- China appears to be expanding its use of surveillance cameras in order to enforce quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- While the country hasn’t made any official announcements of the surveillance measure, there have been posts on social media, and some residents confirmed their experiences with CNN.
- People recounted seeing cameras trained at their front doors, but for some, the cameras were installed inside their homes.
- “It made me feel like I truly was a prisoner in my own home,” one resident told CNN, after a camera was installed pointing directly at her front door.
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China appears to be expanding surveillance across the country by installing cameras pointing directly at the front doors of people in quarantine — and sometimes inside their home, CNN reported.
China hasn’t made any official announcements that it was increasing surveillance on quarantined individuals amid the coronavirus, but social media posts and accounts told to CNN claism that this has been the case since at least February.
In 2018, The New York Times reported China had an estimated 200 million CCTV cameras, and a report found there would be one public camera for every two people by 2020, the South China Morning Post reported.
Eight Chinese cities also make out of the top 10 most-surveilled cities in the world, according to research firm Comparitech. In Chongqing, China’s most heavily surveilled city, there are 2.6 million cameras — compared to the city’s roughly 30.5 million person population.
Some people are saying the cameras are used to enforce self-isolation and ensure residents are obeying quarantine
Irish ex-pat Ian Lahiffe returned to Beijing to mandatory quarantine with his family after visiting southern China. The next morning, Lahiffe told CNN that he saw a camera being installed right outside his home with no warning.
“(Having a camera outside your door is) an incredible erosion of privacy,” Lahiffe told CNN. “It just seems to be a massive data grab. And I don’t know how much of it is actually legal.”
On the first day of quarantine, Scandinavian ex-pat Lina Ali, who spoke to CNN under a pseudonym, said a camera was installed outside her door by property management staff from her building. She said she was told the camera was connected to a police station.
“It made me feel like I truly was a prisoner in my own home,” she told CNN.
For William Zhou, who returned to Changzhou in eastern China in February, he told CNN that a community worker and a police officer installed a camera inside a cabinet in his home pointing to his front door.
Zhou, who also spoke to CNN under a pseudonym, said he was still “clearly” in frame even when he was standing in his living room. After requesting the camera be installed outside, the police officer said it had to be indoors so it won’t be vandalized.
“Installing it inside my home is a huge invasion of my privacy,” he said.
But Zhou wasn’t the only one who had a camera installed in his home, telling CNN that it happened to two other residents in his residential compound who were also under quarantine.
The epidemic control command center in Zhou’s district confirmed the use of cameras to enforce home quarantine but refused to elaborate the extent to which it is being enforced, CNN reported.
“(The camera) had a huge impact on me psychologically,” Zhou told CNN. “I tried not to make phone calls, fearing the camera would record my conversations by any chance. I couldn’t stop worrying even when I went to sleep, after I closed the bedroom door.”