Earlier this year in May, the Human Rights Watch exposed how police in a Chinese region called Xinjiang used a smartphone app to monitor (and oppress) its people. The app monitors everything, from flagging use of banned apps such as WhatsApp to gaining access to contacts, text messages, and almost everything else on a user’s smartphone. And this data would then be used by the police to decide which individuals to question or detain.
However, a new investigation carried out by Motherboard, The Guardian, the New York Times, and others, has now revealed that smartphone surveillance in Xinjiang is imposed on tourists as well. According to the report, foreigners crossing into Xinjiang are “forced to install a piece of malware on their phones that gives all of their text messages as well as other pieces of data to the authorities.”
The malware, named Feng Cai or BXAQ, scans the target device’s files against a huge target list of over 70,000 files, including things like Islamic extremist content, and even things like installed copies of the Quran, “innocuous Islamic material, academic books on Islam by leading researchers, and even music from a Japanese metal band.”
China has repeatedly claimed that its actions in Xinjiang are internal affairs and the international community shouldn’t try to interfere with however China handles its “counter-terrorism” efforts within its borders. These report just go to show how China is carrying out mass surveillance under the guise of counter-terrorism, and not just on its locals, but even tourists and foreigners visiting the country are subjected to such invasive surveillance activities.