As demonstrations continue against a biulll which would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China, many have wondered what this means for Beijing’s increasing use of police state surveillance techniques. In the last few years, increasing attention has been given to the more distasteful aspects of China’s ‘Social Credit System’, which has seen journalists essentially unable to carry out day-to-day activities for investigating government corruption. Compliant citizens are rewarded. Troublesome ones, however, face increasingly harsh penalties.
Times have changed since 1989’s Tiananmen Square tragedy, with China now having a more diverse array of options open to dealing with civil disobedience. While a brutal military crackdown continues to be feared, China has quietly observed what has and hasn’t worked for its allies in Iran and Syria, drawing its own conclusions and deciding how best to deal with any similar situations arising back home. With Hong Kong providing what has now become a prolonged example of resistance, some security experts have thought it likely that investment in facial recognition technology might allow Chinese security services to target those involved and track down to home addresses, friends and family for interrogation or other means of coercion.
However, video footage emerging from protests has shown a counter strategy being used in the form of dozens of simple hand-held lasers being used to overwhelm cameras and prevent identification of those involved, by overwhelming and confusing the AI software. In today’s world, masks are no longer efficient and even the gait of someone’s walk can provide important indicators as to a target’s profile. While not yet clear just how effective this strategy could be, along with the use of traffic cones to quickly capture and neutralise gas grenades, it does demonstrate how cheap improvised tactics are being actively applied to countering even the most advanced security technology.