Surveillance and the Chinese government

Surveillance and the Chinese government

I recently met a person who was essentially on the run from the Chinese government. They'd developed a reputation of speaking the truth about Taiwan and other political issues and had noticed a few funny things that led to them leaving the country for fear of a possible secret kidnapping and imprisonment. Tens or hundreds of thousands of Chinese people are in secret jails — they disappear without a trace, sometimes for life. The Chinese government has been known to harvest their organs and abuse them in gruesome ways while alive.

One conclusion I came to was that it's incredibly important to have a large institution with political and technological/encryption/surveillance/counterattack power that can be held accountable and made to be transparent — right now, the US Government is our best hope for such an entity, but it's far from transparent or accountable.

If this person were any more high-profile, their only option would be to go off the grid. Any app, OS, provider, or camera network with face recognition can track them. If I had mistakenly posted a photo of this person (which I almost did), facial recognition could have tied them to a location and to me. In the US we may "have nothing to hide" but this isn't true for many people around the world who fight for freedom.

We talked about how governments around the world, including the USA, envy the freedom the Chinese government has to do whatever it wants, and try to copy its tactics.

This is not a world I want to live in.

What can we do? How could we turn the US Government into our ally here? How could we get the global community to prioritize human rights over everything else?

Whatever we do, we must not sit in passive ignorance of atrocity, or blissfully use tools like Facebook without understanding their implications for this world. Discussion is critical, and our ability to have the discussion is the canary in the coal mine.