While a better part of the world inflicted by the pandemic is not on good terms with the surveillance and censorship measures being introduced, China is in a different league altogether. The Chinese Communist Party-lead superpower has appointed “grid administrators” with the ultimate power to inspect homes and lifestyles of anyone any time of the day and enforce strict social distancing and quarantine measures.
4.5 million of those grid administrators have been hired by the Chinese government to carry out the task of policing people on whether they are following the state’s orders to battle the pandemic.
China’s residential areas, back in 2018, were divided into several grids comprising anywhere between 15 to 500 households. These grids are now being assigned an administrator to monitor the citizens and enforce government rules.
Based on what a Chinese government employee disclosed, a grid administrator has to basically “ensure the support for the Communist Party and love for socialism, and look for any unregistered religious activities” – that’s according to human rights watchdog Bitter Winter.
Grid administrators are not police. (We’ve already shown what China’s police may do if you post “misinformation” about the pandemic. Military veterans, as well as Chinese Communist Party members, are commonly appointed to the role of a grid administrator.
In a nutshell, grid administrators are tasked with collecting information about their grid (essentially the people living in it) and upload the data to the state-operated data management servers controlled by the Chinese government.
What’s more, these grid administrators are to inform police officials and sub-district officials about any “unstable elements” that “may influence social stability”.
“The so-called ‘stability maintenance’ means to know everything about residents and control them at the grassroots level. This type of control intensified after Xi Jinping took office,” said a Kaifeng city grid administrator.
Apart from popularizing state propaganda among residents, these grid administrators also tend to target a particular section of people that includes petitioners, religious believers, former prisoners, dissidents, and Uyghurs.
Shenzhen, one of the major cities in China, located in the southern province of Guangdong is divided into 19,000 grids and monitored by more than 20,000 grid administrators.
Based on what a grid administrator in Shenzhen told Bitter Winter, it was revealed that the sub-district management office referred to Uyghurs as terrorists who may instigate riots.
“Uyghurs are terrorists, and the government is afraid they may instigate riots. Therefore, we are required to visit Uyghurs’ residences every three days or so to register their personal information and take photos of them,” said the grid administrator. “We were encouraged to harass them, so they move out, unable to endure it.”
It just doesn’t stop there. Weihai city’s grid administrator said that they are required to monitor the homes of people who petition the government by checking if their light is on at their residence every evening. The government wants to make sure that they do not leave their homes.
Guangzhou’s mayor, Chen Jianhua, demanded state administrators monitor 200 households and collected detailed information about them. Details such as the basic info of each household member, the number of people visiting a person’s residence on average, and whether they rent out homes (and if they do, for how much) falls under the mayor’s “detailed information” order.
Among all the aforementioned aspects the grid administrators have to monitor, religion also happens to be an important facet.
The Chinese government uses grid administrators to investigate households and report information about the people visiting churches. Furthermore, even the content of the sermons, the number of people attending Church services, and the number of “suspicious” people are also to be reported by the grid administrators.
The religious beliefs must also be established by having deep conversations with the residents and should be mentioned in the records of the residents. Moreover, grids that house a number of religious followers tend to receive extensive scrutiny as well.
“Sometimes grid administrators enter our homes on the pretext of a fire safety inspection. They inspect every corner of the house to determine if out-of-town missionaries or groups of believers are inside or we have religious books, and so on,” said a resident of the Henan Province.
The Chinese government’s strict control of the internet, statewide censorship of information, and now, the grid administrators are painting a bleak image.
All these aspects reflect the intense level of scrutiny and control the citizens have to endure, and now even more so under the justification of the pandemic.