The latest report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom revealed that the Chinese government was employing an “Orwellian surveillance state” to monitor minorities and religious communities in its borders. Christians are routinely subjected to various oppressive measures imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The CCP leverages modern technology such as advanced data analytics to track, monitor, and suppress several minority groups in the country.
“Authorities have systematically installed cameras in churches to identify and target anyone who attends services,” said Gayle Manchin, the chairperson of USCIRF, in a virtual hearing that detailed accounts of CCP's oppressive practices imposed on minorities, especially religious ones.
Manchin, as a part of her statement, said that China has been following religious oppression from as early as 1998. That said, she noted that things have only gotten worse under the leadership of the current president Xi Jinping.
“Throughout the country, Chinese authorities have raided underground house churches, arrested Christians who refuse to join the state-run churches, and banned children younger than 18 years old from attending services,” said Manchin.
While technological advancements must broaden the horizon and improve togetherness, China seems to be sadly experiencing quite the opposite, expressed Manchin. “The Communist Party is deliberately using technology to undermine religious freedom and other fundamental rights,” she said.
Tony Perkins, the Vice-Chair of the Commission, highlighted the fact that the CCP was actively engaging AI-based systems to combine information received from CCTV footage, GPS tracking, and others, to combine them with facial as well as voice recognition. Even the deputy director of Brookings Institution's Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, Chris Meserole, echoed similar arguments about CCP's use of AI for malevolent causes.
“As processors, sensors, and cameras have proliferated, the extent of religious life that the CCP can surveil has expanded dramatically,” said Meserole.
“We owe it to the victims of religious repression in those religions to ensure that their experience remain an exception rather than a normalized form of social and political control”.
This is not the first time CCP has been under fire for its religious oppression. The Chinese government has been routinely accused of a number of oppressive acts, such as the case with Uyghurs, among countless others.