Are you planning or already booked for a China-trip anytime soon? Then this is the news you cannot ignore, China’s border immigration agents at Xinjiang region are legally compelled to demand for tourists’ smartphone and its corresponding unlock codes before allowed entry. The confiscated smartphone will be returned to the tourist as soon as the Chinese immigration team is able to install a state-sponsored espionage app BXAQ (also known as Fēng cǎi).
“This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive, and draconian in the world. Modern extraction systems take advantage of this to build a detailed but flawed picture into people’s lives. Modern apps, platforms, and devices generate huge amounts of data which people likely aren’t even aware of or believe they’ve deleted, but which can still be found on the device,” explained Edin Omanovic, Privacy International’s state surveillance program lead.
Tourists’ phones are inspected as well for content containing Islamic materials, muslim-related texts, books on Islam and even Japanese metal band songs. The espionage policy implemented through an app knows no exemptions, whoever wishes to be in the Xinjiang region of China requires to undergo such process.
“[This app] provides yet another source of evidence showing how pervasive mass surveillance is being carried out in Xinjiang. We already know that Xinjiang residents—particularly Turkic Muslims—are subjected to round-the-clock and multidimensional surveillance in the region,” emphasized Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch China’s Senior Researcher.
The side-loaded BXAQ app gathers phone contacts, call logs, SMS messages and uploads them to a Chinese-server. The app also has the capability to scan the entire phone. The Human Right’s watch posted their official feedback about this new process in Xinjiang, China, tagging the process as another step to China’s “political education” system.
“The Chinese government should immediately shut down the IJOP and delete all the data it has collected from individuals in Xinjiang. It should cease the Strike Hard Campaign, including all compulsory programs aimed at surveilling and controlling Turkic Muslims. All those held in political education camps should be unconditionally released and the camps shut down,” added HRW China.
It is still unknown up to what point Beijing will remain silent about the issue raised, at the time of this writing Beijing believes it is just a domestic issue that no foreigner must interfere.