China has been notoriously strict on its citizens, banning proxies and VPN's in the past. Russia recently joined the country when it comes to blocking these as we reported earlier. But it would seem China isn't content with just blocking services that give you anonymity online, and have started forcing citizens in its province of Xingjiang to install spyware on their Android phones. The province of Xingjiang is where the Muslim-minority population is concentrated according to reports.
The spyware called Jingwang; reportedly collects data such as instant messages, IP information, Wi-Fi login data, and monitors content on the device, and sends this to the government's data centers. According to reports, the information is then used to detect 'terrorist activity', and if any illegal content is found on any device, the user is then asked to delete the data or face arrest.
The government has been sending out messages via WeChat with a QR code requesting to install the application, as a user on Twitter revealed:
The government has also started setting up checkpoints in the province, checking phones to ensure that the app is installed. Failing to comply will result in prison sentences of up to 10 days. Human rights watchers have called this a gross injustice, as Amnesty International's Joshua Rosenzweig explains:
"I think there is reason to be concerned about what kinds of data these apps may be collecting about users and their activity without their knowledge or consent,"
This isn't the first time the Chinese government clamped down on the Xingjiang province. In 2016 they shut down user's phone service if they were found to have used foreign messaging applications like Whatsapp. The government has also started using facial recognition software to detect 'potential criminals', preventing crime and possible attacks as part of its overall escalation in surveillance on citizens.
These reports, however, are sourced from Radio Free Asia, a non-profit organization that was established to serve news and commentary to East Asia in a bid to 'advance US foreign policy'. If true, these reports are concerning, however, they have yet to be verified by an independent source.