Dienstag, 30. Mai 2017

Maximum security societies

Already in Pakistan there was a high level of police presence and other security measures. There were police checkpoints every 30-40 km along the road and e.g. at the city border of Islamabad automatic cameras were recording every vehicle entering the city. I was also told that at the city border devices for detecting explosives in cars are installed. I assume this is usually done by gas chromatography but I am not sure if this produces reliable results in dense traffic.
When coming to the Xinjiang province in China these security measures were exceeded by far. In this province there has been killing that authorities blame on Islamist extremists and separatists but experts say is also fuelled by ethnic friction between Han Chinese migrants and members of the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority to whom Xinjiang is home.
  • At the entrance to each town or even village there is a police checkpoint where each person is registered with its ID card. Usually these are automated systems which read the ID card, some even take an image and take a fingerprint. Car or bus passengers have to disembark, walk through the gates and after that have to embark again.
  • In addition within larger towns there are additional fixed checkpoints at main streets.
  • police cars with flashing red and blue lights are patrolling the streets
  • In towns every 500 m there is a police station in its typical uniform design (white tiled walls with blue strips at the top). This short distance is not an exaggeration.
  • Police patrols of 2-4 men are continuously walking the streets, usually armed with helmets, shields, wooden baseball bats, steel sticks which are a mixture of club and lance with a long sharp end. Very often one of them has an automatic rifle.
  • Each house that has any public function is surrounded by a massive steel fence topped with military barbed wire having sharp blades. In addition the entrance is barred with massive steel bars to avoid break through by car.
  • This is especially true for filling stations. There in addition the barrier only opens when the driver enters his ID card. Only the driver gets access, passengers have to wait outside. When I had to enter one in order to buy something to drink I had to leave the bicycle outside on the road and had to enter the premises on foot.
  • Each public building, hotel or each shop that is larger than 30 square meters has a metal detector (as we only know it from airports) and and x-ray machines for checking bags. In addition a uniformed security guard is sitting at the entrance.
  • Each shop, restaurant, cookshop, even if only a few square meters has a police helmet, shield and club inside, often also a massive police vest (looks like a bulletproof vest). There owners or employees act as auxiliary policemen. I have the impression that 10-20 % of the population is engaged as full time or auxiliary police. Again this is no exaggeration. At certain times of the day this auxiliary policemen and -women gather on the streets and exercise using their clubs.
  • Surveillance cameras (CCTV, which here does not mean the Chinese governmental TV corporation but closed circuit TV) are everywhere, at the police checkpoints recording faces and number plates of cars, on police cars, several in each shop or restaurant, no shop is too tiny to have several of them. Usually the cameras are at the front door, the back door and in the interior. Also at the entrance of each bigger residential building and in the aisles.
  • I found an article that the government even enforces GPS tracking devices in each car, although as far as I understand this is only in a certain region of Xinjiang: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/china-orders-gps-tracking-of-every-car-in-troubled-region

As many of these systems are automated it is quite easy to generate a movement profile of a person. Xinjiang is definitely a police state. This extend of surveillance is actually frightening. If we as society have to pay this price for security against terroristic attacks then for me this price is too high. 

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