested three fugitives within two months at the concerts of Hong Kong pop singer Jacky Cheung in China.
  • In bathrooms: Bathrooms in Changsha and Chongqing were outfitted with facial recognition systems to prevent greedy patrons from nabbing extra toilet paper.
  • In classrooms: A high school in Zhejiang province uses a smart classroom system that monitors students’ behaviour via facial-recognition technology. The cameras installed at the front of each classroom would document the students’ attentiveness and even their facial expressions.

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