Camera-crazed Chinese

A lot of Chinese people are getting mighty steamed over the burgeoning number of Orwellian spy cameras the government is sprinkling just about everywhere, recording what citizens are doing with no regard to privacy. And, to my amazement, people are actually doing something about it.

Public outrage over the surveillance cameras is mounting. One Chinese magazine wondered whether China is turning into an Orwellian society where Big Brother is always watching.

“When were these cameras installed?” asked a 28-year-old man who was swimming in Shichahai Lake in Beijing when the hidden cameras were pointed out to him. “We never knew about it,” he said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t swim here. Nobody wants to swim under a camera.”

A survey by China Youth Daily found that 74 per cent of those polled were unhappy with cameras in the corridors of university dormitories. “When I think of myself living under monitors, I feel frightened,” a female student told the newspaper.

One outraged Chinese journalist wrote an article about video cameras on public buses in the city of Guangzhou. According to the article, male passengers often ogle the driver’s video monitor, which catches glimpses of the bare skin or cleavage of unwary female passengers.

In a police state with a long history of authoritarian rule, the concept of a legal right to privacy has never really existed.

But in recent years, some people have begun to assert it.

Several privacy lawsuits have been filed in Chinese courts.

In one case, a woman won a lawsuit after a doctor allowed interns to watch him perform an abortion on her…

“How can people have a privacy right if cameras are installed in residential compounds and university dormitories? The right of privacy is a basic human right.”

As the article points out, surveillance cameras are even more prevalent in England and this is not unique to China. But it sure is nice to see at least some Chinese people waking up to their individual rights and actually fighting to protect them.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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The Discussion: 9 Comments

I don’t know what it’s like in AZ, but as Will pointed out on my post, the US has an alarming number of spy cameras as well.

A few years back one of the local governments near my hometown decided to put a ‘traffic censor’ up at one of the stop lights as a trial run. Turns out people thought it was a video camera (and Im not so sure that it wasn’t) and it was not very well received. People shot at, threw rocks at it and just about anything they could to put it out of commission. Now, they’re everywhere.

I don’t know if many people realize it or not, but as I learned from a student when I taught for one of the Universities for Public Security, the PSB, in most instances, has access to the cameras that you see in every shopping center.

Need I mention that this technology has also been brought in by American companies. It would seem to me that China is the testing ground for what is inevitably moving to our own country.

Sorr if that a bit scattered. I just woke up.

June 29, 2005 @ 6:09 pm | Comment

I’m sure they’re everywhere here as well, but we probably hide them better.

June 29, 2005 @ 6:43 pm | Comment

a journalist told me that if you run naked in Chang’An Street, you will be caught and sent away in 5 minutes, thanks for camerals… sigh.

June 29, 2005 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

Henry, you don’t know until you’ve tried. Let us know what happens!

June 29, 2005 @ 8:15 pm | Comment

LOL! I couldn’t imagine streaking in China…

June 29, 2005 @ 9:26 pm | Comment

A pair of PETA demonstrators were arrested in the buff protesting in China a while back. Not sure if they were detained long, but im sure the wandering Chinese men and even the cops made sure to get an eyeful considering both were women and one wasn’t that bad looking (the other was kind of old though).

ah Danwei has the story about it, and of course the accompanying picture.

http://www.danwei.org/archives/001345.html

June 29, 2005 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

Where is the line between the benefits from technology and their harm to universal rights. With up-skirt and down-blouses now, women may as well wear bathing suits or habits depending how distressed they would be with all the peeking. For men, who the hell cares unless you are a habitual nose picker, balls scratcher or are commiting a crime?

Actually I don’t much like the peeking camera either, but it is in the US and likely to get much worse. Being in a public area it would be pretty hard to complain even if you are caught on camera in an embarrassing situation. Well crafted laws might help, but being aware and wise out in public is probably the best protection.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

In the UK They are everywhere, all town and city centres have them. I’m sure that Britain is the CCTV (no not THAT CCTV) capital of the world.

Everybody is used to them now.

However, one difference is that, while abuses do occur obviously, Britain has something called the Rule of Law generally and the Data Protection Act specifically which keeps their use within guidlines and the public are allowed a copy of (legally) any video surveilance footage they request.

China has no rule of law and there’s the rub. In China, it could be potrayed as another tool of the authoritarian state rather than an aid in crime prevention.

June 29, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Well, in public I don’t see that much of a problem. But inside private areas such as dormitories, even that wouldn’t happen in a democratic and legal place like UK USA or AUS.

June 30, 2005 @ 12:10 am | Comment

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